Sarah's Take: Dodgers & Fans Face Adversity
Last Tuesday America experienced warlike attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon. We are still trying to deal with the first widespread attack on our way of life. Friday was a national day of mourning for our fallen citizens.
As a baseball writer, I usually live and die with the events affecting baseball. However, since Tuesday my mind has not been thinking about baseball. It seems idiotic to worry about who will earn a playoff berth when people have been killed by an act of terrorism. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I can't imagine what they must be going through.
Though America might have experienced the worst tragedy on her own soil in her history, life must return to normal. Normalcy will help us heal our wounds. When I lose a loved one, I must have time to mourn, but then I must get back to my normal routine to start the healing process. America has had time to express her sorrow, and now it is time to get back to some kind of normalcy.
Baseball will be a pleasant diversion for us. It understood we needed time to grieve, but then we need something to take our minds off the tragedy. Monday baseball will resume with its exciting playoff races.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are involved in the National League Western Divisional race and the Wild Card race. They want their first playoff berth since 1996. Though in the past four seasons the media has labeled them as underachievers, nobody would have expected them to be in the hunt for the playoffs with all of the adversity that they have gone through this year. However, Manager Jim Tracy's positive attitude has not allowed the Dodgers to quit believing that they could reach the playoffs.
When the Dodgers' upper management hired Tracy, who had no Major League experience managing, many people wrote off the Dodgers reaching the playoffs in 2001. I didn't think Tracy was what the team needed. I thought they needed a fiery manager who could light a enthusiastic fire under the team. Tracy had been their bench coach for the last two years, and he did not show much excitement doing the job. I didn't know what skills he had to help the Dodgers to win, but I knew he had something to impress Bob Daly, Bob Graziano, and Kevin Malone.
The Dodgers could have given up on the playoffs before Spring Training began, but this is not the character of Tracy or the players. The day when the pitchers reported to Vero Beach, the media reported Gary Sheffield had requested a contract extension or a trade. As the soap opera played out in the media, it grew clear that the Dodgers might not be able to work with the talented left fielder.
However, when Sheffield reported to Vero Beach, Tracy met with him. I think this started to defuse the situation. Allegedly, Tracy forced Sheffield to meet with his teammates and Daly to explain his side of the story. In my opinion this allowed the Dodgers to keep their best hitter.
In April, Kevin Malone allegedly challenged a fan to a fight. Malone had done some foolish, unforgettable things and had a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. I believed the Dodgers would have replaced him after this season. However, challenging a fan to a fight was too big to ignore. This was the last straw for the Dodgers and led to the forced resignation of Malone.
The Dodgers could have lost focus on the task of winning, but Tracy wouldn't let them. Tracy's positive thinking sent a message that he was the boss and the Dodgers would find a good general manager who would not tear the team apart. Tracy had already shown them that he could lead through difficult circumstances, so I think the team trusted him to do it again.
The Dodgers have suffered many injuries that could have ruined their season. Tracy has never said the Dodgers could not win without a certain player, and this is the main reason why the Dodgers are where they are at now. Though the Dodgers have had four starting pitchers - Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Andy Ashby and Luke Prokopec - on the disabled list at the same time, the Dodgers found pitchers to start games and win.
When the Dodgers had Sheffield and Eric Karros on the disabled list at the same time, the media predicted doom for the Dodgers' offense. Tracy didn't panic, and he simply told the other players that they needed to produce what they are capable of. This helped the Dodgers to get through a difficult time.
Though the media has predicted doom for the Dodgers several times this season, Tracy has always believed in his team. Tracy's philosophy that every player is important to the team effort has kept the Dodgers in the race for a playoff berth in my opinion.
This week America has suffered a great tragedy, but we as citizens must keep going about our lives. Positive thinking, as Tracy has shown in his leadership of the Dodgers, is a key in dealing with and recovery from the attack. We must believe our government will try to prevent future attacks. We also must believe our government will find the person who is responsible and make him sorry that he ever attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Until then we must get back to some kind of normal life.