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T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers let others fill in the blanks about division title

Showing his optimism, the columnist goes on as if the team has clinched, and all that's left to do is celebrate. But even that gives him pause.

September 30, 2009|T.J. SIMERS

FROM SAN DIEGO — For three days now I've had this whole argument laid out why the Dodgers should not splash champagne all over each other after clinching a division title.

Never once did I take into account they might never be in the position to do so.

It would be easy to start banging on them, calling them the Choking Dogs again and detailing all the bungles.

But this can't possibly go on.

So optimistic as I am about everything except UCLA, I'm going to proceed today with my argument as if the Dodgers have won the division title -- relying on you to fill in the blanks at the appropriate time.

They had to wait longer than they thought, but the Dodgers won their division title _______ night. Good for them, and so no one misunderstands the tone here, I actually mean it.

It's a fun group, _____ _____ coming up big with the timely hit, an interesting meld of youth and experience overall with a gem for a manager. Has anyone ever had more champagne thrown on him than Joe Torre?

Now as you might imagine, and you will have to wait until _______ night, right now the guys are down in the clubhouse carrying on as if they really did something special getting the best of San Francisco, Colorado, Arizona and San Diego as everyone predicted five months ago.

That's my only problem with the Dodgers right now.

The Angels won a division title the other night, and they actually did it. Good for them. They are boring with the exception of a charismatic Torii Hunter, and have a jolly gem for a manager.

But if that's how they partied after finishing higher than Texas, Oakland and Seattle, how might they react if they beat Boston?

Mike Bresnahan, who covers the Lakers for The Times, said the Lakers didn't pop any corks after clinching the Pacific Division title a year ago and didn't accept the Pacific Division T-shirts the league gives winners.

The Lakers are all about winning championships.

The Dodgers have been just happy to make the playoffs, probably really happy this year after doing so on _______ night. The pitching of _____ _____ finally got them over the hump, or the bump as Eric Collins would say, and now it's about next Wednesday's playoff opener in Dodger Stadium.

Last year, the Dodgers were almost delirious with delight after winning a playoff series for the first time since 1989.

But why not aim higher this year?

Torre offers the rebuttal. He says the champagne celebration is more about the players than the fans or anyone else because "it's all about the grind," baseball different than other sports because it's 162 games played in something like 180 days.

The way things went in Pittsburgh, the Dodgers failing to show in three out of four games, I might argue the Dodgers will have only played 159 this year.

There are a lot of people out there who will tell you, it really is about the grind, rush hour in the morning, rush hour in the evening, but none of them slurping champagne because they did it well every day for the last five months.

Torre says players need to blow off steam and exhale before cranking it up again, winning three out of five in the first round and having another champagne party, then winning four out of seven in the next round and having another champagne blast, and then maybe winning the World Series and loading up again.

The intensity that it takes to make the playoffs in the NFL is every bit the same as what it takes in baseball, each of the 16 games played over four months absolutely crucial to a team's long-range success or failure.

When an NFL team clinches a playoff berth there is no champagne. When it wins a playoff game, there is no champagne.

"It's baseball tradition," Torre says, you know like beaning someone if two guys on the other team hit home runs maybe back-to-back.

So few teams make the playoffs in comparison to other sports, Torre says, in misstating the facts.

A little more than one-fourth of the teams in the league advance, and if the Angels want to grab a postseason berth, they need only beat three other teams every year. Should they fail to do so, they get another opportunity to qualify as a wild card.

The Dodgers needed to only beat Pittsburgh or San Diego to clinch a division title, waiting until _____ _____ went deep to go crazy.

The Dodgers probably will argue they need to hit the champagne now given the troublesome last few days, but instead of reflecting on what they've done through blurry eyes, how about looking ahead with a "fine focus," as Chuck Knox used to say?

The best time to celebrate in baseball should be after winning the pennant and getting the chance to advance to the World Series. As Larry Bowa says, "None of it matters if you don't win the World Series."

So why is everybody hitting the beer and champagne again and again before advancing that far?

Is it because they fear this will be their only chance to party? Now where would anyone get that idea?

TORRE DIDN'T see the postgame festivities, but when told of the Angels' celebration honoring Nick Adenhart, including alcohol being poured on his jersey, he was fine with it. "They just wanted to make sure he was wet like they were," he said, while making it clear he appreciated such a gesture.

NONSENSE. ALCOHOL played a role in Adenhart's death, and there must be one thousand other ways they could have honored their teammate without introducing alcohol into the tribute.

Just because the players were fine with it doesn't make it appropriate, so many kids at this point following the Angels and excited about their heroes' success, but getting the message victory cannot be celebrated without alcohol.

High-fives, hugs and a lot of hooting and hollering apparently are not enough.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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