Dodgers hope this party isn't last of '09
Players soak up NLDS win but keep eye on bigger goal
ST. LOUIS -- When the Dodgers had completed the sweep, when they had finished humbling the proud Cardinals, their celebration on the Busch Stadium field was relatively muted.
They had been here before, and very recently, having a year ago done the same thing to the Cardinals' sworn enemies, the Cubs."Besides," catcher Russell Martin said later, "this is not where we want to be. Everyone's thinking about the second plateau, then the World Series." This "preliminary" wasn't anything to crow about. So they didn't say it but, in fine clinching fashion, the Dodgers, 5-1 winners to complete the NLDS sweep, sure sprayed it. The clubhouse scene was typically torrential, a deluge of beer, champagne, milk and, when everything had been poured, even the ice from the emptied coolers. With plastic sheets protecting the lockers and plastic bags protecting the TV cameras, but nothing protecting any civilian who dared invade the lair of the National League Division Series winners, the Dodgers hopped to hip-hop and went crazy. Manager Joe Torre took the obligatory first turn in the middle of the mosh then, drenched, turned it over to his players. Dismissing the Cardinals under a ring of Budweiser signs outside was not enough. Inside, led by Matt Kemp and Martin in the middle, the Dodgers popped the tabs of Budweiser cans -- red ones, of course -- and let it fly. Pitcher Randy Wolf flicked some suds from his eyes and said, "If ignorance is indeed bliss, you're looking at some blissful people. They didn't know they were supposed to lose." Manny Ramirez worked the outskirts of the mob, spraying and getting sprayed. Soon, emptied bottles of Mount Pleasant bubbly -- the Brut Imperial variety -- littered the visiting clubhouse. So they raided the nearby toiletries cabinet, James Loney leading the dispensing of shaving cream, which found the noses of numerous unsuspecting victims.
Then, there was a good old-fashioned raid on the refrigerator. A Los Angeles Times reporter got more milk than he wanted, a whole gallon of it being poured on his head.The players and the reporter, though somewhat cold-shocked, all laughed over that one. Suddenly, the tracks ran out in the sound system, and one could actually hear what happy players were saying. "Yes, it's very important for us to now get to the next level," Loney said. "Our pitchers kept giving us more than what we asked for," said right fielder Andre Ethier. And third baseman Casey Blake, shrugging off the upset angle, said, "I've been saying from day one -- I'll take our pitchers over anyone else's. They've consistently come through in the biggest series." Just as the room was about to dry up, when they'd thrown everything else at each other, Ramirez and Rafael Furcal hit upon the kitchen sink. They raised one of the big barrels that had been used to chill the cans of beer and bottles of champagne, flipped it over, and emptied the ice atop a teammate in front of TV cameras. Gradually, this party, in contrast to this postseason, petered out. Out in the relative serenity of the hall, outfielder Juan Pierre was posing for pictures with various members of the Dodgers family when someone leaned in to shake his hand. "You don't know me, but I just want to tell you how much you've impressed me with the way you've handled this season -- and that I'm happy for you that it turned out so well," the intruder said. Pierre smiled and thanked him, and the stuff that had been sprayed earlier had nothing to do with the moisture in the proud outfielder's eyes. The Cardinals' shelf life had expired, and these were the Dodgers' spoils. General manager Ned Colletti cradled a wet towel in his hands. "It's all about what people do when given the opportunity," he said. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt cradled his grandson in his arms and soaked in the diminishing bedlam. "These guys just believe in themselves," Honeycutt finally said. "It doesn't matter what people say or write, because the game is played on the field." And the final outcome, its resolution, eventually flows down the drain on the floor of the clubhouse.