YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

5 Game 3 | Mets win best-of-five series, 3-0 | Bill

Mystique Wasn't Enough to End 18-Year Drought

October 08, 2006|Bill Plaschke

Eighteen years and counting.

The last time the Dodgers won a postseason series, Orel Hershiser was praying on a mound in Oakland.

On Saturday, Jonathan Broxton was crumbling on a mound in Los Angeles.

The last time the Dodgers won a postseason series, Kirk Gibson limped 360 feet into history.

On Saturday, Nomar Garciaparra limped five steps and stopped.

The last time the Dodgers won a postseason series, Tom Lasorda was leading cheers by the Dodger dugout.

On Saturday, well, he was doing it again, pumping his fists, screaming, more life packed into that bulging blue sweater than in the entire Dodgers bullpen.

Nah. Didn't work. Nothing worked. Not Sandy Koufax in the owner's box, not Duke Snider on the mound, not even the Gibby video blaring on the scoreboard with one out and the bases loaded in the fourth inning.

The crowd roared. Andre Ethier stepped to the plate. The ball flew off his bat. And directly into the glove of New York Mets pitcher Darren Oliver, who turned it into an inning-ending double play.

Eighteen years and counting.

The Dodgers' playoff series victory drought continued Saturday with a 9-5 loss to the New York Mets, who swept them out of the National League Division Series with more whisk than work.

Three games, and the Dodgers led for all of three innings. On Saturday, they led for half an inning, by one run in the bottom of the fifth.

Broxton took the mound in the top of the sixth, threw first-pitch balls to three of the first four hitters, allowed three consecutive run-scoring flares, and that was that.

With his youthful idealism, Broxton scowled.

"It's really aggravating," he said.

With his veteran realism, Jeff Kent sighed.

"That's just the way it is," he said.

Meaning, the Dodgers just weren't good enough here, and haven't been good enough to get past the playoffs' first round in, oh, 18 years.

As we saw again Saturday, mystique is fun, mystique sells tickets, mystique makes for great October theater.

But the Dodgers can't win with mystique any more than they can win with Marlon Anderson playing left field and batting third.

Mystique couldn't help the immaturity of a Joe Beimel, the left-handed reliever who may have ended the Dodgers' chances before the series even started when he cut his hand in a New York bar.

Mystique couldn't light a fire in J.D. Drew, who hit .154 in the series with no RBIs and six runners stranded in quick at-bats on Saturday.

Mystique couldn't fix the aging of Kenny Lofton, who had one hit in the series, or the attitude of Brad Penny, who had an 18.00 earned-run average.

"The Mets look like a here-and-now team," said Kent. "We look like a team that's still getting there."

This season was a triumph in that the Dodgers returned to old-fashioned personnel work and common-sense managing and rebuilt the foundation of a consistent contender.

This season was a tease in that they are still 11 long, tough victories from becoming a champion.


The last time they won a playoff series, they were among the top five championship teams in baseball.

Today, they are in the bottom six, with only five franchises having gone longer without winning a playoff series. Yeah, it's not a pretty group, and includes the Texas Rangers/Senators, Washington Nationals/Expos, Pittsburgh Pirates, Milwaukee Brewers and Kansas City Royals.

"Now that we've got a taste of it again, we need to take it up a notch," said owner Frank McCourt. "We can't just be happy to play in the postseason, we have to expect to win in the postseason."

There's at least one guy who has an idea about how that could happen.

"I'd like us to pick up two things," said Manager Grady Little late Saturday, rolling a baseball around in his hands in the quiet of his office. "I'd like to get a starting pitcher to take us deeper into games. And I'd like to get a bomber."

It is uncertain whether McCourt discussed these things with Little when the owner visited the manager the game.

But you can bet McCourt is listening now.

Standing in a stairwell, accepting congratulations from tattooed and ratty-jersey-wearing fans who clearly accept him as one of their own, McCourt made a promise.

"I will absolutely, positively do whatever it takes for us to make the same progress this winter as we made last winter," he said. "We have a foundation now. It's solid. We will keep building."

Although the fans around him seemed happy, McCourt did not.

"I hate to lose, I want us to get to the point here when we expect to win every postseason," he said. "I will do whatever it takes to get us to that point."

Good thing, because top starting pitchers like Barry Zito don't come cheap, and bombers like Alfonso Soriano cost bucks, and, hey, did somebody say Alex Rodriguez was available?

McCourt has done much to rebuild credibility and belief in his organization. One more step is needed. The time for that step is now.

As for Saturday, well, yeah, there was one chance for a Kirk Gibson moment.

It was with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning. Garciaparra, suffering from a torn left thigh muscle that kept him on the bench, hobbled to the plate.

Three pitches later, he grounded the ball back to the pitcher Pedro Feliciano to end the inning.

"Somebody told me I could have a Gibson moment, and I said I couldn't, not tonight," Garciaparra said afterward. "For that to happen, it would have to be in the World Series."

The World Series.

What's that?


Bill Plaschke can be reached at To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to

Los Angeles Times Articles