Labor Day, my last respite before a challenging month at work, found me in a disappointingly testy place, aggravated as is so often the case by banality – in this instance, a stubborn iMovie program that would not do the simple task I begged of it.
That primed me for the first inning of tonight's Dodgers-Padres game, in which Dodger starting pitcher Joe Blanton surrendered a home run to hot-hitting San Diego third baseman Chase Headley. It wasn't the homer that got under my skin, though it didn't exactly get over my skin, either. It was the inevitable chorus of Twitterers calling for Blanton to be released (or worse) before the ball found re-entry in the All-You-Can-Sunburn Pavilion.
Look, no one needs to explain to me what Blanton's shortcomings are. He hasn't been an above-average pitcher since 2009, and he's been decidedly below average since becoming a Dodger, with 21 runs and 48 baserunners in 28 2/3 innings over his first five starts. That being said, that Dodger performance hasn't been indicative of what he's capable of, as his most recent three-run, 22-out performance in Colorado showed – an outing that should have bought Blanton an ounce of patience from Dodger fans, especially given that Headley has been scorching lately (16 homers in 57 games since July 1).
But I am the Dodger fan calling the kettle black. I can take the home run in stride, immediately understanding – without needing to pass the "Go" of Monopoly's Anger Edition – that two runs off Blanton in the first inning won't mean two runs off Blanton in every inning. At the same time, I get my dander up watching people have knee-jerk reactions in a place specifically designed for knee-jerk reaction.
Wait long enough, and the pain and pleasure tend to bleed into each other like a Color Kittens masterpiece. Blanton lasted into the seventh inning tonight, allowing only one more run while lowering his ERA to 4.92 – about what you'd expect a pitcher with his resume to have. Meanwhile, I spent innings two through six at dinner with my wife, children and parents, and we had a nice enough time to take the edge off my razored brain.
Four decades into being a Dodger fan, one decade into being a Dodger blogger, I think I can make a good claim for caring about the fate of this team. And though it's not that I never get angry, but I clearly don't get as angry as often as others. Which, in a way, is weird, because so many other of life's minor indignities, on a daily basis, piss me off.
The Dodgers occupy a calmer space in my head than daily life. It makes perfect sense that the opposite is true for others. I can imagine that many of the angriest people on Twitter whistle while they work in between games.
In any case, the past few days have delivered a prime meal of the What Have You Done For Me Latelies. Friday, the Dodgers came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie Arizona, only to lose in extra innings. After eking out a 2-1 victory Saturday, the Dodgers came back Sunday from deficits of 3-1 in the sixth, 4-2 in the seventh and 4-3 with one out in the ninth, winning on a walkoff double by Adrian Gonzalez. Things had begun to go the Dodgers' way again.
Three batters into tonight's game, and it's all forgotten, Dodger fans banging against Twitter like me banging against iMovie.
But then ... with the Dodgers down 2-0 in the middle innings, Mark Ellis singles in a run in the fifth and Hanley Ramirez homers in the sixth. Down 3-2 in the ninth, Andre Ethier pulls a slider just over the right-field wall to tie the game, and two innings later, learned Dodger talkshow host A.J. Ellis follows singles by Ethier and Luis Cruz (4 for 5) with a game-winning knock to right field.
Are we rewarded for our patience or rewarded despite our impatience? I don't know. Either way, I wish I could see less anger from the surly crew who are my brothers and sisters in Dodger fanhood, especially because it makes me uncomfortable knowing that some of the fans revel in that anger – that they wouldn't consider themselves true fans without it.
But who am I to judge? Anger is a byproduct of expectations and fear, centered around what you think is right and what is an intolerable shortfall. Some people despair over a World Series, others despair over a home movie. These Dodgers, like life itself, are a case study of teasing, inconstant fulfillment.