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No Blue ribbon / Phillies win the pennant behind Hamels, as Dodgers get a poor start and worse fielding

Dodgers chased into off-season amid chorus of boos from fans

October 16, 2008|Bill Plaschke

'In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."

Once upon a time, Vin Scully used those words to accompany a Kirk Gibson home run.

Exactly 20 years later, on a sticky Wednesday night at the end of a frayed rope, those words worked again.

The improbable Dodgers were impossibly wobbly, impossibly clumsy, impossibly booed.

Exactly 20 years later, something else sailed out over the right-field fence to a chorus of shrieks and stares.

It was the Dodgers' season, knocked into next year by the Philadelphia Phillies, who did everything the Dodgers couldn't.

Like, you know, pitch and catch.

The final score was 5-1, the final NL Championship Series tally was four games to one, and the final question was a rhetorical one.

What is it with the goodbyes in this town?

First, the Lakers bid farewell by rolling over in Game 6 against the Boston Celtics.

Now this, the Dodgers leaving the room with a stumble and a stagger, falling out of view with a giant plop and an exhausted sigh.

"This was like a punch in the gut," Andre Ethier said.

As the Phillies hugged and danced and partied long into the night, Ethier was one of the few Dodgers to return to the field and wave to the fans, but you can't blame the ones who didn't.

They were probably worried for their safety in front of a crowd that spent the long evening lashing out like jilted lovers.

Dodgers fans booed in a way they've rarely booed before, from the leadoff homer by the Phillies' Jimmy Rollins to the final stranded runner by Nomar Garciaparra.

They booed sadly horrible Chad Billingsley, who couldn't survive three innings for the second time in a week, couldn't consistently throw inside again, his two worst performances in his two biggest games, and who knows when he'll recover?

"I tried to do everything I could," he said softly.

They booed the painfully awful Rafael Furcal, who tried to play with a sore neck and paid for it with three errors in one inning that led to two runs that finished them.

"To have this happen on the last game of the year, that is tough," he said, also softly.

They booed the just plain lousy Blake DeWitt, who hit into two double plays and ended the series hitting .077 before he was replaced by Jeff Kent.

Who stranded three runners by striking out twice.

It was like that.

"I think that we were a little bit overanxious," said Manager Joe Torre. "You're out there in an elimination game, you just don't want to make a mistake."

The only person who escaped the fans' wrath was the one guy who probably won't be around to enjoy their love, Manny Ramirez.

"Man-ny Stay, Man-ny Stay," they chanted after the man with the expiring contract had two more hits -- including an opposite-field home run off series MVP Cole Hamels -- to finish the series batting .533.

What a week. Every good pitch he saw, it seems he hit. Every big moment he encountered, he conquered. Did you see that Game 4 double off Brad Lidge?

I've never before seen a hitter so locked in for so long in such pressure situations.

Yet afterward, when talking about his possible return here, I've never seen anyone more squirrelly.

The talk began immediately after the game, outside the Dodgers' dugout with owner Frank McCourt, who spoke as fans serenaded him with more Manny chants.

"We're going to do what we can to sign him, but it takes two to tango," McCourt said. "If he wants to be here, he'll be here."

Soon thereafter, I asked Ramirez whether he wanted to be here.

"We'll see," he said.

We'll see? We'll see????

This is a guy who spent the last two months romancing the media and fans as if he wanted to be here forever, and suddenly he's not sure?

Of course not. The last two months were a show. Given his history, he will never again be that focused on the field, or as affable in the clubhouse.

Now, understandably, it's all about the money, Ramirez wanting to cash in on the performance of a lifetime.

Now, more than ever, the Dodgers need to stay true to their growing team and use the long contract on a starter such as CC Sabathia while not offering Ramirez anything more than a two-year deal.

Ramirez will no doubt refuse it. He will move on. If the Dodgers do things right, they will be fine.

First, keep the kids together, build next season around Ethier, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton and, yes, Billingsley and DeWitt.

I know, I never thought I'd say that, I'm the last one in town to see the light, but at times it has been delightfully blinding. The scars of this series will disappear. Their incredible growth during the second half of this season will not.

Next, sign Furcal, he is the center of your offense. Then, sign Casey Blake -- he has become a stable veteran cornerstone.

Now, collect the loads of money from expired contracts such as those of Garciaparra, Kent, Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, who apparently wants to play elsewhere.

Use that money to buy an ace starter. Use some minor-league talent to trade for a decent slugger.

Keep Andruw Jones in exile, and you're set.

"I love this team," McCourt said. "But losing really stinks."

This winter, he should remember the truth in both.


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

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