Happy Valentine’s Day.
Tomorrow, the Dodgers begin the spring training portion of the 2017 season. Lots has been said of the Dodgers improvement, some true, some not, and many expect the boys in blue to be among the top handful of teams in baseball this season – largely based on their high payroll and “depth.”
Before I get into that, I do want to say what I have tweeted several times this week – the lack of TV across the LA market for a 4th season is shameful. The Dodgers have been passed around from one bad owner to another since Peter O’Malley decided to sell the team to Fox. At the time, we fans knew it was quite a change – going from mom and pop ownership to a greedy Rupert Murdoch run corporation that only was interested in baseball in order to start a local sports network. Little did we realize, however, how bad it would get.
It’s debatable to some whether the skullduggery of Frank and Jamie McCourt is worse than the Guggenheim Partners time as owners, I would say different. When “Hall of Fame commissioner” Bud Selig handed the keys to the Dodgers kingdom to a cash poor Boston parking lot attendant, we knew it wasn’t good. As the McCourts rode high on the hog and drove the franchise into embarrassment, bouncing checks to staff, including Vin Scully, and cheaping out on security until people’s lives were in danger, we ultimately rebelled. Now, with Magic Johnson’s smiling (now absent) kisser conning us into believing everything was ok again, we sit staring at our blank TV screens, or MeTV re-runs of “Hogan’s Heroes” instead of our LA baseball team.
I would say from Fox to the McCourts to Guggenheim, LA Dodgers fans have been passed from one bad guardian to another, much like the Baudelaire children in the “Unfortunate Events” books and Netflix episodes. None of them have/had Dodgers tradition at the core of their belief system – all have been in it for profit motives purely. Yet, through generations now, Dodgers fans infight and quarrel and flaunt loyalty ownership doesn’t have to them. It’s quite amazing, the level of love and Stockholm Syndrome displayed since O’Malley sailed off into the sunset.
To me, it’s easy. Greed + no TV coverage = you lose my loyalty. You want it back? Focus on our needs, and that includes games on TV. Stealing Vin Scully’s final years was a heinous act. Lest anyone think Guggenheim is in no way like the McCourt era, think about that. Consider it when you get an overload of Charlie Steiner.
We will never get back what was taken from us, and considering the misdirection of the overly bloated narcissistic front office, it makes it hard to forgive. All of my life, and prior, the Dodgers were a team known for strong pitching. Over the years there were good offensive teams, and bad ones. The pitching was always key. Look through the Dodgers record books and recall the names. Behind the greats were many good ones, and those who held the fort, eating innings and supplying consistency that always kept the Dodgers in the thick of the National League race.
I don’t recall, prior to this administration, such a dismissal of pitching. The Fangraphs lovers among you will point to cobbled together stats and suggest this is the best pitching staff in baseball. I may not understand numbers like you pretend to (by reading some nerd’s analysis), all I have to base my opinion on is many decades of following baseball and end results. A team, especially a Dodgers team, should be built around pitching – starting and relief. It seems an afterthought or a “ho-hum” to the collective geniuses that run the Dodgers.
So, if you put together no TV, no Vin and very little pitching, it’s hard for me to get overly excited. There’s a reality that says the rotation is three guys, all of whom have concerns. Clayton Kershaw may be the best pitcher in baseball but after years of carrying the burden of the team on his back, his back gave out. Backs can flare up at any time, and while Kershaw may be healthy all of 2017, his sudden vulnerability at least merits a conversation.
Rich Hill has resurrected his career from independent league hurler (like his fellow well paid staff mate Scott Kazmir), but he’s also an older pitcher who has spent a lot of time on disabled lists across baseball. To assume his “Koufax-like curve” can be counted on for a full season is perhaps a stretch. Then comes Kenta Maeda.
I liked the signing of Maeda, but then I like the signing of most Asian players. Maeda is a gamer with good stuff, but he’s also Japanese and their seasons are shorter than those in the bigs, so his eventual tiring in 2016 should have been expected. He was gassed the last quarter of the season and of course in October, when we all closed our eyes and crossed our fingers as he went to the hill. He is slight of frame and while he could improve on his stamina and continue to evolve, he could also at least be considered someone who may have a solid first half and then vanish after that.
The rest of the rotation is more worrisome than the top three. Julio Urias is a talent touted as another Pedro Martinez. He sure can look good, but he’s also 20 and his young arm is not ready for a full season’s workload. In fact, I’d say given the way he was pushed in 2016, due to Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi not considering reliable innings out of the rotation last year, he could even be a candidate for an injury due to overuse. I am not worried about Urias at the start of the season, but like Maeda, I am worried what happens as the year progresses. A baby pitcher should have his innings built up through the minors; Urias’ success and the front office’s desperation has rushed that timeline. Watching how they use him in 2017 should be interesting.
With Urias as the 4th starter (he should ideally be the 5th), it means a gaggle of curiosities will compete for the last spot. At this point most fans realize the signings of Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy were foolish ones by Friedman/Zaidi. They will compete with Hyun-Jin Ryu, former warrior with a shot shoulder, and assorted guys Friedman devotees will tell you are superstars in the making. No, they are just guys. The league is full of guys who fill roster spots, go up and down from the minors to the bigs and are not stars. Newsflash – not everyone who comes up through the Dodgers system will be a star. And another newsflash – every team has “depth” – it’s called a 40-man roster and minor league system. Living, breathing humans do not “depth” make.
For these reasons, the Dodgers rotation does not impress me. It’s possible they will have a decent first half, enabling Friedman/Zaidi to make a July deal for the 2nd half, but I’d argue, given what we see from most of their deals, and the fact the beef in the rotation should already have been added, who cares? As of today, the rotation is not ready for Oct play, which begs the question: “What have Friedman/Zaidi fixed since taking over?” I’d argue the deficiency the team had was the Oct part of the equation – that one more piece or two that could get the Dodgers over the hump. They already were making the playoffs for years. That isn’t enough. Friedman/Zaidi tinker, like mad scientists, but with the April through September part of the team, which, like I said, was in good enough shape before.
Friedman/Zaidi and their disciples would tell you it’s all about the regular season; the playoffs are all luck and a total crapshoot. That’s what Billy Beane has said, and the Moneyball record of World Series titles would bear that out. Small market executives, like Beane, like Friedman, like Zaidi, think like this because they must. They are traditionally hampered by lack of resources, financial most specifically, and need to assume getting to the dance is good enough. Perhaps, once in the post-season, they get lucky – it happens. Just not to Moneyball teams.
Guggenheim must have had their reasons for hiring Moneyball types to run the Dodgers – either hoping to save some money they could put into their own pockets (that’s not working, Friedman and Zaidi spend like gold-diggers out on the town), or because they were tipped off that the game has gone data and whiz kids who are all Ivy League are the ones you want in charge. I’m not dismissing data, it’s important (I recall loving Ross Porter’s constant stats that drove fans insane), but it doesn’t seem to apply to the work being done by Friedman, Zaidi and their crowded front office team.
Friedman inherited a windfall. He got a playoff team with a new rich ownership group and ripe farm system. A smarter man would have added the missing parts – perhaps a 3rd starter better than Brett Anderson – in order to go deeper into Oct. Instead, much like Paul DePodesta before them, a lot of tinkering, convoluted, needlessly complicated trades, signings of Cubans, reliance on unimpressive and often injured pitchers (overpaid), and other factors have led the team to no more Oct ready than before. I’d add, taking the long way around the mountain, creating needless busywork to get there.
At some point, perhaps luck will roll the Dodgers way and they will win. There IS talent on the roster. Some of the prospects in particular, holdovers from Ned Colletti and Logan White, look like this generation’s great Dodgers – Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and Cody Bellinger, to name a few.
I just have no idea why fans continue to believe in a front office that shuffles pieces around, wastes money, skimps on money (hard to do both at the same time) and is rebuilding the regular season part of the team that was already a playoff contender, rather than the post-season part, which was the obvious weakness.
I chock it up to youth – easy to say, as I am old. I think baseball fans are not as diehard as they used to be, and youth comes with lack of perspective. As you get older, not only do you have to sometimes wake up in the night to pee, but you gain wisdom. As Louis C.K. famously mused in one of his routines, just by virtue of being on the planet longer than a young person, you generally come to know more. A young fan has the right idea – love their team, no matter what, but without a frame of reference, it’s easy to not really know what the fuck you are talking about. I have been young, and now I am old. Believe me, I know more now than I did when I was young.
I won’t even go into depth about the bullpen that was not improved at all over 2016, or the 2 guys for every position approach in the lineup that could work – if rosters are expanded to 35. A new season is upon is, so don’t let me burst your bubble. I will say, perhaps don’t be gullible. Keep your eyes open and your head up. Call “bullshit” when you see it. And yes, you should be very angry that for a 4th season, games are not on TV across all of Los Angeles. I would suggest you don’t pay for games, or McCourt’s expensive parking. If they won’t televise the games, listen on the radio, or just read the box scores the next day. If they don’t care enough about you, you shouldn’t care so much about them. Guggenheim is in it for the money, just as Fox and the McCourts were. The team has not been to the World Series since 1988, and that was a fluke. The rot had set in after the 1981 championship and the greats from the 70s teams moved on.
We are owed more than this. The fans’ loyalty should not be greater than the owners’ loyalty to us. Bickering on Twitter can be amusing, but it does not hold the owners accountable. Demand more and if they don’t give it, consider what else you want from life. Maybe it’s going to the beach, catching the latest superhero movie in the theater or just spending more time with family and friends. For me, if a group of smarties can’t figure out your rotation needs reliable innings and your bullpen should be several guys deep at the back, you don’t deserve my respect. If the games aren’t even available to watch, why should I care?
Here’s to another season of Dodgers baseball. Let’s see what happens. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody.
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…
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.
Someone has to say something, and never one to be shy to voice an unpopular take; I guess it will have to be me.
The Dodgers, as we mostly all know, have been playing good baseball, especially the past 7 games. There is pre-summer excitement, of course, as LA sports fans love their Dodgers – well, unless the Lakers are doing well, which they haven’t been for some time. At one point, the Dodgers owned the city. It’s been a rocky time since as Dodger games seem more a diversion, a thing to do, a place to eat soggy, overrated hot dogs and shake to bad pop music at high prices. There are serious Dodgers fans, diehards even, but many of the folks who come through the gate each year are there for a little baseball, but more a warm weather diversion. The fact the Dodgers are always near the top, or at the top, in attendance has a lot to do with the legions of people living in LA and its surrounding areas (just look at the traffic all around LA, if you don’t believe me), as much as an interest in baseball, or more specifically, the Dodgers.
I am fed up with the way this latest bad step parent has treated we actual Dodgers fans, and I know many people who feel the same. In a nutshell, here’s how it seems to have gone…
After decades of family ownership, the O’Malleys decide to sell, partly annoyed with not getting an NFL deal, partly for inheritance tax reasons. They pass this baseball crown jewel to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation.
Fox, not interested in baseball at all, but having eyes on building a Southern California sports presence on TV. Fox hires a desperate to please his new employers GM, who immediately fucks things up, and allows entertainment executives to trade Mike Piazza to Florida, mostly for Gary Sheffield, who they could have gotten for third tier prospects since the Marlins were desperate to unload Sheffield’s contract.
Fox runs the team into the ground, not allowing their better GM – Dan Evans – to spend a red cent. After an underfunded team failed to make the World Series, and having what they came for in terms of a new TV presence, Fox funds a “sale” to Boston parking lot heir Frank McCourt.
McCourt is worse than a faceless corporation – much worse – which would seem hard to do. He and his wife use the Dodgers and the fans for personal gain, bankrupt the team, injure and cripple fans and finally – after a long, painful, disgusting drawn out process, sell the team to a Dream Team “led” by the smiling, familiar face of LA’s own Magic Johnson.
Guggenheim, the financial arm behind all this, makes a plan, fails to win a World Series, changes the plan and along the way, makes a fortune with a new TV deal. The Guggenheim folks, flush with cash, don’t mind that 70% of the team’s fans can’t watch games under the new TV pact and all-Dodgers programming. The money is in their hands, why care?
There apparently is still a need, however, for butts in the seats – after all, why not? $8.5B from the TV deal is sweet, but a massive gate, selling soggy dogs, expensive beer, pricey merch, etc., is nice too. Oh, don’t forget the raised parking prices. To ensure fans will come to games, Magic Johnson, who had disappeared somewhere between plan one and now plan two, pops up to tweet out some nonsense (his intern, I guess, actually does the tweeting – Magic knows nothing about the game or the fans), urging fans to come to the stadium since it’s the best way to watch the Dodgers. He doesn’t mention that it’s the ONLY way to watch. Just days before, actually, Magic tells the LA Times that the team’s brand is strong and there’s no problem with the games not being televised.
You may be a Sabermetrics devotee or love Magic for his great exploits as a Laker, but if you don’t agree this is all bullshit, you’re deluding yourself. The greed is palpable and beyond offensive. As I noted, there are people who just like to go to a game after a long day at work, chug down some beers, hang out, maybe see a celebrity sitting in better seats, etc. But… there are also actual baseball fans, real devoted and long-abused Dodgers fans, who are put into the position of going, paying more, enabling, and helping Guggenheim get even richer, or not see the games at all. After decades of being kicked, lied to, screwed over and dissatisfied, the fans are now told literally to drop everything and come to the stadium to watch a team that in all honesty won’t be the same team, by a longshot, even next year.
This isn’t to argue that the 2015 edition of the Dodgers aren’t good, or are. It’s to make a statement about how fans of the organization have been mistreated for a long time, by multiple owners. It was pretty evident that once Peter O’Malley sent us to live with evil Uncle Rupert, that it wasn’t an ideal situation. Frank McCourt was apparent from day one, for anyone with a brain, as being a phony out of towner who just wanted to parlay “ownership” (Fox funded his antics just to quickly get out of the baseball business – and MLB commissioner and scumbag Bud Selig allowed it to happen) into vast riches. But when the latest owners came in, they used a Trojan horse to gain access to the city and fans’ hearts. Using Magic Johnson was a dirty trick, and selling their ownership as different, and a return to Dodgers greatness, was inaccurate. It’s hard to say they’re better than Fox or Frank McCourt. While not bankrupt, at least games were on TV. That may be a stretch, of course, since under the last owner, it was too dangerous to even attend a game, if you dared. But, you get my point. Another owner, a slicker approach, a familiar smile, but the same horse shit as ever before.
My last article I spoke about how Dodgers fans have been reduced to quarreling with one another – the pro-Moneyball fans, the casual folks who like to chill and hit a beach ball occasionally, and those who are fed up. If you go on Twitter, you will see the bickering left and right. In theory, fans should get along because they’re all supposedly in love with the same team. But data is thicker than water, so the nouveau hotshots point out how longtime fans of the game know nothing – they can’t, it has to be this way for their statistical love to make sense. With everyone fighting, most not getting TV access to games, and now Magic Johnson pulled out of mothballs to tell us how wonderful everything is and how we should hand over our children’s’ college savings to Guggenheim, it’s become unseemly business being a baseball fan in LA.
My hope is that the new ownership group steals everything not nailed down and get out of town like Fox did. I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about the Dodgers anymore and they’ve managed to sap a lot of fun out of what was a seasonal reason for living. Baseball isn’t fun in LA. You can’t come home, turn on a game and relax. You can’t discuss baseball without pro-Andrew Friedman fans attacking you, telling you why you’re wrong. It’s the latest chapter in a 30 year problem that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. It’s why I started Dodger Therapy – a place for fans to talk it out. I try to ignore the jackasses who favor snarky executives and corporate wealth over the average person’s need to have a pleasant distraction. They’re too far gone to save.