Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp watch from the dugout as the Dodgers fell to… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
First comes the pain, the disappointment. It will naturally linger a while, longer for some.
Play a 162-game season and there will be plenty of laments. Certainly the Dodgers, baseball's final team to be eliminated from the playoffs, will have theirs.
Their season began in bankruptcy. With Frank McCourt sitting in the owner's box and on the verge of becoming the world’s most undeserving billionaire. With the Dodgers breaking out to baseball’s best record. With new owners infusing the team with expensive new talent. And with final disappointment.
"It's the story about nine different seasons," said catcher A.J. Ellis.
The Dodgers added sluggers Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez. Added Shane Victorino and Josh Beckett. Added the right missing pieces and then waited for what never came, or at least came too late.
"We should have done better, that's for sure," Gonzalez said.
They were expected to make the playoffs and did not. They led their division on April 19, and then went 9-17.
"We kind of failed," said Matt Kemp.
But as the pain subsides, a new season will beckon. The Dodgers will look loaded to most. And considering the way they finally played in winning six consecutive games at the end of the season, optimism figures to abound.
"This team is going to be a frickin’ monster next year," said reliever Jamey Wright. "This team is going to be a beast. It will be pretty exciting for Dodgers fans.
"We’ll get a little hungry this off-season and come back do some damage next season."
Manager Don Mattingly is counting on that hunger, that disappointment born from just missing the playoffs, to drive the team in the off-season.
"This is going to soak in," Mattingly said. "You have to allow this pain, and what you go through now, to be what fuels you for the winter."
More than just being motivated individuals working hard in the off-season, however, the Dodgers will have to mature as a team. Will have to learn to play hard every night, to play with passion and a sense of focus that seemed to drift during the summer.
When the season was on the line, the Dodgers played some of their best baseball this past week.
"It showed us what we could be and what we can be when we have the energy and sense of urgency we should have all year long," Ellis said.
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