The Dodgers are in the World Series, again.
It would have been folly to write that sentence during three frustrating decades. Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the last time the Dodgers won the World Series. It took them 29 years just to get back.
World Series or bust?
That is the L.A. mentality, honed by too many postseason appearances without a parade, and too many grainy retrospectives of Kirk Gibson.
You should have seen the twinkle and the sparkle in the eyes of Matt Kemp, once a prodigal Dodger son, then exiled to San Diego and Atlanta while the Dodgers reclaimed their glory.
“I’ve never been to the World Series,” he said late Saturday after the 5-1 win over the Brewers, almost as if he had to pinch himself to believe it.
“This is a great time for me. We’re going to have fun the next day, and we’re going to get back to work and try and finish this thing off.”
If the San Francisco Giants can have three parades, the Florida Marlins two and the Angels one, certainly the Dodgers ought not to be 0-for-the-post-Tommy-Lasorda era.
The next three days are for the World Series, for projecting how the Dodgers might fare against the Boston Red Sox, for anticipating how Clayton Kershaw might match up with Chris Sale, for a thousand retellings of how one stolen base turned Dodgers manager Dave Roberts into a Boston sports immortal.
But let us take this day to toast how far the Dodgers have come, so far that a postseason without the World Series is considered a failure. There could be no better testament than the $22 tickets the Dodgers offered for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
The World Series? Even $600 won’t get you into Dodger Stadium, based on StubHub prices during the late innings of Saturday’s NLCS clincher.
There was little spirit left in the Milwaukee crowd in the final innings Saturday, but the Brewers fans were rocking for the first three games here.
“For everybody here in Wisconsin, this is a big deal,” Hall of Famer Robin Yount said. “We’re not like some of the bigger franchises that experience this stuff a little more often than we have in Brewer history.”
This is the 50th season of the franchise. The Brewers never have won a World Series. They got there once, in 1982.
“The fans of Milwaukee — not just Milwaukee, the whole state of Wisconsin — remember the ’82 team,” Yount said. “But the generations are turning over. The ones that saw us play are getting a little long in the tooth.
“We’ve got the next generation. And they’re going to remember these guys like Mom and Dad remember the ’82 group.”
These guys got so close, within eight innings of the World Series. Mom and Dad still remember Yount and Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor and Jim Gantner, Gorman Thomas and Rollie Fingers. The newest generation of Brewers fans will remember Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, Ryan Braun and Jesus Aguilar, Jeremy Jeffress and Josh Hader.
“To see this much excitement around here, it’s the best,” Yount said. “You wish it could happen every year, but obviously it doesn’t.”
For the Dodgers, these days, it does.
It is not all about the money. The Brewers paid their starting lineup on Saturday a total of $52 million. The Dodgers paid theirs $30 million.
Of course, Kershaw made more than that all by himself. But, as much as fans in small markets focus on the payroll of large markets, the Dodgers have turned sustainable success from an ownership pledge to a disciplined reality.
They do that with trades, with a flourishing minor league system and with a refusal to invest too many dollars into too many players who might get too old at the same time.
Of the nine players in the Dodgers’ starting lineup on Saturday, only Justin Turner was alive when Gibson homered.
And, of the nine players in the Dodgers’ starting lineup for Game 1 of the 2013 NL division series — the first playoff game in this run of six consecutive postseason appearance — the only players that remain with the team are Kershaw and Yasiel Puig.
The World Series is the holy grail, but what the Dodgers have done is no small accomplishment. This is only the third time in Major League Baseball history that a team has reeled off six consecutive postseason berths.
“You just try to take it year by year, honestly,” Kershaw said. “I think the biggest thing for us is being in the position to do that. And for me, just thankful that I’ve been on a team that’s been this good for this long, to be in a position to even have a chance to win a World Series. I know a lot of players don’t get that opportunity.”