CINCINNATI — Manager Tom Lasorda was the last one out of the clubhouse Thursday, and who knows how many more times he will make that exit?
Who knows anything?
The Dodgers, after beating the Cincinnati Reds, 2-0, with an exceptional complete game by Ramon Martinez, returned to Los Angeles as a team, but that concept ended around midnight. Today, it's the players on one side and management on the other, as the players' strike gets under way.
"You know when we will feel it?" Lasorda asked. "When we don't go to the ballpark tomorrow. We are programmed that we are going to play the next game. Then all of a sudden you don't see yourself at the ballpark and that's when you begin to feel the effects of it."
When the final batter, Eddie Taubensee, flied out to Brett Butler, the players in the dugout charged on the field, Kevin Gross raising his arms in victory. The Dodgers are in first place in the National League West, 3 1/2 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants and may already have won the division championship, depending on the length of the strike. That is not, though, what Gross or the others were celebrating.
Instead, they were applauding Martinez, who had last thrown six days ago. He had returned home to Glendale for the birth of his baby daughter and arrived here about 8:30 Wednesday night.
"They were saying to me, 'Have another kid,' laughed Martinez, who held the Reds to seven hits, walking two and striking out seven.
Martinez (12-7) is having his best season in two years. So is Gross, who is 9-7 with a 3.60 earned-run average, lowest among the starters. But the Dodgers as a whole are having their best season since 1991, even if their record of 58-56 is only one game better than after 114 games last season.
Tim Wallach hit his 23rd home run Thursday against Jose Rijo (9-6). Raul Mondesi, a virtual lock for rookie of the year, got his league-leading 16th assist, making a key play in the seventh inning that staved off the Reds' biggest threat.
"Sixteen assists. Not too bad for the first year, huh?" Mondesi said.
The players say the finality of the game will probably hit them today, once they realize that their only trip to Dodger Stadium will be to clean out their lockers. The Dodgers, who were to have begun a three-game series with the Chicago Cubs tonight, have 48 games remaining on their regular-season schedule.
"It will probably hit me tomorrow, or maybe on the ride home, that we won't be playing tomorrow," said Wallach, who was last off in the summer during the 1981 strike. "It hasn't sunk in yet. The fans are the ones who will take the brunt of it."
Jeff Treadway was given permission to drive home with his family to Griffin, Ga., from Cincinnati, and said he will let his apartment in Los Angeles sit for now. "I haven't been home this time of year in a long time," he said.
The mood in the clubhouse before the game was business as usual, with Martinez, celebrating the birth of his daughter, passing out cigars. Whatever the players could take care of ahead of time, they did. They had already talked about picking up luggage, the situation with clubhouse access, and Thursday compiled a list of their addresses and telephone numbers.
Player representative Brett Butler, holding court with reporters for the 100th time or so in the last week, was talking about what a good baseball season this is--or was.
"I was thinking about something else and then (a reporter) told me that I would be losing $19,000 a day, plus change," Butler said. "That's something I will never get back, but I'm doing it for all the Catfish Hunters and the (Andy) Messersmiths. It's my responsibility."
Butler believes the strike has to be over by mid-September if there is to be postseason play, but says the players know that this isn't a vacation. They were told not to work out as a group, since that might be interpreted as a sign of weakness by the owners. But they do intend to stay in shape.
Orel Hershiser likened his workout plans to a corporate venture.
"You can make your choice of what your corporation will do," he said. "My corporation prefers to stay in shape."
Dodger management was ready, too. The front office has held meetings, assigning the coaches to minor league visits, which is what Fred Claire, executive vice president, will also do. Claire also sent pitcher Ismael Valdes down to the Albuquerque Dukes after the game, to keep him pitching and to make sure he has a pitcher prepared to start a game if the strike ends.
The incongruity of it all has struck nearly everyone.
"This is pretty wild," pitcher Rudy Seanez said before the game.
But the uncertainty cuts deeper than the strike. There are 10 potential free agents at the end of this season, and they don't know if they will be back, or if there will even be negotiations.