Very well, I surrender for the time being. Nothing written or said by me or anyone is going to stop Joe and Jane Fan from hanging the goat horns on any or all of Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor, and Will Smith.
As if they’re anticipating yet another Los Angeles Dodgers full postseason meltdown from there. As if to prove myself and others right when we say baseball fans too often prefer a glass of goat milk to the hero sandwich.
As if Tampa Bay spare part Brett Phillips didn’t nail Jansen’s errant off the middle pitch for that floating line single whose hop began the chain of events that turned a certain Dodgers win and 3-1 Series advantage into an 8-7 Rays win and maybe the . . . third most devastating loss in Dodger history? The fourth?
It can’t ever be the other guys being a little more heads-up and winning. It can only be our guys blowing it higher than Old Faithful. It can only ever be our guys leaving the front door open for them to rob us so blind we’re lucky if they left a couple of napkins behind while absconding with the cash, silver, and jewels.
Thus was Game Four of this Wild Series nothing to do with the Rays hanging in tenaciously and finding their way back to timely hitting, but everything to do with the Dodgers hell bent for becoming eight-straight division winners who found ways to turn championship-caliber teams into the 1962 New York Mets.
“I been in this game a hundred years but I see new ways to lose I never knew were invented yet,” those Mets’ manager Casey Stengel liked to say. Far as Joe and Jane Dodger fan are concerned, those Mets had nothing on these Dodgers, and it’s easier to turn Donald Trump into an educated thinker than to imagine those Mets within two coasts distance of a World Series.
Saturday night’s frights only sent the Dodgers into Game Five in a head heat with the upstart, upset-minded, 99 Cent Store-budget, wing-prayer-and-wishes Rays. This Series has a minimum two more games to go. The worst case scenario after the hapless Taylor and Smith performed their leathery Ricochet Rabbit ball act was future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw pitching a possible tiebreaker instead of the Promised Land game.
You want worse Dodger defeats than Game Four? Here’s a roll for you:
Game Four, 1941 World Series. (Mickey Owen drops the strike that would have tied that Series at two.)
Game Three, 1951 National League pennant playoff. (Ralph Branca. Bobby Thomson. The Giants stole the pennant! The Giants stole the pennant!)
Game Six, 1985 National League Championship Series. (Sure it’s safe to pitch to Jack [the Ripper] Clark with first base open and the Dodgers an out from forcing Game Seven.)
Game Seven, 2017 World Series. (Yu Darvish tipping pitches and bushwhacked in the first two innings, little knowing those Houston Astros played the full season with a stacked camera and monitor and an empty trash can.)
Game Five, 2019 National League division series. (Back-to-back tying homers from Washington’s Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto; ultimate winner: ex-Dodger Howie Kendrick slicing salami in the tenth.)
So you want to condemn Jansen, Taylor, and Smith to the same Phantom Zone where live the goats of baseball past? Feel free if you must. The rest of us will continue to forgive. Well, maybe we won’t forgive Jansen too soon for neglecting to back up the plays at the plate. Even if he couldn’t have stopped Randy Arozarena from diving home after the relay escaped Smith, Jansen should have been there regardless.
But we’ll forgive Jansen the pitch Phillips tagged. We’ll forgive him because .202-hitting spare parts aren’t supposed to hit established closers even for floating line drives and the percentages on 1-2 were in his favour.
We’ll forgive him because who the hell knew such a spaghetti bat would turn the finish into veal parmigiana. We’ll forgive Taylor and Smith, too, because we know in our hearts and guts they committed errors of anxious anticipation.
Taylor couldn’t wait to field Phillips’s floater on the hop and throw to his cutoff man Max Muncy—until the hop bounded off his glove’s fingers. Smith couldn’t wait to get the tag on Randy Arozarena—until Muncy’s relay glanced off his mitt as he turned for the tag . . . and learned the hard way Arozarena tripped over himself halfway down the third base line while the ball traveled to the track well behind the plate.
And if you, Joe and Jane Fan, won’t forgive, we who know your rage and sorrow obstruct your vision and thought will forgive them for you. The Dodgers lost a ballgame on Saturday night. They didn’t lose a third lease on the Promised Land in four years. Yet. The Rays won a ballgame Saturday night. They haven’t crossed the Jordan. Yet.
We’ll forgive Jansen, Taylor, and Smith just the way we should have forgiven Fred Merkle, Freddie Lindstrom, Ernie Lombardi, Mickey Owen, Johnny Pesky, Ralph Branca, Gene Mauch, Tom Niedenfuer, Tommy Lasorda, Bill Buckner, John McNamara, Grady Little, all Cubs from 1909-2015, all Red Sox from 1919-2003, all Indians from 1949 forward, all Giants from 1963-2009, all Phillies from 1900-1979/1981-2008, and maybe even a couple of Yankees from last year and this.
We’ll forgive them just the way we should forgive every Diamondback since 2002, every Brave other than those from 1995, every Oriole since 1984, every Red (except one) since 1991, every Tiger since 1985, and every Angel other than those from 2002.
Just the way we should forgive every Brewer, Padre, Mariner, and Ranger so far. Not to mention every St. Louis Brown who ever walked the face of the earth and every Washington Senator who walked it from 1925-71.
We’ll forgive them because Thomas Boswell was right when he wrote, in 1990, “The reason we don’t forgive you is because there’s nothing to forgive in the first place. You tried your best and failed. In games, there’s a law that says somebody has to lose.” It would be easier to amend the U.S. Constitution than to overturn that law.