Dodgers trail Cardinals in games and narratives

Thumbnail image for soohoo-dodgers-blimp.jpgIf you're reading this, you likely know already that the Dodgers dropped the first two games of the National League Championship Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in agonizing fashion. They lost the opening game 3-2 in 13 innings and then lost 1-0 on Saturday despite giving up just two hits to the Cardinals.

The operating theory now is that the Dodgers are doomed because they are down 2-0, used their best two pitchers (Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke) and now have to face the Cardinals best pitcher, Adam Wainwright, while the Dodgers have to counter with Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lasted just three innings in his only playoff start.

And the Dodgers will probably be without the services of Hanley Ramirez, who ended up with a bruised rib cage after getting hit by a pitch by Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly in the first inning of Game 1. And Andre Ethier may not be able to start as he nurses a variety of leg injuries.

Before the series started, the national media jumped on the matchup between the big payroll Dodgers (2nd in the majors behind the Yankees at around $216 million) and the not so big Cardinals (11th at $115 million). The St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a cartoon accompanying its NLCS preview showing a stern cardinal waving a disapproving finger at a Mr. Moneybags type with a Dodgers logo on his top hat.

I know that cardinals are not indigenous to California, but I'm pretty sure that they don't have fingers. And I'm also pretty sure that Mark Walter doesn't wear a top hat with a Dodgers logo on it. Or a morning coat with tails to baseball games, although in older days I could imagine Danny Goodman creating something like that to sell to wear to games. "Hey kids, come on out to Dodger Stadium for Top Hat Night! Kids 14 and under will get a Dodger Blue Top Hat."

Also before the series, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote either an incredibly unfunny parody column or actually believed what he wrote in his comparison between the Dodgers and Cardinals.

When the Dodgers meet the Cardinals on Friday with the Gateway Arch framed in center field to start the National League Championship Series, we'll see a clash of baseball worldviews and a collision of regional cultures, too.

The Cards have always hugged Midwest virtues while the Dodgers loved movie stars in the box seats and star power on the field. But this year both teams are such extreme versions of their traditional selves it's just delicious.

For generations, the Cards have believed in hitting the cutoff man or going to bed without supper. Yasiel Puig thinks the cutoff man is there to give him a good sight line on his actual target, a 100-yard heave to third base or home on the fly to showcase his hose. Other runners? What about 'em?

The TBS broadcast has been hammering home "the Cardinal Way." Even going as far to point out that when three Cardinal relievers were doing stretching exercises in unison in the bullpen, it was part of "the Cardinal Way."

Bob Nightengale of USA Today opined that the Dodgers are regretting that they passed on a change to draft the Cardinals Game 2 starter, Michael Wacha, in the first round of the 2012 draft. Because, as you know, most teams make draft picks based on which ones they don't want to face in the playoffs the next season. Or perhaps they try to take a long term view. (The first player from the 2012 draft to appears in the major leagues was the Dodgers 2nd round pick, Paco Rodriguez, who was left off the NLCS roster after his performance declined sharply in recently weeks.)

Another narrative is that Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig is now a hopeless case at the plate, going 0 for 10 in the first two games. This 0 for 10 stretch came right after another playoff series in which Puig was 8 for 17. Hopelessness is apparently a rapidly spreading disease.

Having a pessimistic view of the Dodgers chances of winning the NLCS is in order. However, the differences between the Cardinals and Dodgers remain razor thin. Ryu pitched well in his one start against the Cardinals this year. But that was in a time when the narrative was that the Dodgers were unstoppable.

And now the narrative has changed. The storyline is that the free spending Dodgers can't buy their way out of their problems. If they only followed The Cardinal Way, they would get more hits with runners in scoring position. But they don't. And so the end is near.

Unless the Dodgers win Monday. Then we can look for a new one.

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