As a kid growing up in Los Angeles my heart belonged to the Rams and the Dodgers, both of whom wound up breaking it. The Rams destroyed my concept of team loyalty when they moved my football gods from Memorial Coliseum to Orange County. And though I’ve hardly wavered in my devotion to the Dodgers, they certainly made it hard to hang tough with them when they rubbed the shine off my boyhood hero worship by trading Steve Garvey to the San Diego Padres.
A bunch older and a bit wiser I still passionately enjoy pro sports, but never since with the same connection I had in my youth. Be it teams or players, the now-standard transience in $ports (and this town) has left me wary and jaded. But then came out-of-work veteran pitcher Jose Lima last year to the Dodgers spring training camp as a non-roster invitee (that’s one step up from me showing up in Vero Beach and asking manager Jim Tracy for a tryout). With unbridled enthusiasm and hard work Lima got on the team and into the starting rotation and ended up posting a respectable 13-5 record before throwing down one of the most memorable games in team history, that remarkable 5-0 shutout victory at Dodger Stadium last October in Game 3 of the National League Division playoffs that entirely stiffled the St. Louis Cardinals and their league-leading offense.
There seemed little reason to believe after Lima’s inspired performance in that incredible game that I wouldn’t get the opportunity in 2005 to cheer him on from my favorite seats up in Dodger Stadium’s top deck. But then came the news in today’s Times: “Lima Time” in L.A. is over.
To be fair to the Dodger brass, General Manager Paul DePodesta says he tried to get Lima to sign Tuesday, but Lima apparently declined. “Jose’s expectations were higher than we were able to go,” DePodesta is quoted as saying. The article by staff writer Steve Henson goes on to state that Lima made $950,000 last year and could have commanded upwards of $5 million through arbitration.
DePodesta and the Dodgers think that money’s better spent on fresher meat. And it may be, but I’ll tell you what, Lima brought character to the Dodgers and sparked their winning season with his belief that victory was always at hand. His spirit on and off the mound and his flamboyant love of the game and the Dodgers invigorated them, making him a fan favorite and and making me feel like that wide-eyed adoring kid again rooting for them last season. That may not be worth $5 million out of the Dodgers checkbook, but it’s priceless to me.