August 19, 2005
Hope and Despair
There should be no reason to hope the Dodgers can make the playoffs this season. They’re 10 games under .500 on August 19th. They’ve endured three straight losing months, something no LA Dodger team has ever done and still finished with a winning record.
But this bad LA team is also only four games behind San Diego in a division that’s been just as bad as they are. And a four-game lead can disappear as quickly as a slumping rookie from a roster.
In 1959, the third-place Dodgers trailed San Francisco by 4 1/2 games on August 23rd … and won the pennant. In 1965, the Giants again led the Dodgers by 4 1/2 games, but this time on September 16th. The Dodgers clinched the pennant 16 days later. In 1983, LA trailed the Braves by 6 1/2 games on August 13th. By the end of the month, they were in first place for good.
The first-place Angels, now ahead of Oakland by 2 1/2 games, seem to have fended off the Athletics’ furious rush for now. But if you’re worried that maybe the lead is fragile, you’re probably a student of Angel history.
The Angels found themselves in first place as late as August 1978, August 1984, September 1985, September 1995, August 1997 and September 1998 … and missed the playoffs all six times. Most of those leads were puny, but not the one in 1995. That year, the Angels were up by 8 1/2 games on August 25th. The lead vanished in less than a month. A few days later, so did the pennant.
Despite the history, there’s good reason to think the Angels will go to the playoffs while the Dodgers go nowhere. But in every dugout, there’s always plenty of room for a little hope and a lot of despair.
Posted by Nick Roman at 8:36 AM