DC Metblogger and buddy Tom Bridge emailed me about an article he read by LA Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke, all about Irving Zeiger, 86 — a lifelong Dodgers season-ticket holder who is unable to afford to keep his family’s seats thanks to the new high-price section they’ve created at Dodger Stadium by pushing the stands into the infield. (Also recently commented on by b.la’s Will Campbell.) His $20,000/year tickets for seats right above the dugout would now be costing him $120,000/year. Irving voted with his wallet and stayed home for opening day. Good for him.
I feel sorry for Irving only up to a point. And that point is the $20,000 he *was* able to spend on season tickets every year. However the “businessization” of the Dodgers is a separate issue, and one that I think everyone who loves the team and its history can feel sorry about. As cries of team poverty are yelled, I think we know where the real “Money Ball” is played, and it’s not on the field or in the clubhouse — it’s in the stands.
Outside of I suppose NYC and Tokyo, this is the biggest baseball market in the world. We let Adrian Beltre go to the Mariners, Alex Cora to the Indians, and Shawn Green to the Diamondbacks — do you know the populations of Seattle, Cleveland, and Phoenix? I looked them up: according to Wikipedia‘s latest numbers, they are 569,101 and 478,403 and 3,251,876 respectively. Add those three together and you still don’t get to the *City* of Los Angeles population. And yet somehow we can’t afford to keep people like Beltre and Paul Lo Duca who have been a part of the Dodger family since forever?
There is something very telling about the fact that owner Frank McCourt decided to remove the names from the backs of Dodgers uniforms this year. He said it was about being traditional, since that was the way it used to be back in the day. (The Yankees still don’t put names on theirs.) What that says to me, as I try to figure out who some of the people on the field are, is that it doesn’t matter who you are as a player. Somehow we’re supposed to pretend that our world-class infield wasn’t dismantled in the off-season, that it doesn’t matter that arguably the best 3rd baseman in the National League isn’t playing 3rd base for us anymore, that the ace pitcher we traded our heart for last year still hasn’t recovered from an injury he suffered after pitching one game for us.
And this is nothing against the new guys whatsoever. I would just warn them not to get too used to their jobs, especially if they do well this season.
I’m steeling myself for Dodger Stadium and Chavez Ravine to be turned into The WalMart Baseball Experience, which will probably happen about 30 minutes after Tommy Lasorda, Vin Sculley, and Sandy Koufax are all available for spinning in their graves.
How the business known as the Dodgers is doing right now — or how it did last year or will do later this year — is immaterial, even if the team that business fields does somehow magically win it all.
Sometimes, it really isn’t if you win or lose. Sometimes, it really is how you play the game.