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What Dodgers Fans Should Know

April 20, 2016 2 comments

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The season is new and fans are euphoric over the early returns. The $236M payroll Dodgers beat the crap out of the sad sack Padres to begin the season, then played a real team in San Francisco and struggled, but rebounded at home before getting the crap kicked out of them by the lowly Braves last night. The Dodgers played sloppy defense, perhaps hung over from Atlanta area nightlife, and Alex Wood’s effort made you wish his crazy whip like motion landed him on the DL. But, as Eric Karros famously used to say, “It’s only April.” The season is 6 months long and baseball fans shouldn’t look at the game like they might the NFL – while every game matters, they really don’t… well, until they do when you’re doing mathematics in September.

 

A wise friend of mine found the article below and I thought I would share. I liked it a lot and it made me think of some of my earlier articles from last season and this past winter. To me what’s happening with the Dodgers is very simple and obvious, but to casual fans or the over trusting, celebrating Kike Hernandez, Charlie Culberson or whatever other utility castoff you worship, it’s not. Anyway, here’s the link…

 

http://www.ladowntownnews.com/opinion/dodgers-owners-have-failed-the-fans/article_2bce74e2-05a8-11e6-a9da-8fee1b566d1c.html

 

My take, as I’ve stated before, is that Guggenheim cares about business and the bottom line. They came in and paid well scrubbed Frank McCourt $2B, or $1B+ over the estimated asking price, knowing full well they would win the bid and soon gain major profits from the deal. McCourt quickly sold, ran off with his profits (after profiting every step of the way from the time he slithered into Los Angeles) and a smiling Magic Johnson convinced fans the worst was over.

 

Most fans who are a bit more serious about the Dodgers have noticed not much has changed. Guggenheim promptly signed off on a lucrative TV deal that netted them over $8B, knowing full well that to make the deal work Time Warner Cable would need to pass the cost on to the fans. Guggenheim didn’t care how it all worked out, taking the money and clearing over $6B after the buying price. That number goes up of course as they increase prices on tickets, merch, food, parking, etc. All of the gate proceeds and other revenue streams are gravy.

 

Of course Time Warner could not swing a deal to pass the cost on to the fans, meaning 70% of the city is going on two years without the Dodgers on TV. Many fans are getting pissed, others say, “Switch TV providers” or “Get MLB.TV” and can care less.

 

The damage being done affects both new and old generations of Dodgers fans. New fans, and young people you would hope Guggenheim would like to one day become Dodgers fans, could care less since the Dodgers are mostly invisible if you live within Los Angeles. No TV, no concern. There are many other diversions for young people to get into without watching Dodgers games on TV. This is especially problematic since baseball is a dying sport in terms of young viewers, so you’d think if there was a way to appeal to them, Guggenheim would be very interested. I guess they assume by the time it matters, they will have sold the team, their profits already tucked away in Swiss and Cayman Islands accounts.

 

For the older fans, the two years of the botched TV deal means no Dodgers and more, no end of Vin Scully’s career. You would assume if Guggenheim didn’t consider this when they made the deal (they didn’t), they certainly would after the bad publicity last year. A caring ownership would have done everything possible over the off-season to ensure everyone in Los Angeles who wanted to see and listen to Vin could in 2016. But here we are – hollow celebrations of Vin Scully Avenue and Opening Day pomp and circumstance, yet nothing has been done to correct the actual problem – fans largely do not get to relish in all things Scully one last time.

 

I could go into how the payroll is high (highest in the NL) but the Dodgers have half a rotation and almost no bullpen, and are playing utility players from other organizations most days, but the focus here is the con job being thrust upon Dodgers fans. We are being played for fools and while the money is vaulted, the fans in-fight and hope Magic responds to a tweet to “fix the TV situation.” Note to everyone – Magic is just a bit more an owner than a guy working at the car wash and could care less about such things. It’s the NBA playoffs; that’s Magic’s focus in April.

 

So sadly the only way out of this pickle is the same way we got out of the Frank McCourt shit storm. The fans have to get fed up and stop going to games, and make a big stink so Guggenheim correct the error of their ways. If they keep letting Time Warner be the only villain, and slowly cutting on-field costs with dual incompetency (Friedman/Zaidi) then they win. Before long you will have a team of kids and utility players and will be paying top dollar to watch them – at the stadium, as there won’t be any other way to do it.

 

The plan worked last time – a rat was thrown out and forced to sell. Don’t think for a moment that what is happening now is all that different than what happened before. They have substituted unsafe stadium conditions and personal injury for little opportunity to watch games and higher costs. You are being sold a bill of goods. If you find all of this just great, my argument will mean nothing to you. I wish you the best and you need not reply. But if you didn’t consider this before or your blood has been boiling, do something about it. Kick, scream, refuse to go to games, and stop swilling the Kool-Aid. A con is a con is a con and this is like a déjà vu from hell all over again. If being asked to follow mediocre pitching and marginal players who may or may not be big leaguers isn’t enough for you, perhaps the fact Guggenheim is making over $6B (billion with a B) while you are being deprived Vin Scully’s last games might.

Three Decades and Counting

April 4, 2016 5 comments

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Happy Opening Day, everyone. Today the Dodgers have as good a chance as anyone of winning their division, the pennant and even the World Series. Enjoy it while you can; tomorrow’s another day.

The Dodgers open the season against the lowly, also Moneyball-inspired, San Diego Padres. Two dogs playing at Petco; apropos. It’s nice the Dodgers and ace Clayton Kershaw face off against the Friars, one of two teams in the West they should finish ahead of. Should.

Fans likely will be impressed by Kershaw’s mastery tonight and if you bet on sports, betting on a Kershaw start would seem money in the bank. Expect the Twitter-verse abuzz with boasts and trash talking in a classy manner becoming of Dodgers fans in recent years. Then the rest of the week there will be excuses, as there always are, for the losses, errors, left runners, injuries, and perhaps even that ownership doesn’t care enough to let 70% of fans in the Los Angeles marketplace see the team’s games on TV.

The other day I jokingly (sort of) remarked how in some ways the Guggenheim ownership group is as bad as the Frank McCourt reign of terror. Immediately simpletons attacked me for suggesting the smiling Magic Johnson fronted group could be anywhere near as bad as the tragedy of the Botox’d regime of old. Umm, that’s the problem – in the Dodgers fan world and America as a whole – stupidity is abundant.

I would say as a fan there is very little difference between a Boston parking lot heir ripping off the fans for his own personal gain and what’s happening now. Each side has left unspeakable scars in Dodgers fans consciousness. Whether it’s McCourt going cheap on stadium security and allowing fans to get hurt or Guggenheim pocketing money while fans are left to imagine what Vin Scully’s years might look and sound like, same bullshit, different day. Both owners also employed Moneyball nerds to dismantle rosters of professional baseball players and insert players no one knows who probably were driving a Sparkletts route a few months previous (no offense to Sparkletts drivers – I have more respect for you than I do sleazy executives and rich investment bankers).

The Dodgers new owners are repeating the sins of the previous – as in America, apparently no one learns from history. When Paul DePodesta destroyed a solid Dan Evans built roster for his own ego – only to appear clever – it was criminal. Guggenheim came in and after quickly giving up on a new direction under Stan Kasten, went the same route McCourt did and hired cost-cutting Sabermetrics guys. The rosters, then and now are sprinkled with unknowns, while in this case, still maintaining a NL high payroll. It’s quite an achievement to have little talent on the field yet spend well over $200M. The 2016 Dodgers have a payroll about $100M higher than the World Champion Kansas City Royals, with a fraction of its talent or heart. One should award the two-headed snake called Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi executives of the year for this feat alone.

The Dodgers spring training was a series of injuries that left the front office dropping the D word (“depth”) every chance they could. They made it sound like it was good players were getting hurt as it tested them even sooner than they imagined. Fans meantime were left scratching their heads and surprised all this great talent Friedman/Zaidi added was hurt – and so fast. Well, when you sign mediocre, often-injured players they tend to be hurt. I’ve said it for years and each season some new bully on Twitter calls me out for being “negative.” Truth = negativity, if it’s not their truth.

It still amazes me that Dodgers fans – way too many of them – side with a front office and ownership team that obviously doesn’t give a rat’s ass about them. For Guggenheim, they gladly doubled the estimated $1B sale price many financial experts assumed they’d have to pay McCourt for the team since they knew full well the TV deal with Time Warner Cable would net $8B, or $6B in immediate profit after paying off McCourt. Add to that baseball’s best gate, merchandise, expensive beer and hot dogs, parking, etc. and it’s quite a nifty payday. Yet, like lemmings, the Dodgers fans cheer and plan their day at the park, angry at anyone who dares question why a team with a near 30 year championship drought would opt for marginal minor league utility players in starting roles. As Jerry Seinfeld famously said, “Fans root for laundry.”

These are not the Dodgers I grew up with, rooted for, and this includes even more recent Dodgers teams. I loved Dan Evans’ underfunded, huge hearted teams, and to a slightly lesser degree the teams Ned Colletti put together that featured smart big league players and were always a player short (since the owner needed daily hair styling at his mansion). But as I witnessed Paul DePodesta destroy a solid roster, I’ve seen it happen again. While I feel sorry for Kershaw and Adrian Gonzalez, I feel sadder for the idiots who dedicate more than just their summers – perhaps every day of their lives – to a team that stopped being the Dodgers of old long ago.

Instead of smart, motivated players the fans are supposed to pay for (live, you can’t watch on TV) jokesters and career minor leaguers, or castoffs from other organizations. The saving grace is kids – the farm Logan White and Colletti cultivated, mostly. I have always been a big fan of the prospects, and still am, so I’m very excited to see how Corey Seager’s career goes, as well as some of the others, but I’m sorry, in a market as large as Los Angeles, with that aforementioned near three decade drought, to construct a team around kids is sad. With the always talked about wherewithal of Guggenheim, there has to be a bigger sense of urgency than to wait to see if the kid pitchers in the system pan out. As I’ve told people for years, prospects are currency – not each makes it, and as often as they bolster your big league roster directly, equally they are there to be used in case of need to acquire great big league players in trade. Anyone who covets prospects to the extent they assume each will be an impact player on the roster is fooling themselves. Their value means more in smaller markets anyway, where money isn’t plentiful. The fact that Plan A is the kids is telling. Guggenheim wants to extract far more than $6B out of fans in Los Angeles.

This isn’t meant to attack the kids – the Dodgers have good ones and they are probably the lone reason for excitement in 2016 and beyond. As good teams got better over the winter, the Dodgers famously did nothing. Then the spring injuries, with 10 players starting the season on the DL. Friedman/Zaidi apologists will have you believe this is a freak occurrence, but they’re not. Like last season, I called this in the winter. If you build your team like DePodesta or Friedman/Zaidi have, this is what you get. The only time this philosophy should be your go-to is if you are in that tiny market that financially has no other way to compete. Friedman has brought his Tampa mindset to Los Angeles, and don’t think that’s by coincidence. Just as McCourt brought in Oakland celebrity DePodesta in to cut costs, Guggenheim has with Friedman, and then Zaidi.

The fans will need to decide what they want to do. Will they continue to go along with this odd method of spending a lot of money on random pieces while cutting obvious good ones, or will they boycott? It took some time for fans to stand up to McCourt and maybe the same thing needs to happen again. Could the Dodgers win the West? I would say no, but I suppose it’s possible. But does it matter? The Dodgers won three Western titles in as many years and still can’t win in October. With a thin rotation and marginal pen, I can’t imagine October success even if the opportunity arose. The Moneyball faithful would say, well, this is by design – playoff baseball is too hard to predict from a data perspective. I would counter with that’s why good teams build teams like Dan Evans did, and even Colletti did – getting as many good or at least proven players as they can.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence you look at the top contending teams and see known names, talented players, and a lot of them, on the rosters. Then you look at the Dodgers roster and outside of a few names, you are left with unknowns, question marks, injury risks and the aged. The only way to celebrate this brand of Dodgers baseball is if you’re either delusional or brainwashed. Anyone who would take the Dodgers current roster over the Cubs, Cardinals, Royals, etc. is stupid or so in love with the cleverness of Moneyball they’re ripe for Scientology membership.

We will see how 2016 shapes up. I sense it will be a very painful season for Dodgers fans who honestly feel we deserve better. For the apologists, the possibly mentally ill, it will be a celebration of numbers and math that has no basis of fact. While the top teams move into October and play for a World Series ring, the Dodgers fans will be snapping at one another about what changes need to be made and how to get more very average minor league players from other organizations into the Dodgers lineup and rotation. Three decades and counting.