Panic is never a good thing. Not by the manager, the front office or in the clubhouse.
But Clayton Kershaw looked back on the Dodgers’ fifth consecutive loss Sunday and said, “I hope we’re panicking a little bit. I think panic’s a good thing, to a certain extent.”
And then wisely decided perhaps there was a better choice of words.
“There needs to be a sense of urgency, maybe that’s better to say than panic,” Kershaw said. “I feel like we have to start playing like that. Not to say we haven’t, but it’s definitely time to start thinking that way.”
Not that they haven’t? Sounded like a qualifier, like he really didn’t want to come off as someone who was calling out his team, which he surely was. Kershaw wasn’t ranting or blowing off steam after the Dodgers had blown the second consecutive lead he’d turned over to the team. There was a matter-of-fact tone, an almost objective reflection.
Time to ramp it up, to recognize the calendar reads Aug. 24 and the only reason things are not more dire is the Giants haven’t played any better. Since starting the season 22-10 on May 12, the Dodgers have gone 45-46 and yet remain 1½ games up.
That’s a lot of mediocre, underperforming baseball. Way too much of it. I don’t think a team has to wait until Aug. 24 to play with a sense of urgency.
Kershaw, of course, is one of the most competitive people on the planet. He’s going to react to all this as his nature dictates, which is a call to arms, to refocus, to play with greater intensity.
Of course, there is that proverbial fine line between playing with urgency and playing tight.
The season does not end on Aug. 24, but you can see the finish line. Just the day before, after their fourth consecutive loss, veteran Jimmy Rollins told the media: “The season’s not over. Don’t make this interview sad, all right?”
It’s hard to fight the dread, watching the Dodgers tread water when the time seems to demand a sprint. If they can appear a tad too casual in their approach, it’s neither a phenomenon unique to them in the dog days of August nor a requirement to their play.
Kershaw is correct, of course. It is the time to play with a sense of urgency. An opportunity is there, but without any guarantee it will remain. A running back may carry the ball 25 times a game, but only once when the season is on the line.
The stretch beckons and it demands resolve, not panic. An awareness of the moment and an appropriate response. All year it’s been said this $300-million team will ultimately be judged by what it does in the playoffs, but first, they have to demonstrate the will to get there.