Dodgers: The 2018 season outlook after falling short — a fan’s perspective

Opening Day is right around the corner. The smell of peanuts, hot dogs and clean cut grass are in the air. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2018 is a story of redemption.

Phoneix, Arizona. Kenley Jansen is on the mound, peering down to catcher Austin Barnes. Despite only letting up three hits in the game, the TBS announcers repeatedly hype up the matchup. Jansen vs. Paul Goldschmidt, bottom of the ninth, two outs, man on second. 3-1 score. Eight pitches into the at-bat Goldschmidt whiffs on an outside cutter. The Dodgers are heading to the NLCS.

Chicago, Illinois. Cold October baseball is something the Chicago Cubs thrive in; something the Southern California Dodgers rarely encounter. Game five pitching ace Clayton Kershaw opposes fellow southpaw Jose Quintana. Despite having a 3-1 lead, the blown 2-1 lead the year prior creeps into Dodger fans’ minds.

Cody Bellinger doubles in Chris Taylor in the first inning. 1-0. Enrique Hernandez hits a solo shot in the second inning. 2-0. Justin Turner singles in Taylor in the third, 3-0. Hernandez steps up to the plate with one out and the bases loaded.

Right-handed pitcher Hector Rondon is on the mound. Hernandez hit .159 against right-handers in 2017 with just one home run in 165 plate appearances. Hernandez blasted the first pitch of the at-bat to right center, barely tucking over the 368 sign on the ivy. 7-0. The Dodgers won 11-1.

Los Angeles, California. Chris Taylor sends the first pitch of the World Series into the Left Field Pavilion. Five innings later, Justin Turner repeats the feat with Taylor on base. The Dodgers win, 3-1, setting the table for another great postseason series.

I was at that game. For the first time all season, I told myself, “we might actually win it all.”

Then the good luck faded.

Kenley Jansen gave up his first 0-2 home run to Marwin Gonzalez in the ninth inning of game two; something that would change the tide of the entire season. Then, Cody Bellinger somehow failed to leave the yard on a blast to the warning track that would have sent Chavez Ravine into a frenzy.

Two Yu Darvish meltdowns and a historic slugfest in game five and the Astros were the first to four wins. If the series was extended to 100 games, it very well could have been 50-50. These two juggernauts did not quit; the Astros were simply the first to four.

Now, nearly five months removed from the Astros celebrating in Dodger Stadium, the warm Southern California air prepares for another season of baseball.

The Dodgers returned to Chavez Ravine the same way they left it, in defeat. The Los Angeles Angels defeated the Dodgers in the first game back at Dodger Stadium, 4-1.

Thursday afternoon, Dodger Stadium prepares for the first game that really matters since November first. The Dodgers open against the San Francisco Giants, the biggest rival to the Boys in Blue.

But it is hard to really make this game matter. The Giants are without their ace, Madison Bumgarner. And although they added Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, the Giants were just a 64-win team a season ago. Dodger fans are going from high-pressure baseball to the start of a long stretch of 162 games.

And while those games certainly matter, the bitterness may be creeping in. Yes, you cannot make the postseason without winning x amount of games. But removed from a season that was so dominant, so storybook, only to fall short, you ask yourself “does this really matter?”

It is going to be hard to adjust from heart-pounding fourth innings to trailing by four runs in the ninth only to say “eh, they’ll get ’em tomorrow.” To go from every pitch meaning something, to most pitches not meaning anything at all.

Dodger fans must prepare themselves for 162 games. While there will still be magical moments, the thought of 2017 will linger in everyone’s mind. All season the Dodgers will be compared to the 2014-2015 Royals, who lost the World Series in seven games only to return and win it all the very next season.

And that is okay. 2018 will mark 30 years since the Dodgers last won the World Series. My father was 15 years old, with his entire future ahead of him. Now, his oldest son is 19 years old and writing baseball articles about the Dodgers finally winning again.

The Royals’ World Series win in 2015 came exactly 30 years after their last World Series win in 1985. Talk about irony.

It may not be a 108-year drought similar to the Cubs and we all hope it never gets that close. We all hoped it ended at 29. Now, 30 is the proposed magic number.

The Dodgers came up one game short. One magical rally that somehow found it’s way into the regular season on a consistent basis. One decent performance from Yu Darvish, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood from celebrating for the first time since 1988.

One game was all that mattered in 2017. Now, we all have to find a way to convince ourselves that all 162 games this season somehow matter.

They definitely do, but as we saw in 2017, those 104 wins meant nothing in game seven of the World Series.

It’s time for Dodger baseball.