Another con job foisted upon gullible Dodgers fans
Spring training 2015 is halfway over, or halfway started, depending on your level of optimism. This is a weird spring training in a weird time period overall for long-suffering Dodgers fans. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to feel excited about this team anymore. I can’t accumulate whatever body chemistry I would require to feel warm and fuzzy, nostalgic, or even connected to the Dodgers. Right now I follow out of a dual sense of inquisitiveness and obligation. After all, I have followed the Dodgers religiously since I was a young kid. Now, it’s a very different time and I’m reminded by overly aggressive narcissists online that being older than 25 means I may as well dig my own grave, hop in, and somehow pull the dirt on top of me. This is the time, of course, for young ideas – good ones too, such as using every form of social media available, texting while driving, urinating, shitting, talking to friends, in line, out of line, in bed, etc., etc. Watching bad reality programming, listening to sound-alike pop music, dressing the same as everybody else, getting the same tattoos, cultivating the same facial scruff, or full beards, and buying the same black frame eyeglasses. Of course this translates into following whatever is sold in general, not just in a social media, TV, music or fashion sense. It’s easier to navigate life if somebody else tells you what to do and think, and that bleeds into sports interests. Baseball has become a safe haven for these sorts of people, as yesterday’s fantasy baseball nerds have grown up (sort of) and become today’s shapers of teams. The Dodgers, lucky for us, have a half dozen or so of these guys, happy to explain just what to think and feel and how to take selfies, vape and go with the flow – as long as we buy tickets at the gate. Since I don’t plan to buy tickets at the gate, and because I’ve never been much of a conformist (surprising, I know), I’m irrelevant to the Guggenheim owned Dodgers. All it matters is butts in the seat, and concessions and merch from the stands throughout the stadium.
To make the experience easy for the cookie cutter followers, Andrew Friedman and his team were hired to use their superior intellects to craft a team just for you. Notice how there is no mention of why Stan Kasten was brought in – a pedigree of winning (just not World Series) in Atlanta – and subsequently his plan, whatever it was, has already been scrapped. There’s no talk of why his snapping up Cubans like Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena must not have worked because Friedman and Friends (trademark) have already given up on them in favor of their own Cubans, such as injury risk Hector Oliveras. It’s also interesting that after collecting nearly $9B for a new TV deal, the Guggenheim company (who shelled out $2B to get the almost $9B, proving they are very smart when it comes to making money) has been absent from all things Dodgers. Recall, if you can, how the Dreamworks-like Guggenheim multi-millionaires paraded endlessly before the media in LA proclaiming the Dodgers way was back. I don’t see this anymore, nor do I see any end in sight to the TV deal limitation that means most people in the city cannot watch the team they grew up loving. I don’t see “owner” Magic Johnson smiling and wearing a blue hat, nor do I notice him (his intern) tweeting about all things Dodgers. This is clearly a case of having taken the money and ran. Magic, no doubt, along with his friends in the ownership circle, have retreated to their Italian vacation spots early this year, leaving us to whip up faux excitement over the data guys’ roster plans. Lucky for Guggenheim, the checks are clearing and most fans are easily seduced by the snake oil Friedman and Friends are peddling.
I have no idea how this 2015 edition of the guys wearing Dodgers uniforms will perform, and neither do you. You can argue that the data gang knows more than I do and that they were right to pay many players large amounts of money to perform in other cities, some the Dodgers division rivals. You might say it was very astute to deal Dee Gordon at the height of his value or that all the accumulated injury risks the Friedman and Friends group is “buying low” on (in many cases, however, spending more than market value) may pay off. You could follow their notion that a poor defending, PED-using catcher is just the weapon the team needs, or that turning an overly crowded outfield situation into a slightly less crowded one, and moving the excess into the infield picture is a thing of art. You may be right at the end of the season, or not. I’ve seen such bravado practiced years ago when Billy Beane’s sidekick rode into town and dismantled a surging, baseball savvy group in favor of a more Moneyball friendly package. The roster put forward at that time was not unlike the scab team the Dodgers fielded during the last strike. I would argue the replacement team was better.
I’ll just leave it at this seems an awful lot, coming from a person who’s seen a lot (I know that offends many of you younger, or trying to be young), that the slow bleed that’s transpired more or less since the end of the 70s glory days – marked by that wonderful 1981 win over the hated NY Yankees – is still very much with us. There have been moments, as some of you will no doubt point to. 1988, Finley’s home run, Lima-time, back to back NLCS appearances, Kershaw, the bubble machine, Kemp’s ass, etc. I would say most of that is a mirage and the decay has been forming since that great 70s-1981 team was disbanded. O’Malley’s disinterest once his NFL dreams were squashed, the farm’s drying up, the sale to Fox, Bud Selig handing the Dodgers to McCourt, the invasion of thugs into the stadium, beatings, violence, lawsuits, bankruptcy, then promise of greatness by LA’s own icon, Magic Johnson, only to see the team abandoned by not only the white hat wearing Guggenheim fat cats, but without TV coverage for most of the people in the city. None of it matters to those who like to feel superior by taking American capitalism to heart, siding with the uber rich, not questioning authority, etc. It has been 34 years now since 1981. Even if you want to fool yourselves and pretend the last bit of greatness was 1988 (you missed the teams between that time, which makes sense as you weren’t born yet), it’s 27 years. I stick with 34 as my number, but if it makes you sleep better, you can go with 27.
As a person who questions the status quo, I am an enemy of many of you. It’s odd that cynical younger people are more apt to buy the bullshit big corporations and data nerds throw at you. All I know, as an older fan, it’s offensive to me to have seen – now, listened, since seeing Dodgers baseball in LA is nearly impossible – Vin Scully spend such a long time smiling and going along with whatever swill the front offices, past and present, have made him swallow. Oh to be a Scully insider – a family member, or a good friend. Knowing what I do of the man from his persona, I doubt he has liked the direction his once great baseball team has gone. I was heartbroken when freshly scrubbed and powdered Frank McCourt used to visit Vin in the booth and chat, and Vin would ensure all of us what a great man the owner was. From the moment he slithered into town and was handed the keys to the kingdom without any money on paper, I knew we were fucked. The subsequent destruction of tradition, even to the extent of bouncing checks to Vin, was not surprising to me. As Adrian Monk used to say on his TV show, my ability to see through utter bullshit within nanoseconds is both “a blessing and a curse.” I am right much, much more than I am wrong. I called the weaknesses in the Dodgers’ bullpen the past several years, noted the madcap escapades of certain Dodgers were bad for team chemistry, and I know I am right about this situation.
I will get snarky responses, as I often do, from those who are young, entitled and feel they know more than everybody else, either because their parents told them as much, or their friends at Starbucks did. I wish you all the very best. You have every right to your opinion, but siding with multi-millionaires and corporate jackoffs is not the way I operate, so we agree to disagree. Only time will tell what the 2015 Dodgers are capable of. I don’t know, and neither do you. I do know that the way fans have been treated for a good amount of the past 34 years is utter bullshit, and anyone who doesn’t see that needs to put down the iPhone, turn off the repetitive drone of similar sounding pop songs, and perhaps pull your head out of your ass. He made be old – like me – but Vin Scully certainly deserves a better last chapter than this.