LOS ANGELES -- The top of the morning sports pages said it was Aug. 13. Everything else in the section said the calendar had run out on the Los Angeles Dodgers season.
Yes, there is time, just not enough. The season ends in October, not at Christmas.
Do you believe in miracles?
Sure, but not from a team with an overworked closer, a withdrawing superstar outfielder and a legendary manager who is both underappreciated and left to fix things with a mostly empty tool box. Joe Torre is the glue, but his owners have banned sticky things.
The Dodgers blew a seven-run lead in the last two innings Thursday night. Their closer, the same Jonathan Broxton who had suffered major indignities at the hands of the Philadelphia Phillies in the playoffs, didn't close the game, maybe just the season.
There it was. The same place and same team celebrating a victory, eliciting the same gnawing feeling in your gut if you are a Dodgers fan. You can't help but let the thought drift in as you watch: The Phillies spend money on players, the Dodgers spend money on divorce lawyers.
The standings don't lie. They belabor the obvious. The Dodgers are in fourth place in their division, their 59-56 record going into Friday night's game has them nine games back, a few less than that in the wild card race. With 47 games left, that's barely enough for a team showing signs of life, much less one that is playing with oxygen masks.
All losses are not created equal. Some are losses, some are slap-in-the-face tragedies.
Broxton entered in the ninth inning with a 9-6 lead and left with an earned-run average that, since the All-Star break, has ballooned above 10. He was there to save. Instead, he got slaughtered. To his credit, he has kept to baseball's never-say-die approach, which may somehow help fans rationalize the thousands of dollars they continue to spend attending a likely hopeless cause.
"I'm a little wild right now," Broxton told reporters after Thursday night's disaster. "I'll be out of it shortly. ..."
"Shortly" is probably too late. He was replaced as closer Friday.
Even the reliable Casey Blake, an adult who sets his jaw in determination every day, gives whatever his aging body has left and faces the ups and downs of a 162-game season with perspective, contributed to this night of horrors when he let a bouncer go through his legs at third base. It wasn't quite a Bill Buckner moment, but there was that feeling of doom.
As if the loss, and the manner in which it happened, was not enough, the addition of other stories in the same sports section Friday morning added to the gathering clouds.
There was Bill Plaschke's column, extensively quoting Matt Kemp's agent, former Dodgers pitcher Dave Stewart, on his perception of Kemp's mistreatment by Dodgers management. The phrase "we want a trade" was never used, just implied.
Clubhouse observers have noticed Kemp's withdrawal. The team got together for a recent pool on the PGA golf tournament. The drill was to pick a player, put in some cash, see who wins. Hiroki Kuroda, who doesn't speak English and is less involved than most in clubhouse stuff, put in his money and joined the fun. Kemp never left his locker.
Also in Friday's sports section was Kevin Baxter's story about Bobby Cox, the venerable Braves manager, who has said he will retire after this season, his 25th at Atlanta's helm. The story said that, during homestands, Cox's favorite spot in the early afternoons before games is in a storage room, near the Braves dugout, where he sits and smokes cigars and swaps baseball stories with whoever wanders in.
It is a perfect image for somebody who has served long and well. Sadly, that image isn't quite the same for Torre, who has served the game similarly and deserves the same, but whose time for sitting and savoring this season has been overrun by crisis management.
Torre is in the final year of a three-year contract. Money certainly will be an issue central to his return. The Dodgers can save as much as $4 million by letting Don Mattingly take over. Maybe that won't be the main issue. Maybe the ulcer in his stomach, if not already there soon to arrive, will be the decider for Torre.
Coincidentally, the Dodgers left the debris behind in Philadelphia and are in Atlanta to play Cox and Co. in a four-game set.
Dodgers fans will say it is never too late, but you do the math. They are opposing a Braves team that entered Friday's game with a 66-48 record, and is in first place with a two-game lead over a Phillies team that just pounded eight nails in the Dodgers coffin in the last two innings Thursday night. The Braves have a 7-3 record in their last 10 games.
Tough opponent, tough place. If there is to be a miracle, it must start here.
That would be unlikely for a Dodgers team that, Thursday night, had a fork stuck in them.