I glanced at the standing this morning and noticed something interesting. The Dodgers are only two games under .500. Impressive, I thought.
The Dodgers are one of the crown jewels of Major League Baseball. Along with the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, and Cardinals, the Dodgers are baseball royalty. This is a team that has won six World Series, won 16 Pennants, and made 24 postseason appearances. This is a successful team built on tradition, fans, loyalty, and money. In a normal year, the Dodgers regularly draw 3 million fans. They are a constant competitor. Yet, when I looked at the standings this morning and saw they were two games under .500, I thought that was impressive.
It’s a sad statement about the team’s current situation, and things aren’t looking any brighter in the near future. With Frank McCourt’s death grip on the team, including a likely rejection of a $1.2 billion offer to buy the team, the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking at perhaps years of lowered expectations. A .500 season may bring the fans back. A .500 season may soon be considered good for this proud franchise. Fourth place in a division just recently coming into its own may soon be the standard. And if this is true, it’s a sad time for baseball.
Teams like the Dodgers and the Yankees draw the ire of fans across the country because of their success. They spend money, they’ve been around, and they win. Fans of teams that have not experienced any of those three things curse the names of the Dodgers and the Yankees. But now, any negative comments about the Dodgers just feels wrong. It feels like kicking a person when he’s down. It feels like making fun of the handicapped.
The Dodgers are broken but remain an important piece of baseball. Nostalgia aside, Los Angeles represents one of the biggest markets in the country. If they can’t bring fans back to Chavez Ravine, what does this say about other, less successful teams? What does this say about the future of the sport? There is something inherently wrong with the system that allows an owner, who essentially only owns a franchise and must operate under the franchiser’s rules, to destroy a team. Especially a team like the Dodgers.
The Mets have their struggles and are often compared to the Dodgers, but there really is no comparison. The Mets have history, but nothing like the Dodgers. The Mets are important to baseball strictly from a financial standpoint. The Dodgers are important for so many more reasons.
So as I peruse the standings in the seasons to come, I can only hope my reaction to a sub-.500 record for the Dodgers will no longer be one of admiration or positive surprise. To overcome what they have endured this season and reach .500 would be great, but only for a season. Sustained futility for the Dodgers will not only hurt the team, but the game itself.