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The Dodgers Take the East
2004-10-12 02:21
by Jon Weisman

Jay Jaffe, East Coast Keeper of the Dodger Flame, wrote a fine piece about the end of the Dodger season at The Futility Infielder. An excerpt:

For years I had begun each Fox-era season with hope but not faith. From 3000 miles away, I would follow their offseason moves intently, slowly losing interest as the team stumbled out of the gate or wilted in the summer heat, only to make a day-late, dollar-short run at the Wild Card that would have me scrambling to keep up. The decision to hire DePodesta -- and retain Tracy -- began to restore my faith.

Taking the reins from Dan Evans, a man who deserved better after restocking the farm system, DePodesta spent the year improvising masterfully in concert with Tracy, most notably with a bullpen almost completely rebuilt with rookies and castoffs after a flurry of deals at the trading deadline. The team upgraded its offense over last year thanks to the additions of Bradley, Werth, and Jose Hernandez. They watched Adrian Beltre finally live up to his star potential. They turned their defense into the league's best (a .715 Defensive Efficiency Rating, tops in all of baseball) as Cora and Cesar Izturis emerged as the game's top double-play combo. They overcame a shaky rotation that nearly dropped an axle down the stretch and a trade that more or less blew up in their face. And they kicked the Giants squarely in the groin on the season's final weekend, capping a seven-run ninth with a Steve Finley grand slam that will live in the annals of Dodger lore forever. NL West champs, for the first time in nine years.

For all of that and so much more -- Eric Gagne's 84 consecutive saves, Alex Cora's 18-pitch at-bat, Lima Time, night after night of pinch-grand slams, 53 come-from-behind victories including 26 in their final at-bat, their first postseason victory in 16 years as Lima shut down the league's most feared offense and got L.A. fans to stay right to the end -- the Dodgers showed their hearts every single day and won mine all over again. If I'm a bit misty-eyed, whatever tears I've shed over the end of their season have been tears of gratitude and joy. Thank you, Dodgers, for bringing me home.

Now, three time zones away, I might finally get some sleep.

Jaffe also adds a look at the retiring Robin Ventura, who "now joins a class of third basemen who won't make the Hall of Fame but who are better than most of the ones who are in there."

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