Dodgers: Should Fans be Grieving the Loss of Seager and the Season?
Somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout, But there is no joy in So-Cal –Mighty Corey Seager’s out.
With apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer, but it seems that the forecast in Los Angeles on Tuesday called for scattered showers, gray skies, and doom and gloom for Dodgers fans. One month into the 2018 season and gone are the bright and sunny skies of spring.Heads hang lower than the clouds as a pall has been cast over the sullen faces of Angelenos.
One month into the season and those that dreamed of a World Series return are already counting the days until the nightmare ends, tossing around trade scenarios and free agent options; putting on the general manager hat for a patchwork 2018 or newly constructed 2019 run.
This is not what any of us envisioned.
When the season started we knew the Dodgers were a lock to make the playoffs, a virtual certainty to win their sixth straight division, the presumptive favorite to win in the NLDS, and a popular pick to not only win the NLCS but the World Series as well.
And now I hear Vin Scully’s voice calling out from past broadcasts, “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.” Oh to hear him say it.
Joe Davis has proven to be an exceptional broadcaster thus far and he will bear a heavy burden in helping fans overcome the initial shock, the anger, the denial, the steps of “sports grieving” that have begun, but even he seemed to be at a loss for words when he tweeted out a simple crestfallen emoji upon hearing the news.
Say it ain’t so Joe. Say the Dodgers aren’t already eight games out behind the red-hot Diamondbacks. Yes, the Dodgers have been hit hard by the injury bug. Besides Seager, the Dodgers have been without Justin Turner, Logan Forsythe, Yasiel Puig, and Rich Hill. Those are losses that could provide significant obstacles for any team to overcome.
But the Diamondbacks have been beset by injury as well, missing (among others) star players Jake Lamb, Robbie Ray, and Steven Souza, and have lost Taijuan Walker for the season to his own Tommy John surgery. Yet there seems to be no signs of them slowing down as they have won every series they’ve played this year.
That’s the nagging voice of doubt plaguing Dodgers fans as the calendar turns to May. How do we spend the next six months of the season, one that was supposed to be our season, the 30 year anniversary of what was our season; how do we reconcile what is with what was meant to be?
It may require a look back to that 1988 season. Not to Orel Hershiser and his dominant post season performance nor his improbable record-setting shutout streaks.
Not to Kirk Gibson, not to his impossible home run in the World Series, or his wild dash around the base-paths, hustling home and scoring from second base on a wild pitch mid-season, nor his rumored “team psychology changing”, “clubhouse culture changing” tirade, when practical joker Jesse Orosco put eye black in his baseball cap before the spring training opener, showing the team it was time to get serious.
Not to the Dodgers at all. The answer may lie with the unfortunate story of the 1988 Baltimore Orioles. In 1988, to say the Orioles had a rough April would be a vast understatement. At the close of games on the evening of April 30th, 1988, the record of the hapless Baltimore Orioles was 1-22. Yes, you read that correctly, one win and 22 losses, including a major league record 21 losses in a row to start the season.
How does a team come back from 0-21? It doesn’t. How does a team recover psychologically from losing 21 games in a row to start the season? It doesn’t. How does a manager motivate his players for the remainder of the season? He doesn’t. Frank Robinson, who had the unfortunate responsibility of that task was famously called by President Reagan during the losing streak. As the story goes, President Reagan said to Robinson, “Frank, I know what you’re going through.” To which Robinson replied, “Mr. President, you have no idea what I’m going through.”
And neither do the Dodgers or their fans. Yes, this will be a difficult task for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. He will have to soothe the players through this trying time, motivate them, deflect criticism from the media and fans, keep the young players focused and hopeful, remind them it’s a long season, remind them that there is still plenty of time, remind them of their talent and his faith in them.
It won’t be easy. Dodger management will have to be patient. They will have to study the market, evaluate the farm system, determine if a trade or a promotion is the proper way to manage this latest rather large obstacle. This team has certainly been built to prepare for injury; flexibility and depth the calling card of the organization, both on the field and on the ledger. But it may be difficult to resist the urge to consider Baltimore here as well amid the knee-jerk calls for one Manny Machado.
As I think about the Dodgers and the Orioles, and the connection they share to Frank Robinson, the Hall of Famer who played for both teams, I am reminded of a day back in January of this year, when I found myself standing next to Robinson during the total solar eclipse.
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A mutual acquaintance was holding up a paper plate as the image of the eclipse was thrown upon it. And as Mr. Robinson marveled at the splendor of the eclipse (and not so much its image on the plate) I marveled at the fact that I was standing next to Frank Robinson watching a total solar eclipse of all things, not sure which of the two I ought to be more in awe of.
We can learn a lot from a total eclipse. Thousands of years ago, when the moon passed in front of the sun and its shadow was cast upon the earth, as the heavens darkened, night descending instantly, blotting out the sun in its entirety, ancient civilizations feared the worst. Soothsayers predicted doom and the end of the world as panic spread amongst the masses.
Until it passed and the sun emerged again. This too shall pass. The Dodgers may not recover fully from Seager’s injury, maybe not enough to win the World Series or make the playoffs for that matter. Or maybe they will. But there is no reason to panic. It is only May. The Dodgers have only played 30 out of 162 games and anything can still happen.
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So take some time to grieve, process the pain and accept that this season won’t be easy. Give the Dodgers, the players, the coaches, management, give them all and give yourself a break. Take a deep breath, and settle in for what can still be an exciting, albeit difficult season. After all, we’ve still got Mighty Cody at the bat.