2008 National League Championship Series Preview
Part V : Joe And Smoothies
2008 Los Angeles Dodgers
Stadium: Dodger Stadium
Experience: Manny Ramirez has won two world titles; Greg Maddux has won a title and has been to the playoffs many times; Derek Lowe has won a title; Juan Pierre has won a title. Most of the regulars played in the 2006 NLDS.
Manager: Joe Torre (13 straight playoff appearances; four titles)
Uh, the Dodgers have experience. Well, okay, maybe not like the Red Sox, but very close. They have the most decorated manager in our era, the most accomplished pitcher in our era, and maybe the best offensive player of our time. So there’s that.
Let’s just move on.
The Dodgers have decorated players in high places. Game one starter Derek Lowe is no stranger to big games — he probably should’ve been the 2004 World Series MVP. Instead, it was Ramirez, who … yeah, is on this team, too.
What’s more, the team’s foundation players (Martin, Ethier, Kemp, Loney, Broxton) were on the 2006 team that lost in the Division Series to the Mets. So they’ve been to the postseason before and, as demonstrated against Chicago, can handle the pressure.
Some of that is due to their skipper, the unflappable Torre. As mild-manered as they come, Torre simply guides teams to the postseason with the same formula every year — start out slow, painfully slow, run like a freight train in August and play a competitive September. Usually a team that implements this formula will have postseason success. Torre is no stranger to postseason success.
He’s also a pretty good in-game manager. He guided a bare Yankee bullpen into October the past few seasons, and this season has gotten the most out of many of his young players. He’s also not afraid to use a guy like Cory Wade in huge spots. That type of trust comes hard for Torre, but if he accepts you, then you must be good.
Dodger Stadium. It’s a beautiful, traditional, overlooked gem of a ballpark. It’s this blue beacon of summertime. Guys like Chase Utley probably dreamed about playing on that grass. It really is what a baseball venue should resemble — nothing showy, nothing awkward, just nice sightlines, simple seating, all attention on the field.
They say Chavez Ravine has been a pretty scarce place at times — you know, the whole “the fans leave before the seventh inning” stuff. But you can’t argue with attendance figures, which say the Dodgers annually have among the highest numbers in baseball. When Manny showed up, they celebrated him with crazy braid wigs. They’ve been loud and proud, and since turning their season around into a division victory, they’ve gained considerable swagger. Oh, and Alyssa Milano is a big Dodger fan, lest we forget.
Tradition And Rivalry
The Dodgers have been around for a long, long time. The Californian base of fans saw two world titles in the 1980s, so they’re not exactly in dire need for a trophy. Plus, those guys have the Lakers and Ducks (lest we forget the Ducks). They’ve seen gold.
Back in the day, when the National League was cool because there was two divisions, Philly and LA were rivals, somewhat. In the late 1970s there was a fierce one, since the Phils and Dodgers were the top teams in the NL. They played each other consecutively in the NLCS, with LA winning both. Those Dodgers had a fast batting order and straight pitching. Not much different from today. The Phils back then had a couple star hitters, a stud lefty and a crafty bullpen. Uhh …
This isn’t the ’70s. This time we have Davy Lopes, and he’s a hell of a coach. But seriously, there won’t be blood between these teams, but there will sure be some tight baseball. They’re very even teams, and both are coming into their primes.
This will be fun. The Dodgers have a slew of leadership and a slew of young hot shots. No one is really in his prime, per say, but everyone contributes to the cause equally. Meanwhile, the Phils are stacked with guys in their prime. It’s the extremes vs. the center. Palin and Nader vs. Clinton! Huzzah!
The Dodgers are built for the World Series, as are the Phillies. Both teams have unflappable managers, solid offenses, strong pitching staffs and a wealth of intangibles. That makes this a very close one. It’s hard to pin a winner on this series.
For the Phillies, it’s essential to carry momentum into Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers blew the Cubs away in game two of the NLDS — I’m convinced if the Cubs won that game, it’s a totally different series. That means the onus is on Brett Myers. Isn’t it always? Bottom line — if this series goes to La La Land with the Phils down 0-2 or coming off a bad loss, we’re looking at big trouble.
But I don’t think that’ll happen. I swear.