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Dodgers’ First Round Win Is Meaningful:

The goal, of course is to win the next round too, qualify for the World Series and emerge as the baseball champions of 2009.

But the Dodgers’ sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the first playoff round has value even if that’s all the team accomplishes.

Emotions run high at this stage of the season as the quest for a championship unfolds and the ultimate prize is all that seems to matter.

But then it all calms down and in the off-season, accomplishments like a division title and one victorious playoff round can be celebrated.

For the second straight year the Dodgers have won the first round. There are a lot of major league teams who haven’t done as well.

The Dodgers have established themselves as one of baseball’s elite teams. Management can be proud of its willingness to spend money on late season acquisitions who’ve meant so much.

Picking up Ronnie Belliard in August gave the Dodgers a productive second baseman in the playoffs. Talking a chance on Vicente Padilla, who had been released by Texas, proved to be a brilliant move when an injury to Huroki Kuroda left a gap in the starting rotation.

Acquiring Manny Ramirez, Orlando Hudson, and Casey Blake last season elevated the Dodgers to championship quality. Picking up Jon Garland and Jim Thome this season hasn’t produced as much help but further represents management’s commitment to winning.

In praising the Dodgers for their decisions, it’s also important that G.M. Ned Colletti didn’t give in to temptation and trade at least one of the team’s star prospects — Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney, or Russell Martin.

Other teams expressed a lot of interest in that group.

In the first round, Belliard played second instead of Hudson and Chad Billingsley, the victim of a late season slump, didn’t pitch.

Joe Torre made the right decisions and everything worked out.

There’s no saying it will be like that in the next round against the Phillies or the Rockies. But the Dodgers are in position to find out.

Their first round success will translate into major ticket sales because they have a championship product to market. The Dodgers led all major league teams in attendance this season with more than three million, 700 thousand.

“It’s great that we could do that in this economy,” said owner Frank McCourt.

And where are those critics now who feared McCourt wouldn’t keep the Dodgers competitive by spending what was necessary?

I remember vividly there were folks in the media who advanced that theory. There was no reason to worry.

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