What a Difference A Week Can Make
Last weekend I wrote a rather harsh critique of the Dodgers in response to their worst start of a season since 1958. Then, seemingly out of the Dodger blue (pun intended) they’ve won six out of their last seven games. The streak reaffirms an age-old baseball cliché, “It’s a long season.” I just hope the Dodgers avoid another age-old cliché, “What goes up, comes down.”
This week I received some reader emails suggesting the possibility that the sudden Dodger resurgence (from 9 games out of first to 3 ½) might have had something to do with my column. I emailed back to ask what they were smoking. (And could I have some.)
Back on earth, Judy, an astute reader of mine, pointed out I neglected to comment on the Dodger-Time Warner $8.3 billion 25-year TV deal. The contract nets the team a mere $333 million annually and yet most Southern California viewers don’t even get the games with their cable system. (Me included!)
In a year already marred by a rash of injuries, poor play and seemingly always swinging for the fences rather than advancing the runner, the Dodgers are five games under .500. And yet, there are positive signs, especially since the return of power-hitting third-baseman, Justin Turner whose mere presence in the lineup has made a change. These include rookie pitcher Walker Buehler, whom I mentioned last week, catcher Yasmani Grandal and Matt Kemp, to name but a few.
Kemp spent nine seasons with the Dodgers (2006-2014) including, in 2011, when he hit 39 home runs and drove in 126. In 2015, Kemp was traded to the Padres for, ironically, Grandal, among others. Kemp also played for Atlanta before returning to L.A. this year.
Despite his past heroics here, Kemp was a long-shot to even make the team. Cut to, he’s currently leading the team with a .327 batting average and is tied for second with Cody Bellinger in RBIs with 22. Grandal, meanwhile, leads in home runs with 8 and RBIs with 28.
As for the Dodger TV deal, among other sins, it prevented Hall of Fame broadcaster Vince Scully’s final season to be seen by his millions of loyal fans. It still infuriates me. And, as long as I’m griping, going back years, another development that made no sense was how Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers from Fox with no down payment. (Other than a Boston parking which Fox ultimately foreclosed on.)
Even more mystifying is how, when McCourt sold out to current Dodger ownership for a record $2 billion, he managed to finagle a 50% interest in the land surrounding Dodger Stadium and 50% of all parking revenue. Forever!
McCourt essentially fleeced the Dodgers to support his and his wife Jamie’s many homes and lavish lifestyle. (After their ugly divorce I recall thinking the two deserved each other.)
Thankfully, better times were to come. Last season marked the Dodgers fifth straight Division title and their first trip to the World Series in 29 years. So who could have predicted such a dismal start this year? Not me.
In fact, two weeks ago, Lance, my friend since high school (which, trust me, goes back a few years) commented ruefully that he couldn’t remember starting to lose hope for a Dodger season this early and I agreed. But could this past week be a turning point in a return to the Fall Classic? (Or did my readers actually send me some of what they were smoking?)
With 70% of the season left, it’s ludicrous to speculate. (Though that never stopped me before.) One thing’s for sure, only with a healthy Clayton Kershaw is a return even possible. Fortunately, however, the Western Division is very weak.
Contrary to some readers’ opinions, I took no pleasure in bashing the Dodgers. Those who haven’t lived in Southern California for decades can’t imagine it, but the Dodger arrival here in ’58 put L.A. on the big city map. Previously, Los Angeles hadn’t been in the discussion of major cities like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago. So my affection for the Dodgers runs deep.
However, even before the start of this season, it was tested when the Dodger front office made it clear they couldn’t afford a payroll that put them into the luxury tax. Really? What about the $333 million TV dough?
In sum, if Kershaw, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and others rebound, and if the patchwork starting and relief pitching rotations get solid, (that’s a lot of “ifs”) only then would a return to the Series be possible. As Jim Carrey said in Dumb and Dumber, “So, what you’re telling me is I still have a chance?” I can only say, my fingers are crossed. (Which would also explain the typos.)
Jack also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. He can be reached at Jackdailypress@aol.com.