The Dodgers Disappoint: 2012

From “blog” post: What can ever be learned from failure?

Is there ever any value gained from disappointment?

Aren’t the “pressure cooker” experiences of life what we learn from best, from how we think to how we respond to difficulty? The sports world is something I have enjoyed participating in, coaching, observing as a fan, always curious about how a person or team will respond to situations, as “underdogs” often do, where they come from behind, turning failure into success with momentum unexpected by their rivals who had assumed they were going to win.

I am reminded of this because of the failure of our SoCal pro baseball teams unable to make the playoffs this year.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, and The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (can we please have their “official” name changed back to “The Anaheim Angels” since they are not even in Los Angeles County?), were fun to watch – sometimes. The Dodgers started the season well, in 1st place, with mostly minor league players on their roster. So, how is it that the “blockbuster” trades then made after the All-Star Break were of such little value? It seems to me (imho) that the Head Coach, Don Mattingly, had no idea how to set a lineup until very late in the season: about 10 days before the season was ending, when Ellis became the leadoff hitter, Victorino was moved down to 2nd in the order, Ethier dropping from 2nd to 6th, etc.

At the time the trade was made for Adrian Gonzalez, nobody really expected that we would ask anything from Nick Punto, or even Josh Beckett (a former All-Star!); and, Carl Crawford came in the deal as damaged goods, unable to play until next year. But Chad Billingsley was suddenly lost for the season due to injury, our “ace” Clayton Kershaw also became hobbled by some sort of hip problem, and Beckett was pressed into a significant role – he was okay. Gonzalez started off with a bang! In his 1st at-bat as a Dodger, he hit a home run! Things looked promising. “Great trade!” – everybody thought. But then the entire team played mediocre, at best, for most of the balance of the season – until the very end, when it was too late. Is that what an “all star” lineup does – play soft, expecting somebody else, anybody else, to carry the team, to relax with their fat contracts and play mediocre instead of playing up to their peak potential?

Do we as individuals do this? Do we destroy our own opportunity to be effective in life, to win at our marriages, to win as successful parents, triumphing over difficulties in the home, or as workers able to rise above pressures of the daily grind to provide our best work amidst the strife and tendencies of co-workers to undermine us? Do we swear because we choose to think: “Everybody else does”? Do we act rudely because it’s accepted by the masses as permissible? Why? Why not “be the best we can be”? We can overcome all things, if we’re confident in who we are, in what we have learned from life situations that have seasoned us, that have prepared us for every possible stumblingblock that might occur. Coaches teach their players such habits.

So, will the players be just like the fans, will The Dodgers just say to themselves: “There’s always next year”? Or, “Wait ‘til next year”? No! They’re probably already preparing their minds, preparing their bodies, for a different outcome next year by lifting weights, staying in shape, eating right, reviewing video, studying pitcher’s habits, etc. The question I want to raise here is:

What do we as everyday people do to be the best we can be at whatever we choose to do with our lives each day?

Is it just the habit of a committed Christian to wake up every morning to pray, to read from the Bible, to follow Jesus’ command to “die daily” to self, to take up their cross and follow Him? What does a nominal Christian do? What habits does a non-Christian follow? In other words, what “works” for people who aren’t athletes, who aren’t driven to succeed and have developed a gameplan, a method of attack, to ensure success?

To overcome obstacles in life is not an issue for a Christian, not for one who knows how to handle the tools God has given him (1 John 5:4). Salesman will often put reminders on bathroom mirrors and refrigerators to keep their minds sharp. NFL great Jerry Rice used to warm up for a football game with the same exact regimen every time: from the way he wore his socks to the way he warmed up before a game – very methodical approach to every aspect of everything last thing he could think of. What works for you?

I hope what Dodgers Coach Don Mattingly discovered at the end of this season works better for him next season than the uncertainty Mike Scioscia started with this season with The Angels: Relief Pitchers were a problem for him since before Spring Training even began, and although that organization knew that Mike Trout was highly-talented they didn’t choose to insert him into their starting lineup until a month of poor play had transpired! If he had played from Opening Day, Mike Trout would most likely be the runaway candidate for AL MVP honors this season, his rookie year! He could win it, regardless: except, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers is the odds on favorite since he plays on a team (with less wins) that will play in the post-season AND he is very close to earning the Triple Crown! That is: most HRs, Most RBIs, Highest Batting Average.

If only… What if… “What a difference a day makes.” What else do people frequently say?

Why do you think the way you think? Why do you act the way you act? Sometimes the only way to succeed in life is to fail a few times. Thankfully, that is a secular reality; the Christian life can be lived successfully from the start, if we choose to plug-in to the Power Source! God is omnipotent, omniscient… God loves to lavish good things upon those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Does that include you?

Yes, I was disappointed that The Los Angeles Dodgers new ownership group wasn’t able to put a playoff team together this year. I am hopeful that their willingness to spend ludicrous amounts of money to make such a bold effort won’t cause them to be hesitant to pull the trigger on great opportunities as they arise in future seasons. Will it? Who knows. They are now making modifications to Dodger Stadium to improve it into a world-class facility that they felt was lacking in many areas: they have some extra time to do so, now.

Similarly, I could be very disappointed if all that The Los Angeles Lakers went out and accomplished to put together an amazing squad for this upcoming NBA season ends short of their goal: Is it possible for a team to fail with a roster the likes of what they have now? It’s possible, I suppose. Is it likely? I hope not! We still have the one & only Kobe Bryant and ultimate teammate Pau Gasol, even defensive great Metta World Peace. AND we added to that mix the best point guard ever, Steve Nash? AND then added the best Center in the NBA, Dwight Howard? Are you kidding me! That doesn’t mention improving the benchplay, sorely lacking last season, with Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks.

The Los Angeles Kings thrilled the SoCal fan base with their long overdue, 1st Stanley Cup NHL championship last Spring!

May The Los Angeles Lakers bring home the NBA championship trophy this season! I’d hate to seem them have a season as disappointing as how the season ended for The Los Angeles Dodgers. Go, Lakers!

As a Christian, I say: Let us hold fast with a sincere faith our confidence in Christ, that no matter how our favorite sports teams play that we will keep our priorities straight, and factor into our daily lives decisions that bring glory to God, no matter what happens in the world around us.

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