Dodgers' Missteps Could Cost Them Fan Loyalty
“I’ve about had it with Frank McCourt but I keep coming back,” the man says as he meticulously lines the left side of the dogs with ketchup, the right with yellow mustard and covers the tops with onions and relish. “We’ve got it down. Been doing it for a long time.”
The three friends have been coming to Dodgers games for as long as they can remember, sitting in the field level seats and cheering on their hometown team. It may not be the same Dodgers of old but the enthusiasm is still the same, collapsing front office and dismal record aside.
The Dodgers hit .500 for the first time since April 29 after a 3-0 win over the Giants on Sept. 10. With a 72-73 record, they are third in the NL West and 12 games behind the first place Diamondbacks. Although attendance this season has been particularly low, fans are still managing to make it out to the games, not always selling out Dodger Stadium but still filling up seats.
A myriad of things have gone awry for the storied franchise this season, including the Bryan Stow beating at its home opener and a slew of Frank McCourt related catastrophes. But, there have also been high points, signs of life to keep fans coming back.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has 18 wins this season and leads the NL in strikeouts and ERA with 231 and 2.36, respectively. He is also a top contender for this years Cy Young award. Matt Kemp is also making a strong bid for the National League MVP, hitting .317 on the year with 32 home runs, 107 RBIs and 38 stolen bases.
The Dodgers have begun to put on a good show for fans during the final stretch of the season and with about two weeks left in the season the Dodgers are heading into a 10-game homestand and finishing the season on the road in NL West matchups. Although the Dodgers have a slim-to-none chance of making it to the playoffs, perhaps a strong finish could leave them poised for a strong showing in 2012. It’s clear that the ball club still has fans that are willing to support them and watch good baseball.
It’s poor management and greed though that can leave fans alienated and disillusioned by their favorite team. The Florida Marlins are a great example of a team, added along with the Colorado Rockies in the last NL expansion, that started out strong but after a string of bad decisions from management is notorious for one of the lowest attendance records in baseball.
The club initially ranked in the top ten for attendance in their first five seasons but has since slipped and remained 13th or worse since 1998. Fan loyalty also slipped when the team initiated a fire sale of sorts after winning their first World Series Championship in 1997. The championship team was disbanded and the Marlins went on to have worst MLB record the following season, falling to 54-108. Management did the same thing after the 2003 World Series, making the franchise infamous for trading good players when their contracts became too much for the team to handle.
The Marlins put the icing on the cake so to speak in 2006 when they fired then manager Joe Girardi based on what appeared to be a strained relationship between Girardi and owner Jeffrey Loria. This move angered fans that liked Girardi’s managing style. Girardi was also named National League Manager of the Year that same season he was fired.
In the case of the Marlins, bad decisions guided by ego and greed have wreaked havoc on the once successful ball club and the Dodgers are not too far off from the same fate. Fans may still be willing to show up to Monday night games for a team out of playoff contention, but for how much longer?
So close to Hollywood, the Dodgers need to find a way to leave the drama behind and get back to playing the game that made them legendary— first on the list, an owner who loves the game and doesn’t use the team as a personal piggy bank. Otherwise, they risk losing their fan base, and what’s baseball without someone to root, root, root for the home team.
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