Dodgers: A cinematic take on 2017 and the ending it deserved

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: Enrique Hernandez (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: Enrique Hernandez (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

In 2017, the Dodgers had a season worthy of the big screen, but did it get the Hollywood ending it deserved?

FADE IN: October 19th, 2017; Chicago, Illinois – Wrigley Field. A young player steps to plate in the most important game of his career. He doesn’t know it yet – his teammates and his manager in the dugout – don’t know it yet, but he’s about to win the game, in the third inning. With one swing, the player, who wears number 14 on his back, will simultaneously end the season of the defending World Champions and will engrave his name into the Dodgers’ history books.

With one swing, Kiké Hernandez will send the Dodgers to the World Series for the first time in nearly 30 years.

Flashback six months to Opening Day. Dodger Stadium is alive. Fans stand in line to get their first Dodger Dogs of the season. Children run around in their Seager and Kershaw tees. Its 68 degrees and sunny in Los Angeles, picturesque and faintly cliché.

The Dodgers are about to start their season the same way they’ll send themselves to the World Series; in grand and momentous fashion.

Opening Day was just the beginning. The Dodgers would go on to win 104 games. They’d have one of the hottest summers baseball has ever seen. They would do great things. They would do things that no organization has ever done.

After a season like that, a Hollywood ending for the team from LA seems inevitable, right?

Dodger fans across the country hoped and hoped. They hoped, but some of the best movies are the ones that depict the unpredictable. The best stories, even the true ones, leave us shocked and full of emotion.

The story, appropriately titled “This Team!”, begins at Spring Training, in Glendale, Arizona. Nothing is out of the ordinary. Clayton Kershaw is healthy; Justin Turner is hitting homers. The team’s number 1 prospect, Cody Bellinger, is hitting in the cage. He’s training for what everyone predicts to be a September call-up.

Less than two months later, when the sounds of summer are just beginning to fill Dodger Stadium, Bellinger steps up to the plate in the 7th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s been in the majors for less than a week. On a 0-2 pitch, he hits the first home run of his historic rookie season.

He would go on to hit 39, breaking Frank Robinson and Wally Berger‘s long-standing record of 38 home runs by a rookie in the National League.

It was one of many historic feats the Dodger players would accomplish.

The director, manager Dave Roberts, never missed a beat. He knows his team, and he knows what they are capable of. In a post-NLCS  interview with USA Today’s “For the Win” Roberts told writer Ted Berg that “You could argue the comfort of knowing a specific role or situation that you’re going to be placed in, but we’ve challenged our guys for the last couple of years to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and they’ve adjusted and they’ve thrived in whatever situation that we’ve put them in.” 

Roberts’ strategy wouldn’t have been possible, much less successful, if the producers, GM Farhan Zaidi and President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, hadn’t found the right cast. It was a cast that began to take shape before Andrew Friedman took over at the helm prior to the 2015 season.

In fact, it was former GM Ned Colletti who set the stage for Zaidi and Friedman. Colletti drafted many of the players who helped carry the team to the World Series. Players like Clayton Kershaw (2006), Joc Pederson (2010), Corey Seager (2012), and Cody Bellinger (2013). Colletti was also responsible for the signing of a then 21-year-old Yasiel Puig in 2012.

Colletti, Friedman, and Zaidi cast the motion picture, Roberts directed it. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and hitting coach Turner Ward choreographed it. But it was the players; it was Kershaw and Alex Wood, Kenley Jansen and Austin Barnes, who wrote the script and stared in the epic story of the 2017 LA Dodgers.

The story, as mighty and iconic as it was, didn’t have a happy ending. At least that’s what we all thought as the Houston Astros celebrated on the Dodgers’ home turf on the evening of November 1st.

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The ending, as bitter and not-at-all-sweet as it was, was the Dodgers’ critically-acclaimed Hollywood ending. It may not be the one the Dodgers deserved, but it was the one they needed. It was the ending that reminded us that baseball isn’t a perfect fantasy. It reminded us that baseball, as cinematic as it can be, is just as real as anything else.

The 2017 Dodgers were not Fever Pitch. Their season didn’t end with a win that was centuries in the making. The Dodgers were not The Rookie. They didn’t shock the world by doing something that few believed they could.

The 2017 Dodgers are a story of their own. They’re a little bit of Moneyball, mixed with a hint of The Sandlot and a touch of Field of Dreams. 

The Dodgers are a strong, ferociously passionate team. They have the fire and determination of Billy Chapel in For the Love of the Game.

Next: Three Ways to Make Space for Yu Darvish

Except, unlike Billy Chapel, this team isn’t ready to walk away. Not just yet.