The Dodgers' Season To Forget
I got a few weird looks, one “boo” and a couple high-fives from other Mets fans before taking my seat at field level, which I purchased for far below face value. I enjoyed the beautiful Los Angeles summer night, Dodger Dog in hand, and watched as the Mets destroyed the Dodgers, 6-0.
This seems to be the norm as of late. Rivalries mean less when a team, its ownership and even its fan base are in shambles.
The Dodgers are one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball, but now stand face-to-face with one of the league's most embarrassing, truly awful seasons to date.
To most baseball fans, opening day spells summer. But in Los Angeles, the tragic beating of San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow overshadowed opening day excitement and set the tone for the season.
The beating sparked talks of the nature of Dodger fans and the responsibility of the Dodgers organization to protect spectators. Stow is still in serious condition and the LAPD has tracked down two new suspects in the case—exonerating the first, Giovanni Ramirez.
Still, every night on any news show in the L.A. area updates on the Stow attack take a prominent place in the broadcast, outshining any game recaps.
Less than a month after the attack, MLB commissioner Bud Selig effectively removed Dodgers owner Frank McCourt from power by appointing a trustee to oversee the day-to-day operations of the club.
Frank and Jamie McCourt began their messy-to-say-the-least divorce in October of 2009 and have since dragged their own names and the Dodgers' name so deep in the mud, it is unclear if they can ever recover.
Frank McCourt fired Jamie as chief executive of the team by means of a letter stating that human resources would escort her to gather her belongings and vacate Dodger Stadium, both parties fought over ownership rights, and then Selig rejected a TV deal with Fox, further complicating the terms of their divorce agreement. To top it all off, the club had to file for bankruptcy protection in the end of June when they were unable to pay nearly $30 million in payroll.
Fans are hoping that the ownership debacle can be cleared up soon so upper management can focus on the struggling team as opposed to the struggling owners.
The Dodgers are currently 10 games under .500 and 13 games behind the dominant first-place Giants. Even stars like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp can’t keep outfielders from catching balls that float a little to long in the air or save a struggling bullpen.
Fans have started their own revolt of sorts, as attendance is down by nearly 9,000 people a game. The Dodgers ranked No. 1 in stadium attendance in 2009 but have fallen to 10th this season, which may not sound that bad--but MLB attributes attendance to tickets sold, not bodies in seats. Dodger Stadium looks deserted on televised games and it’s even worse in person. Some concession stands stay closed for entire games, and most fans can stretch out and put their feet up since there most likely won’t be too many other people around.
The Dodgers are doing what they can, offering $1 Dodger dogs and $4 game tickets, but fans aren’t biting—Andre Ethier bobble head night excluded. Some fans have staged actual protests outside of Dodger Stadium, saying that although they love the team, they refuse to give any more of their money to the McCourts.
“The specific lack of attendance has driven the low concession sales, general malaise surrounding the club, and a feeling of fan disinterest or disgust with the current situation,” Brunious said. “The fans are voicing their displeasure by not showing up to the games.”
Although the protests have been small to date they are still significant, putting out a message to the McCourts and other fans that the Dodgers cannot stay on the path they are on.
Maybe the biggest knock to the Dodgers this season is the disinterest.
Even rivalries have felt the blow.
Giants fans sent a clear message when the Dodgers were in town in mid July. San Francisco faithful’s were apathetic to the boys in blue. A series that would have generated loud booing, taunting and snide jeering in the past turned out to be just another set of games on the Giants road to the World Series. Giants fan’s started a few “Beat L-A” chants that quickly fizzled and the Dodgers fans peppered throughout the crowd were mostly left alone. It was like when your mom tells you, “I’m not mad, just disappointed.”
It was sad.
So what happens now when your biggest rival doesn’t even respect you?
“If the franchise ultimately ends up with a new owner, I believe the fans will come back in droves,” Brunious said, “provided whoever that person is understands the landscape and is focused on putting a good product on the field and providing a great environment at the ballpark
This very well may be a season that the Dodgers will want to forget.
One thing after another, the Dodgers have dug themselves farther and farther away from the team that in 2009 reached its second consecutive NLCS since 1978. A feat that was outdone by the McCourts' separation announcement on the eve of that matchup against the Phillies.
“The Dodger franchise is one of the most storied ones in the major leagues. While the current bankruptcy and negative media attention has certainly soured the current mood, all it takes is a resolution to these issues and a reason for fans to feel optimistic for the brand to rebound,” Brunious said. “L.A. has passionate fans across the board that have proven that they will show up if the product is good.”