How You Play the Game

koufax_sandy_1.jpg 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?

The thought.

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.

8 Replies to “How You Play the Game”

  1. The other part of that Times story, the part the *really* infuriated me, is that McCort fucked up the “pitcher’s ballpark” aspect of Dodger Stadium by adding row after row of seats in what used to be foul territory. And if that wasn’t enough, to keep the stadium capacity at the city-mandated 56000, he decided that they’d cover seats in the upper decks with tarps.

    McCort and DePodesta did fuckall to improve the team, raised ticket prices across the board, and then traded affordable seats that real fans would sit in for seats that will remain empty for much of the season.

    It’s bullshit.

  2. Tradition.. ha! Tradition used to mean players staying with one team their entire career. Removing uniform names, another cost cutting measure? We need those names, with all the new guys..oh I get it.. he wants us to spend extra money now on programs to identify them.

  3. Robert, Love ya, man. But it hurts (not really) that one of our DC relations had to cross-country clue you to the Zeiger story I posted about back in March:

    http://blogging.la/archives/2005/03/no_dodging_the.phtml

    And to clarify, Zeiger isn’t pemanently boycotting his team. He just opted not to skip out on the home opener. Something he hadn’t ever missed in his 43 years as a season ticket holder.

  4. Thanks for the clarification on Zeiger, Will — and I had read that story of yours — my rant was inspired by Tom’s re-prompting. :) Anyhow, I’ve edited the above to point at yours as well.

  5. I’ve learned not to get to attached to players, but it’s weird barely reconizing half the guys on the field. Another thing that bugs me about McCourt: ticketing through Ticketmaster.

  6. Us down in the OC have had to suffer from owners who feel they know what is good for the public, when it’s a far cry from what we want.

    Arte Moreno took a team which won the 2002 World Series, and then turned them into the laughing stock of baseball when he gave them the name: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    I doubt any body from LA will sit on the 5, 405, 22 (from Long Beach), or the 91 during rush hour to see the games in Anaheim. I also doubt that many Dodger fans were swayed into suddenly becoming Angel fans. When the Angels posted billboards all over town with “City of Angels” plastered on a red background, some of the billboards were torn down in the OC (the one I saw was located in the city of Orange across from a sports bar).

    This is just the evolution of baseball. Million dollar owners who are making teams their “toys.” They don’t care if you have a connection with the players (such as the sudden trade of David Eckstein to St. Louis or Troy Glaus to Arizonia, Dodger fans suffred through the additional trade of Shawn Green) all the owners care about is your money, the televison deals, the broadcast rights, and the money through merchandise sales. Ticket sales bring in very little revenue outside of the season tickets which are sold.

    I read the same article in the Times and I’m sorry that a dedicated fan (there are not too many left) has to suffer through the greed of a new owner.

    Just another suffering baseball fan in the OC.

  7. I think the reason that McCourt took the names off the backs of Dodger uniforms is to force people to buy the programs in order to identify who the players are.

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