The Bums are back

Cheer up, Dodger fans. Sure, our boys spent much of the 2007 regular season in first place, only to tumble a few spots down to a pathetic fourth, one team shy of last place. But even if 2008 ends up as yet another disappointment, rest assured that the entire season will be a big party, as the team celebrates its 50th year in Los Angeles after moving to the West Coast from Brooklyn.

Read the team's press release about the celebration again, this time all the way down to the 10th paragraph, and then weep: "2008 also marks the 20-year anniversary of the Dodgers' last World Series title." And appearance, they might have added.

So owner Frank McCourt will actually be celebrating 20 years without a championship — or even a World Series appearance. And a sickly playoff record since then of 1-12. Have our once-mighty Dodgers been reduced to commemorating past greatness to distract us from their two-decade funk?

Consider the most damning truth of all: After the 2007 World Series begins next week, the Dodgers will be the only National League West team over the last 10 years that hasn't played in one. The Padres played in the 1998 Fall Classic, the Diamondbacks won it all in 2001, the Giants lost to the Angels in '02, and the Rockies are making their first appearance this year.

This isn't to say the Dodgers are divisional doormats — that honor, until last month, had belonged to Colorado. The Dodgers have managed during their 10-year absence from the World Series to play at a .520 clip, the second-best record over that stretch in the NL West. (Look away now, Bonds-haters: The top spot over that time belongs to San Francisco.)

So how to characterize the last 19 years of Dodger blues? As an aberration? Compared to, say, the Cubs, L.A.'s 19-year itch without a championship doesn't even approach ChiTown's 99-year laceration. But the Cubs are the ultimate extreme; 19 years is a tad too long to shrug off as an aberration, at least for a storied sports franchise.

Maybe the Dodgers' two decades of mediocrity is just a return to form. After all, the Brooklyn Dodgers didn't win a World Series until 1955 — their seventh decade as a franchise — finally knocking off the hated New York Yankees. Then-owner Walter O'Malley plucked the Dodgers from their borough in 1957 and moved west; the L.A. Dodgers played their first season in 1958 at the L.A. Coliseum — and began winning in a hurry.

In just the team's second season on the West Coast, the Dodgers won the 1959 World Series — spoiling Angelenos with an accomplishment that took Brooklynites several generations to enjoy. The Dodgers won it all again in 1963. And '65. Again in '81. And '88. The team appeared in the Fall Classic three more times in the 1970s and also 1966. For 30 out of the team's 100-plus years, the Dodgers and their L.A. fans gorged themselves in Yankee-like victory and established a so-called "tradition of excellence."

A short-lived tradition, we might now add. Perhaps the Dodgers' move west didn't take the Brooklyn blood out of the Hollywood-adjacent Dodgers after all. Fifty years later, the Dodgers are finally the Bums once more. Here's hoping the McCourts can continue to establish attendance records despite their mediocre team and frustrating fan experience at Dodger Stadium.

The bright side? Perhaps opposing ballparks will ditch that annoying "Beat L.A." chant. In its place: "Don't lose to L.A."

Paul Thornton is a researcher for The Times' editorial page; click here to read more of his Opinion Daily columns. Tell us what you think at opinionla@latimes.com.

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