As painful as it is to write, I have to admit that the better team (Houston Astros) won the division. I will say this, the Dodgers showed a ton of heart winning those 3 one run games on the final weekend to force a 1 game playoff with the Astros. Sure they came up flat (lost 7-1), but the resolve that it took to get to that point was amazing in a pennant race that saw these two team jockey back and forth for the lead. When they came up short people started comparing this squad, most of whom had been together since the early 70’s, to the 1950’s teams from Brooklyn. Both found ways to come up short, collapse and lose to the Yankees in the World Series, but that group finally broke through in 1955 to win it all. This group, to this point, didn’t have that moment to hand their hat on. When the season ended there was talk of breaking up the core, which featured and infield that had been playing together since 1973 (8 years). Don Sutton, their ace, was looking to leave via free agency. The Dodger core was running out of next years, and 1980 looked to be as good as any year for them to win it, not come up 1 game short to the scrappy Astros. Of course all would be good in one year’s time, but at this point Dodger fans were feeling like they were part of a sinking ship.
Steve Garvey (.304-26-106) had another gold glove / 200 hit season at first base. Dusty Baker and Ron Cey each had their typical 28-29 homer seasons. Davey Lopes only stole 23 bases, which for him was a very low number. Fans started to think he was slowing down big time and might need to be replaced by someone from their star studded farm system. Underrated switch hitting right fielder Reggie Smith hit .322 with 15 homers in only 92 games. Great production when he was in the lineup, but due to age and injury he was out of the lineup a lot and the team didn’t have anyone of his caliber to replace him. Platoon bench vets like Jay Johnstone and Rick Monday more than held their own and did a wonderful job when Smith couldn’t play. Rookie Pedro Guerrero (.322-7-31) in just 200 AB’s sure made a case to play everyday. Rookie catcher Mick Scioscia acquitted himself quite well and served notice to vets like Yeager and Ferguson that his time was coming real soon.
As usual, Dodger pitching was top notch. By 1980 the words: Dodgers and Pitching were synonymous. With 4 guys posting 200+ inning seasons the Dodgers had a great front 4. Jerry Reuss (18-6, 2.51) had the best numbers and was the author of a no hitter vs the hated Giants on June 27th. Don Sutton (13-5, 2.20) was the ace of the staff. The grey haired man with the afro, who led the NL in ERA, completed his 15th and final season in Chavez Ravine. Sutton, who was just a mere rookie way back in 1966 where he was the 4th starter behind Koufax, Drysdale and Osteen, was now at the end of his Dodger tenure with free agency looming. Winning in 1980 would have meant the world to him after all those near misses that he experienced. Burt Hooton and Bob Welch had fantastic seasons as well. The weak link here would be the #5 guy. Whether it was Dave Goltz (7-11, 4.31) or RIck Sutcliffe (3-9, 5.56) the Dodgers couldn’t get much out of that slot in the rotation. That would loom large in that 1 game playoff when Goltz was forced to start vs Houston’s soon to be 20 game winner Joe Niekro. LA might have run out of gas at about the same time it ran out of arms. Steve Howe (17 saves), Bobby Castillo and Joe Beckwith were more than fine out of the pen. Don “Full Pack” Stanhouse was putrid (2-2, 5.04) and so was Sutcliffe when he was sent to the pen. A young chuby kid from south of the border did some fine work for the team down the stretch (2-0, 0.00). In 10 relief appearances Fernando Valenzuela gave up no runs and frustrated hitters with his screwball. No one had any idea just what kind of impact he would have in less than one year’s time.
17 new cards were created to complete the set.
I released these cards due to the deadline for us to start the league. Some are quite good. None required any special colorization or airbrushing. I created this set at the beginning of the project before I was able to dig up my Dodger yearbooks. Once the season gets going I plan on updating the set with photos that I scan from those yearbooks. I will definitely replace the rookie orange panel card that I used for Perconte, Scioscia and Fernando. As the project proceeded I threw away the idea of using the panel card view. I used it less frequently and only when I had no other choice. Rest assured Fernando and Mike deserve their own regular card. I also want to replace the original cards from the 1980 set that have players wearing the road gray uniforms taken at Shea. I like my Dodgers wearing the whitest of white home uni’s when at all possible.