UCLA players and Jerry Jones should all just sit awhile

Rather than one big thing going on in sports right now, there are a lot of smaller things vying for our attention. Pro and college football, pro and college basketball, pro hockey — they are all just starting to draw us in.

UCLA_WW_PRI_LOGO_ON_WHTSome of the things are on the field and some (way too many) are off the field:

  • UCLA men’s basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, who returned to the U.S. after shoplifting from stores in China, have been suspended indefinitely by the school. “Indefinitely” can be short or it can be long. It should be long. At the earliest, the players should not play again until February. The optimum length is the entire season. If their uppity, entitled parents pull them out of UCLA, so be it.
  • Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys and would-be king of all he surveys, appears to be a conspiracy of one in his effort to derail the contract extension of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. As usual, however, this does not appear to be stopping Jones one little bit.
  • New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner says manager Joe Girardi, who led his team to within one game of the World Series, would have been fired even if the Yankees had won the World Series. Sounds like Hal learned loyalty from his father George.
  • I can’t hear about Buffalo Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman without thinking of Seinfeld.
  • Cody Bellinger of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Aaron Judge of the Yankees deservedly won the Rookie of the Year Awards in the National and American leagues respectively. But let’s just say it’s a good thing those awards were voted on before the end of the regular season.
  • Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne fittingly went into the Hockey Hall of Fame together over the weekend. The start of Kariya’s career coincided with the start of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim franchise and he was soon joined by Selanne. The pair made the expansion team worth watching from the very start.
  • Dodgers fans should be smart enough to realize that Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks deserved the NL Manager of the Year Award this year more than Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did. Besides, Roberts won it just last year. Lovullo’s D-Backs went from 69 wins in 2016 to 93 in 2017.
  • Clayton Kershaw looks on during batting practice.
    Clayton Kershaw is 46-15 the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA, but has no Cy Young Awards. (Arturo Pardavila III photo)

    However, it might be understandable that Dodgers fans would be irked, miffed and perhaps even a little peeved that Clayton Kershaw did not win the NL Cy Young Award. Kershaw finished second to Washington’s Max Scherzer. Scherzer was 16-6 with a 2.51 ERA, pitching 200⅔ innings and striking out 268 with 55 walks. Kershaw was 18-4 with a 2.31 ERA, pitching 175 innings (missing more than five weeks with lower back tightness) and striking out 202 with 23 walks.

  • Kershaw has won Cy Young Awards three times (2011, 2013 and 2014) and has finished second twice, third once and fifth once. He and Greg Maddux are the only two pitchers to finish in the top five for seven straight years.
  • However, it’s almost a little strange that Kershaw hasn’t won since ’14. The Cy Young is not about a body of work, but consider this: Kershaw is 46-15 the past three seasons with a 2.07 ERA, but no Cy Young Awards.
  • Bobby Doerr of the Boston Red Sox, the first Baseball Hall of Famer to live to be 99 years old, died Monday in Junction, Ore. The oldest living Hall of Famer is now Red Schoendienst, who played mostly for the St. Louis Cardinals at 94; the oldest living major leaguer is now Chuck Stevens, who played for the St. Louis Browns, at 99 (three months younger than Doerr).
  • It’s a week of big news for the Oakland Raiders. At 4-5, they’re struggling to get back to .500. They’ll be playing the New England Patriots at Mexico City on Sunday. They also broke ground Monday on their new stadium in Las Vegas.
  • Unusual: USC’s football team, which plays UCLA in its big rivalry game Saturday night, is ranked No. 11 in the latest AP poll. Its men’s basketball team is ranked No. 10.
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There’s something about Joe Buck some people just can’t stand

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Joe Buck, left, and John Smoltz rubbed some people the wrong way during the World Series. (Fox Sports photo)

With the World Series over and the NFL going full steam ahead (unless you count Jerry Jones’ dealings with Roger Goodell), it’s a good time to look at the one thing baseball and football have in common:

Joe Buck.

I’m going to be up front on my feelings about Buck. I think he’s a great broadcaster. But man, if you actually try to stick up for him, especially online, you can be in for a lot of trouble.

As a matter of fact, during Game 4 of the World Series, someone I know posted a derogatory comment on Facebook about Buck and people commented their agreement, often in profane terms.

I made the mistake of posting a positive comment:

“Joe Buck is actually a very good play-by-play man: knowledgeable and impartial. The only times I can’t stand him is when he’s being interviewed. Then he’s very sarcastic. He also would much rather be doing football than baseball.”

As positive comments go, that’s really pretty tepid. It actually has more negative elements than positive ones. But people disagreed strongly with me, especially when it came to being impartial. Still, I persisted — foolishly:

“Well, I’m sure that in Game 1, Dodgers fans felt much better about him than in Games 2 or 3. His dad was Jack Buck, who was a stellar broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals for decades.

“I was actually more miffed at John Smoltz during Game 3 because of all the analytics he was whipping out that were essentially saying the Dodgers had no chance to win after the Astros scored four runs in the second inning and that the road for them to win the Series now would be very steep because of their Game 3 loss.”

This prompted another person, a self-described “Philly fan,” to accuse me of “mansplaining,” a term I sheepishly had to look up to find out just how much I had been insulted.

Another person added: “For those that are ‘pro buck’ [meaning me] do you honestly not hear the difference of enthusiasm in his voice when talking about anybody other than the Dodgers?”

Another said something, in a very violent way that I won’t repeat here, about how much Royals fans dislike Buck.

Here’s the thing about Buck and Smoltz’s broadcasting style during the World Series: They said disparaging things about the team that was losing.

Quite frankly, I was getting a little miffed myself by what they were saying as well until the lead of the game changed and I realized they were now saying negative things against the team that was now trailing. I paid close attention to this the rest of the Series and found this to be true. Not only that, if I had to admit it, the negative things they were saying were true.

Whenever people tell me the news media is negative, I always say this: “News is what is out of the ordinary. If something is not out of the ordinary, it’s not news. Things that are out of the ordinary are often negative, therefore news is often negative.”

It had been 29 years since the Dodgers had been in the World Series and I think their fans had never experienced what it was like to have him call their postseason games. When the Dodgers were behind, Buck and Smoltz were rough on them, talking about what they were doing wrong and being generally pessimistic about their chances. However, they did the exact same thing when the Astros were behind. The same has happened to Mr. Philly Fan and to the violent Royals fan.

The things the broadcasters were saying were true, but it’s difficult to hear people talk negatively about your team.

What really gripes me is how many people were saying they longed to have Vin Scully calling those Dodgers games. Who wouldn’t? But Scully never rooted for the Dodgers. If Vin had been calling those Series games, he would’ve been just as critical although in perhaps a gentler way.

Here’s the thing: Joe Buck just completed his 20th World Series, remarkable for someone who is only 48 years old. He must have something going for him.

FIRST AND 10

There’s an absolute plethora of ranked-team college football matchups Saturday. The top two games are No. 3 Notre Dame at No. 7 Miami at 5 p.m. PST on ABC and No. 5 Oklahoma hosting No. 8 TCU at 5 p.m. on Fox. It’s too bad such momentous games are on at the same time.

Many of the other ranked-vs.-ranked games are just as compelling. No. 1 Alabama is at No. 18 Mississippi State at 4 p.m. on ESPN, No. 2 Georgia is at No. 10 Auburn at 12:30 p.m. on CBS, No. 6 Wisconsin hosts No. 25 Iowa at 12:30 p.m. on ABC, No. 11 Ohio State hosts No. 13 Michigan State at 9 a.m. on Fox, and No. 12 Oklahoma State is at No. 24 Iowa State at 9 a.m. on ABC.

No. 15 USC is at Colorado at 1 p.m. on Fox and UCLA hosts Arizona State at 6:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.

In the NFL, the Thursday night game on NBC and NFL Network is Seahawks-Cardinals at 5:20. On Sunday, the 10 a.m. games are Chargers-Jaguars on CBS and Vikings-Redskins on Fox.

The 1 and 1:25 p.m. games are a little complicated. In the Los Angeles market, CBS must show not only has the Chargers game at 10, but also the Rams’ home game against the Texans at 1. So CBS-owned KCAL (Channel 9) will show the Rams game from start to finish with KCBS (Channel 2) joining it in progress when the Chargers are done. Fox, which has its normal doubleheader this week, will show Cowboys-Falcons at 1.

The Sunday night game on NBC is Patriots-Broncos at 5:20. ESPN’s Monday night game is Dolphins-Panthers at 5:15.

SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT

When the Penn State-Michigan State football game was delayed more than three hours by lightning, it forced Fox to scramble. At first, the network put the Kansas State-Texas A&M game on that had been airing on Fox Sports 1. But the lengthy delay was going to cause problems for the Stanford-Washington State game set to follow the early game. FS1 had Oklahoma-Oklahoma State set to air in that slot.

Fox decided to stay with Penn State-Michigan State when it resumed and for most of the country, the Stanford-Washington State was relegated all the way down to the Fox Business Channel.

During the delay, the broadcast team Joe Davis (who is also the Dodgers TV announcer) and Brady Quinn, looking for something to eat, wound up going to a student cafeteria.

UP & DOWN THE DIAL

ESPN starts its college basketball coverage at 3 p.m. Friday with No. 11 West Virginia playing No. 25 Texas A&M at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Also of note is No. 21 UCLA playing Georgia Tech at Beijing at 8:30 p.m. Friday. The game has taken on a controversial tone in the wake of the shoplifting arrest of UCLA freshman players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill. NBCSN’s NASCAR viewership is up 13% over last year with 2.7 million viewers. … NBC plans to show 450 hours of Winter Olympics coverage on cable networks NBCSN, CNBC and USA. NBCSN will account for 368.5 hours (82%) of the cable total. …

Greg Olsen, currently tight end for the Carolina Panthers, will be a booth analyst for the Nov. 19 Rams-Vikings game, joining Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis and Pam Oliver. It’ll be the Panthers’ bye week. … ESPN is adding Mark Kriegel to its boxing telecasts starting Saturday. In addition, Kriegel, who is also an author, will provide long-form storytelling and essays for the network.

Dodgers’ season is nothing but a success

There is no need for Dodgers fans to be upset about the season or even about the way the World Series turned out. The phrase “National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers” still sounds pretty good.

HA2017_PrimaryClubMark_RGBIt had been 29 years since the Dodgers had been in the World Series and I’m not about to get all anguished about them losing. I just hope it doesn’t take them another 29 years to get back to the Series.

I’d be 90.

Of course, it’s easy to be philosophical in defeat when Game 7 brought such an early and complete defeat. It’s amazing what giving up five runs in the first two innings can do to all the nervousness you were feeling before the game began. Suddenly one’s thoughts start turning to other things: “I wonder who the Rams are playing Sunday,” and “Are the Lakers any good this year?”

There are nothing but good thoughts for the Houston Astros, who are a remarkable team and who absolutely deserved to win their first world championship. Even first baseman Yuli Gurriel, whose ill-advised actions toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish gave Los Angeles fans someone to boo, made up for them with the right words and a tip of his helmet toward Darvish.

The Astros brought the people of Houston a measure of joy after sustaining such damage from Hurricane Harvey. Who would deny them that?

The 2017 World Series produced every emotion it possibly could have, such a roller coaster from one night to the next. Even one inning to the next. But when it came to Game 7 on Wednesday night, the Astros made it anticlimactic. All the drama was sucked out of Dodger Stadium within the first hour.

I suppose it’s just human nature, flawed as it is, to want to assess blame for failure. You could look at Cody Bellinger, likely the National League Rookie of the Year, who was unable to keep from swinging at bad pitches. He struck out 17 times in 28 at-bats, a World Series record.

You could look at Yasiel Puig. He did hit two home runs, but his tongue-wagging declined dramatically as he hit just .148 in the Series. You could look at Justin Turner, who appeared to be running on fumes in the World Series. He hit just .160 and may be nursing untold injuries. Or how about Austin Barnes? He hit so well in the regular season, he pushed Yasmani Grandal out of the catching position. But Barnes hit .174 in the Series.

The Astros knew just how to stifle the Dodgers’ bats. Los Angeles hit just .205 in the World Series and .200 with runners in scoring position (the Astros hit .230 and .260 respectively). Houston didn’t have as good an earned-run average as L.A. (4.64 to 4.45), but the Dodgers gave up 15 home runs to the Astros’ 10.

But if you want to know the true reason the Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros, don’t look on the field. Look in the front office.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman made a July 31 deadline deal with the Texas Rangers to land Darvish. Then, a month later, the Astros made a waiver-deadline deal with the Detroit Tigers just moments before the deadline to make him eligible to play in the postseason.

That was the difference.

The Astros had a dependable starter that mostly plowed through the playoff competition while the Dodgers had a starter that had never really lived up to the hype he had when the Rangers signed him out of Japan. Darvish has won fewer and fewer games each season since his initial 16-9 start in 2012 and could never really be considered a dominant pitcher. He was an overall 10-13 this season, 4-3 with the Dodgers.

His playoff victories for the Dodgers over Arizona in the NL Division Series and over Chicago in the NL Championship Series were pleasant surprises because they were his first two postseason victories against two losses. Darvish had an 5.40 playoff ERA before coming to the Dodgers.

The Astros had faced Darvish plenty of times in the American League West and they were merciless against him in the World Series. They beat him twice and neither time could Darvish go any further than 1⅔ innings. He gave up four runs in each start and wound up with a Series ERA of 21.60.

Verlander won all five of his starts with the Astros with a 1.06 ERA. He was 4-1 in the postseason. Surprisingly, that one loss was to the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series. He had a no-decision in Game 2, but the Astros pulled that game out 7-6 in 11 innings.

Verlander is under contract for two more seasons; Darvish was merely a rental and is now a free agent.

So while the World Series lasted until Nov. 1, the season for the Dodgers actually was lost July 31.

BASEBALL ALIVE AND WELL

For a long time it has seemed like people were trying to sound the death knell for baseball. Too slow, too boring, too druggy.

Well, some of that still comes into play, particularly with pace of play, but a stellar postseason has put a cap on a great 2017 season.

Game 7 of the World Series earned an 18.8 big-market overnight rating and a 31% share of the market Wednesday night for Fox. That’s the second highest rating for any baseball broadcast since Game 7 in 2002 between the Angels and Giants (19.8/28).

Understandably, Wednesday’s rating was 25% lower than last year’s frenetic Cubs-Indians Game 7 (25.2), but it was up 24% over the Giants-Royals Game 7 in 2014 (15.2), as well as Cardinals-Rangers Game 7 in 2011 (14.1). The Royals-Mets series in 2015 went just five games.

In Houston the game had a 47.1 rating, marking the best figure on record in the market for a baseball telecast, and peaked at 51.2/76. Los Angeles had a 36.7 local rating. For Game 6 on Tuesday (a 3-1 Dodgers win), L.A. had a 30.9 rating and 53 share, peaking at 40.0/60 in the final 15 minutes. Houston had a 41.8/60.

THAT’S THE BALLGAME

And so now the season is fall and we’re hurtling headlong toward winter. Baseball is over and right on the top of that will be the return to standard time with nights becoming darker sooner and the weather colder and wetter.

It’s always been fascinating to me how the beginning of baseball season comes with springtime and optimism and the end of baseball season comes with autumn and pessimism.

But wow. Imagine how bad I’d be like if I lived on the East Coast.

This World Series could be the death of us all

WS17_WorldSeries_Horizontal-RGB-EventMark_KOInstead of watching most of Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night, I went to a meeting at church. I’m glad I did.

I’m glad partly because it’s good to have at least a few priorities in order; things that are eternal matter more than things that are temporary. But I’m also glad because if I had stayed home and watched all 5 hours and 17 minutes of that chaotic mess, I would’ve been nothing more than a limp rag.

On this Monday after Game 5, we could all use an off day before this craziness starts again. Major League Baseball’s Twitter account, in fact, put together an excuse note for people to take to work or school the next day:

We’ve all got this World Series hangover going on right now. Even people who don’t have a vested interest in the teams playing are finding this Series to be difficult to pull away from.

The Houston Astros won — finally won — Game 5 by a score of 13-12 in 10 innings over the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking a 3-2 Series lead before Game 6 in L.A. on — of all days — Halloween.

The Dodgers have already been haunted by losses, not only in Game 5, but in Game 2, where they let a 3-1 lead slip away and turn into a 7-6, 11-inning defeat. Game 3 was pretty much out of the Dodgers’ hands shortly after it started, The Astros scored four runs in the second inning off Yu Darvish and won 5-3.

After their team had won Game 4 on Saturday by a sizable 6-2 score and handing Houston its first postseason loss at home, Dodgers fans were feeling pretty confident. The Dodgers had evened the Series 2-2, essentially turning it into a best-of-three event. They had two of the three at home and the one that was still in Houston was going to be started by Clayton Kershaw, who had already breezed through the Astros in Game 1, striking out 11 in seven innings.

But the 2017 World Series hasn’t gone according to anyone’s plan.

The Dodgers scored three times in the first inning and once more in the fourth. So hey, with Kershaw pitching, why not go to a meeting at church? But my phone started lighting up with alerts and buzzing with texts shortly after the opening prayer.

The Astros scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, three coming on a home run by Yuli Gurriel. Gurriel has become the subject of controversy after making derisive gestures and comments regarding Darvish in Game 3. Commissioner Rob Manfred, instead of suspending Gurriel for any World Series games, decided to suspend him for the first five games of the 2018 season. It appeared cowardly to many observers, but Darvish was very gracious afterward toward Gurriel, who apologized.

An inning later, Cody Bellinger put the Dodgers back on top, 7-4, with a three-run homer of his own. I felt good again after I saw that alert. But in the bottom of the fifth, I became alarmed once again when I saw that Jose Altuve, the world’s shortest MVP, had hit the game’s third three-run homer to tie it again, 7-7.

It was at this point that I at my meeting, and anyone else paying any attention to this game in any way, knew that the walls of sanity had completely crumbled.

Every time the Dodgers took the lead — and they took it three times in the first seven innings — the Astros answered by tying the game twice and then taking the lead with four runs in the seventh on homers by George Springer and Carlos Correa on each side of a double by Altuve. It had been incomprehensible that with Kershaw starting the Houston score would reach double figures, but it was now 11-8 and things were looking bleak for the Dodgers.

By now the church meeting was over and I got home in time to see the last three innings.

L.A. took back a run in the eighth, but Houston grabbed it right back again when relief pitcher Tony Cingrani gave up a homer to Brian McCann. If the Dodgers could’ve prevented that homer, they could’ve won. Of course, you could say that about any other run the Astros scored Sunday night, but McCann is Houston’s No. 9 batter. That’s a guy you need to get out.

The Dodgers were down to the ninth inning when Yasiel Puig hit a two-run homer to cut Houston’s lead to 12-11. The Dodgers have come back from so many deficits all year and it had been such a nutso game that it didn’t seem out of the question for them to pull the game out or at least tie it. Sure enough, after an Austin Barnes double, Chris Taylor took the team down to its last strike before lacing a base hit to make it 12-12.

There was no oxygen left. Game 5 was going to the 10th inning.

But the Dodgers bullpen, which has been so great during the postseason, is spent. Brandon Morrow (11.25 Series ERA) didn’t get a single out and gave up four runs in the seventh inning, and Kenley Jansen (4.76) was once again asked to pitch multiple innings. After going 1⅔ innings, getting the first two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Jansen hit McCann with a pitch and walked Springer. Alex Bregman then followed with a base hit to win the game for the Astros.

If you’re watching this World Series, it’s either fascinating or excruciating. You’re either objective or invested. I hadn’t really remembered what it was like for fans of a team in a tight championship series. It’s rough.

Whichever team wins this Series will cherish it forever. The other will be in an absolute misery that could take years to come back from.

It seems so long ago that the Dodgers had come so close to taking a dominant 2-0 Series lead in Game 2. Monday is an off day and the Dodgers need it. But Tuesday is an “on” day. They’d better be on with Rich Hill pitching or their season is over and they’ll see another team win the world championship on their field.

However, 20 World Series teams have bounced back from 3-2 deficits to win, including the Cubs just last year, and they were on the road. Fourteen of the 20 have pulled it off at home. The Astros had to win Games 6 and 7 in the American League Championship Series to get into the World Series.

The indomitable Puig said late Sunday night: “This World Series is not ending on Tuesday. There will be a Game 7.”

Who’s going to win the World Series you can’t afford to go to?

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The list prices for World Series games in 1988 were $40 and $50. Now it’s $166-$531, but demand has made those figures leap into the tens of thousands.

The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the World Series, in 1988, the U.S. population was 244.5 million. Now it’s 326.1 million. And it seems all of them want tickets to this year’s World Series.

Back in 1988, when Kirk Gibson and Orel Hershiser were leading Los Angeles, the median household income in the U.S. was $27,200. It might take that much now to buy a World Series ticket.

Let’s just be up front with this: You are not going to the World Series. You are not even getting into the parking lot. You are going to watch the World Series on TV with Joe Buck, John Smoltz and maybe some family and friends.

The closest you are getting to the World Series may be your nearest Buffalo Wild Wings — a terrible restaurant, by the way; apparently, they depend on the beer and the big-screen TVs to take your mind off the fact that the food and service are awful. But if you want to watch the Series with a bunch of screaming fans, some sort of sports bar like that is really your best bet.

It would be cheaper to go see Hamilton. Much cheaper.

As of Monday, the cheapest ticket on the Reserved level near the foul pole was selling on StubHub for $789. A ticket in the Top Deck (and I mean one ticket) was priced at $792. That doesn’t include fees, which often boost the price up to 20%.

If you want to be closer, two Dugout Club seats would cost $35,000. Each.

The original face value prices for World Series tickets, announced back in August, ranged from $166 to $531.

World Series price gouging has been a thing for a long time. The 1988 World Series had plenty of price gouging, too. But it was such a simpler, cheaper time then. Back then, the day before Game 1, “choice field boxes” cost $50, but were selling through brokers for as much as $750. The list price for seats elsewhere was $40, but were selling for as much as $100.

World Series tickets in ’88 were sold through a postcard lottery (remember postcards?). My wife and I sent in a postcard and got a letter back that we had won a chance to buy two tickets to Game 1 in the Right Field Pavilion for $40 each. It seemed like a lot, but we did it and saw Gibson’s game-winning home run, later chosen as the most iconic L.A. sports moment.

The World Series is also a hot ticket in Houston, where the Astros are playing in only their second Fall Classic. Minute Maid Park has 41,000 seats while Dodger Stadium has 56,000, but supply and demand notwithstanding, it’s still cheaper to see Games 3-5 in Texas.

The cheapest Minute Maid seats were selling for $541 Monday morning — and that’s for the standing-room spots beyond the outfield. Outfield seats — the so-called “Crawford boxes” — were going for at least $1,200 per seat and a spot behind the Astros dugout was no less than $2,000.

Is it fair to jack up the prices for the World Series by so much? Of course it is. One of the lasting tenets of the free enterprise system is charging what the market will bear.

Unfortunately, what it means is that a higher percentage of everyday fans will be priced out of seeing their team play in the World Series after 29 years. However, fans are finding that to be a problem even during the regular season.

Times have definitely changed since 1988.

WHO’S WINNING?

WS17_WorldSeries_Primary-RGB-EventMarkDarned if I know. Dodgers vs. Astros is going to be a good Series, just like it would’ve been if it had been Dodgers vs. Yankees, Indians or Red Sox.

Both teams deserve to be there. It’s the first time in 40 years two teams that won more than 100 games are playing in the World Series.

I’m happy the Astros made it into the Series, especially after the heart-wrenching time Houstonians have had recently. They deserve to have their team playing for a championship.

The Astros’ American League pennant was a historic achievement. They are the first team to appear in the World Series for each league. Their only other appearance was in 2005 as a member of the NL. Frankly, it’s still difficult to think of the Astros being in the AL. It was dumb of then-commissioner Bud Selig to make them change leagues a prerequisite of being sold in 2012.

The Dodgers and Astros have played a number of important games against each other. In 1980, they tied for first in the NL West and had to play a one-game playoff, which the Astros won 7-1. In 1981, there was a midseason players strike. The Dodgers had the best record in the West at the time and the Astros the best in the second half. In a best-of-five division playoff, the Dodgers won the series in five games after dropping the first two. L.A. went on to win the NLCS over the Montreal Expos and the World Series over the Yankees.

As far as matchups in this year’s Series are concerned, it will help the Dodgers to have a healthy Corey Seager back on the roster and playing shortstop. But Houston’s Carlos Correa is just as good as and arguably better than Seager.

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, even at 5-foot-6, 165 pounds, is likely to be the AL’s MVP and will outdo the Dodgers’ Logan Forsythe or Chase Utley. The Dodgers’ Justin Turner outshines Houston’s Alex Bregman by plenty. Cody Bellinger does the same over Yuri Gurriel. At catcher, Dodgers duo Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal hold the edge over Brian McCann.

In the outfield, Kiké Hernandez had a sensational three-homer, seven-RBI games against the Cubs, but he’ll still be platooned with Andre Ethier or Curtis Granderson; Houston’s Marwin Gonzalez is stronger in left field. Center field will have Chris Taylor for the Dodgers in a close matchup with George Springer of the Astros. Right field has an edge for Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers against Houston’s Josh Reddick.

Pitching could be dominant and runs at a premium. The Dodgers’ starters — Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood — were excellent in the NLCS, with Darvish a pleasant surprise. Once the Dodgers got past the fifth inning, the bullpen, culminating with Kenley Jansen, was unstoppable. Justin Verlander’s addition to the Astros arguably was what pushed them into the World Series. Verlander and Dallas Keuchel will be tough in the first two games. Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock can start after that. The Dodgers have the pitching edge.

Give the managing edge to the Dodgers too. Dave Roberts never panicked during the team’s 1-16 late-season slump and his handling of the pitching and lineup during the playoffs has been near-perfect. A.J. Hinch’s Astros were never threatened in the AL West.

So who’s winning? It won’t be a breeze for either team (other than for this week’s Santa Anas). After going to Houston, the Series will come back to Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers will win in the full seven games.

Can you believe it? The Dodgers are finally in the World Series

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The Dodgers pose for the cameras at Wrigley Field in Chicago after winning their first National League pennant since 1988.
The Dodgers win the pennant.

I can’t even believe I’m typing such a thing.

Sure, I know you Cubs and Red Sox fans went through such turmoil, such despair in the, what, 475 years that your teams were never in the World Series. I know your sense of entitlement runs deep. Hey, you’re entitled to your sense of entitlement. I get it.

But listen. Twenty-nine years is a long time, too, OK?

A lot of things have happened since the Dodgers were in the World Series in 1988. For one thing, we have electricity now. Indoor plumbing’s a big thing too, I hear.

But seriously, folks. The last time the Dodgers were in the World Series:

  • Vin Scully was 60 years old.
  • Tom Lasorda was 61. Good grief, he’s 90 now. Ninety! How incredibly impatient he must have been all this time.
  • Ross Porter and Don Drysdale were broadcasters for the Dodgers.
  • Peter O’Malley was still the owner of the Dodgers. They have had three since then.
  • Since Lasorda was the Dodgers manager, and he was only the second man to hold the job in Los Angeles after Walter Alston, they have had eight more.
  • Back then, Dodger Stadium had only two advertisements: two Unocal 76 balls atop the scoreboards. Now I think about the only spot that doesn’t have ads plastered on it is the visiting bullpen. But give it time.
  • Clayton Kershaw, the pitcher who won the clinching game Thursday against the Chicago Cubs and who will start Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday, was 7 months old when the Dodgers were last in the Series.

For Dodgers fans, think how many things have changed in your life since 1988. For me, this is the first time the team I grew up rooting for as a kid has been in the World Series since I’ve had kids. Those kids are in their mid-20s now.

I’ve always told people I was a Dodgers fan since before I was born since my mom was pregnant with me in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers won their only World Series. My mom and I enjoyed watching many a Dodgers game on TV together and recapped more on the phone after I moved away. She passed away in 2002, 14 years after the Dodgers last Series.

It’s ironic that the year after Scully’s retirement, the Dodgers would get back to the World Series. It reminded me that the year after the retirement of Jerry Doggett, Scully’s longtime broadcasting partner, the Dodgers won the 1988 World Series.

I had the opportunity to cover postseason Dodgers games for the past four seasons before being laid off earlier this year. I had always hoped for the chance to cover the World Series, but it didn’t work out.

I’ve attended two World Series games, one in 1977 when the Dodgers played the New York Yankees and, amazingly enough, Game 1 of the 1988 Series when Kirk Gibson hit his game-winning home run. Since the newspaper I was working for had been turned down for a credential request, my wife and I drove to her sister’s house in La Crescenta after the game and I wrote a column about it.

The Dodgers have won the last five National League West Division titles. But these days, those mean nothing. Getting to the World Series, winning the National League pennant, being called the National League champion — now that’s something.

In 1951, when Bobby Thomson’s homer beat the Dodgers, broadcaster Russ Hodges yelled, “The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!” not “The Giants win the West Division!” or “The Giants win the wild card!” The pennant is still the pennant. The World Series is still the top prize.

When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, they won world championships in 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988 and NL pennants in 1966, 1974, 1977 and 1978. Being in the World Series was a normal thing for my team when I was growing up.

Then after they won it improbably in ’88 — they were underdogs to both the New York Mets in the NL Championship Series and the Oakland A’s in the World Series — the faucet turned off. They’ve kept rerunning Gibson’s heroics at Dodger Stadium ever since. The Dodgers have lived in the past so long, Chavez Ravine has felt more like a museum than a stadium.

I’ve told people, only half-kiddingly, that the Dodgers must have made a deal with the devil in 1988: “You can win the World Series this year, but then never again!”

This 2017 Dodgers team had the most remarkable season I’ve ever seen. During one 50-game stretch, it won 47 times. At one point, it was 91-36 and was leading the NL West by 21 games.

The Dodgers, however, have been notorious during the last five division-winning seasons for getting fans’ hopes up and then dashing them. It looked like it might happen again when after that 91-36 peak, the Dodgers went 1-16 from late August to mid-September. There was a sigh of relief when the team went 11-6 after that and won an L.A.-record 104 games.

During the postseason, the Dodgers have played like they did in the first 4½ months of the regular season. There’s been a different star, or multiple stars, every night. No deficit has been too big, no opponent too tough.

The Dodgers, finally, after 29 years, are back in the World Series. It doesn’t even matter now if they win it or not. They’re in.

Wait, what am I saying? Of course, it matters that they win. But you know, even if they don’t, I’m OK.

They’re in.

Turner’s homer was amazing — but not as amazing as Gibson’s

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Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series was similar …
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… to Justin Turner’s homer in Game 2 of the NLCS, but it was mostly quite different.

Make no mistake: Justin Turner’s game-winning home run Sunday night in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Chicago Cubs was an amazing moment if you are a Dodgers fan.

Even more amazing was how Turner’s blast was hit exactly 29 years to the day after Kirk Gibson hit his famous game-winning homer in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers against the Oakland Athletics. In fact, it was only 40 minutes from being the exact moment.

Turner even added to how similar the two moments were after the game when he revealed what he was doing on Oct. 15, 1988.

“One of my earliest baseball memories was being at my grandma’s house and watching that game and watching Gibby hit that homer,” said Turner, who was about a month shy of his fourth birthday then. “Yeah, I can’t even put it into words right now. It’s incredible. The most important thing was, obviously, helping us get another win. But that’s something down the road, hopefully many, many years from now I’ll get to tell stories about.”

But as astounding as Turner’s home run was for the Dodgers on Sunday night, it was not as amazing as Gibson’s. Hey, mister. I was in the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium for Gibson’s homer. I saw Gibson’s homer. And this, mister, was not as good as Gibson’s homer.

(That was my best Lloyd Bentsen impersonation, by the way. And you, you apparently were doing your best Dan Quayle impersonation.)

Let me point out at least some of the ways that Gibson’s homer was a much better moment than Turner’s homer.

  • First of all, Gibson’s homer was in the World Series and Turner’s was in the NLCS. If the Dodgers manage to lose their 2-0 lead to the Cubs, Turner’s homer will scarcely even be remembered.
  • Second, and this may be the biggest difference: The Dodgers were an enormous underdog to the Athletics in 1988. In fact, no one even expected the Dodgers to make it out of the NLCS. It was almost as much of a miracle that they beat the New York Mets to get to the World Series. The 2017 Dodgers had the best record in baseball and even though they had trouble in August and September, it’s not a big surprise that they are in the position they’re in.
  • Next, Gibson’s home run, even though it was only in Game 1, has long been regarded as the thing that defeated the A’s. Oakland did manage to win Game 3, 2-1, on a walkoff homer of their own by Mark McGwire, but virtually nothing else is remembered. Not Orel Hershiser’s two complete-game victories, giving up two earned runs in 18 innings. Not Mickey Hatcher’s two homers and his .368 batting average. Virtually nothing.
  • Turner’s home run came with the score tied 1-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. If Turner doesn’t win the game there, it merely goes into extra innings. Gibson’s homer came with the Dodgers losing 4-3 1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. If he makes an out, the game is over and the A’s win the opener on the Dodgers’ home turf.
  • Gibson’s at-bat in 1988 was his only appearance of the World Series. His knees were so torn up, it was amazing he was even able to hobble up the dugout steps and onto the field for Game 1 of the Series. Turner is batting .429 (a team-leading nine hits in 21 at-bats) in the playoffs two home runs and 10 RBIs. Gibson wouldn’t play again in ’88; Turner figures to be a big part of whatever the Dodgers do this postseason.
  • The drama on Gibson’s home run was ratcheted up as far as it could go: a 3-2 count with Mike Davis on second base and two outs. Davis stole second during Gibson’s at-bat to get into scoring position. Turner’s came on a 1-0 count with two outs and runners on first and second. Yasiel Puig had led off with a walk and Chris Taylor later got on base with a walk two batters later. If Turner even just hits a single, Puig has a good chance to score and win the game for the Dodgers. If Gibson singles, Davis has a good chance to score and tie the game for the Dodgers. However, if Gibson had hit a ball to right field, he might’ve been thrown out at first because of his bad knees.
  • Turner’s homer was caught, rather spectacularly, in fact. Keith Hupp, a 54-year-old retired South Gate policeman, is suddenly a celebrity after nabbing Turner’s shot. However, if anyone was going to catch JT’s ball, Hupp might have had the best statistical chance. Hupp, according to an ESPN.com story, has caught 10 home runs this season alone and 18 over the past two. He caught Cody Bellinger’s 35th and 36th home runs, which gave him the Dodgers’ all-time rookie record. Sunday’s homer wasn’t even the first Turner NLCS shot against the Cubs Hupp had nabbed; he got one last year too. He said he studies the ESPN Home Run Tracker before every game he attends. The fate of Gibson’s home run, meanwhile, remains unknown after 29 years.

So Turner’s home run, while plenty dramatic, was the most dramatic. It may be the straw that breaks the Cubs’ back, like Gibson’s broke the Athletics’ — or it may just be one part of a long story that could still end in victory or in defeat for the Dodgers.