ESPN the Magazine actually has an intriguing article out today. It’s about the up and down season the Dodgers are having. You should definitely read it, and draw your own conclusions.
In August, I spent 11 games with the Dodgers — three in Arizona, five in Los Angeles, three in Detroit — chasing the answer to that question. During those 11 games, I watched Justin Turner hit two homers in a game twice, each time running around the bases with a sly grin on his face, slightly behind his beard and ahead of his hair. I witnessed Cody Bellinger homer against Zack Greinke and explain it by saying, “It felt great because I didn’t feel it.” I listened as Yasiel Puig said he doesn’t get tired of winning because when he was 15 or 16 he played on a team that lost 58 of 60 games. Day after day, I saw Hyun-Jin Ryu sprawled on a clubhouse couch, phone in hand and earbuds inserted, watching videos from what appears to be the Korean version of the Food Network. The Dodgers won eight of the 11, reaching a peak of 53 games over .500, and over the course of that stretch I heard every possible mutation of the question How do you explain this?
But later that month, something extraordinary and oddly compelling happened: The Dodgers’ season became a rebellious teen, requiring constant surveillance lest it devise something even worse. And so I returned during a series against the Rockies — and saw three losses that ran their streak to 16 in 17 games, and 11 in a row — chasing answers to slightly different questions. I listened as Ed Sheeran’s sugarcoated walk-up song for Turner began to sound like a funeral dirge. I watched a grumpy Puig stand at his locker after a Saturday night loss and put on a sharp gray suit with the force and vigor of a firefighter unrolling a hose. I saw a group of young men avoid eye contact with an intensity I never thought possible. Over the course of those games, I heard every possible mutation of the question How do you explain this?
The Dodgers beat the lowly Phillies today (barely) by a score of 5-4 to avoid the sweep in Philadelphia. The season is basically over for the Dodgers if you’re paying attention. And that’s miserable.