I have to say I just can’t fucking believe it. This may be the absolute darkest day in my life as a Dodger fan. Stop being so damn glum, Jerz. I know. I’m damn glum right now, and things may well improve. But I can’t imagine it. This just kills me.
I started a Dodger fan. I was a kid in LA, and the first few games I ever attended were at Dodger Stadium. Now Frank owns that place. I saw a greatly pitched game when I was about to turn 10 there. I saw George Bell scream for a timeout in left field while Gold Glover Mark Grace booted a ball in the bottom of the 13th for a Dodger win as Daryll Strawberry (whom I was there to see) sat out most likely due to a coke-induced hangover. I took The Boy to Dodger Stadium last season for the first time in my adult life. We saw his favorite guy (Shawn Green) hit one out after making a diving catch to end an inning. We heard the music as Shawn rounded the bases. We saw Darren Dreifort (just before his career? ended) give up a few runs in the ninth only to have Eric Gagne save the day. I’ve seen a few more games there. They were all positive experineces.
I saw one game in Anaheim. I became an Angel fan. Who knows why. I think I do. Wally Joyner. I was a kid, and he took the Southland by storm. He was a shoe-in for Rookie of the Year until he fizzled out n the second half. Some clown named Canseco won it. But the Angels went to the postseason They looked strong. But the Red Sox had magic. And Wally got an infection from a bug bite. At least, that’s how I remember it. And in 1986 we all know how it ended. If you forget, I’ll remind you. Bill Buckner. Sorry, Bill. A friend of mine’s mom had a ball signed by you. She loved you. But baseball apparently doesn’t like you since 1986.
In early 1988 I moved from LA to Elko, Nevada. It was cool , though. Because we had TV in Elko. And I saw the Eck give up the dong to Kirk Gibson. I even watched it with my neighbor, who was an avid A’s fan. I was screaming. And at that moment, I became a Dodger fan once again. Who else can define their baseball life as such? I know of no one. All my friends now are either really bad at baseball fandom or Giants fans. Sucks for them.
Several years of business/indifference/self-importance ensued. I paid a bit of attention to baseball, but didn’t care nearly enough for my style. Then 2003 happened. The Dodgers made a legitimate run at the NL West title. hey had the best pitching in the league, but sucked at the plate. For too long, that was Dodger Baseballâ„¢. All pitching, no hitting. But after that year, Fox finally figured out a way to rid themselves of the team. They found a retread from Boston who wanted to buy it. Lucky for the world, Bud Selig, Commisioner Incompetente approved the deal. Enter the McCourt Family.
One of their early moves was to fire Dan Evans, Dodger General Manager. Dan was tough for me. I thought he was a weak GM, mostly because I listened to Jim Rome a lot. Rome told a story about how asshole Jim Bowden wouldn’t negotiate with Evans until Tommy Lasorda was in the room. I lost respect with Evans from that story. I should have lost respect for Bowden, but we all make mistakes. I admit mine. I was a bit trn between whether to fire Evans or keep him. Then I saw the new hire.
Paul DePodesta was to take his place. Who? Immediately, my reaction was to question this move. Remember, I had been revived as a Dodger lover. But what’s with the new guy? The most I could find out about him was that he worked in Oakland under Billy Beane, the guy who did more with less money than anyone out there. I had heard of the book, Moneyball, so I decided to read it. Paul DePodesta was featured prominently. He was, at least as I read it, the brains behind the operation. Upon finishing the book, he became my guy right away. I was all over that guy. With this guy at the Dodger helm, what could possibly go wrong?
That year was wonderful. The Dodgers won the division. But just over halfway through, DePodesta traded away a few fan favorites for the future. Nevermind the main guy (Paul LoDuca) was consistently criticized in LA for being slow in the second half. And the Moneyball philosophy was to maximize trade value by dealing guys at their peak, not in a valley. DePo did that. And he got a potential ace pitcher in return. A steal, if you ask me. And the Dodgers still went on to win the divison.
But in the offseason some things changed. The Dodgers’ best player from 2004, Adrian Beltre, would become a free agent. He had a career year in 2004. He hit 48 home runs and led the National League. Until that point, he had been a below-average performer, never mind that he was still very young. He had realized his potential. Dodger fans were fired up on him. But not DePodesta. He offered him what seemed like a pittance, and Beltre turned it down and accepted a contract with the Seattle Mariners. All hell broke loose in LA. How can this guy let Beltre go? He was a major reason for the Dodgers division title. Well, the answer to that lay in the future. Beltre regressed to his previous performance and became a below-average third baseman at a very high salary. But no one in LA cared. DePo had let a hometown boy go.
The Dodgers went on to finish in fourth place in 2005, despite moves DePo made. Moves like acquiring a first baseman who could hit the ball hard and take walks. He didn’t get a lot of playing time, mostly due to the Dodger field manager, Jim Tracy. There was also the move to acquire Jeff Kent, future hall of famer at second base. But he came at the expense of Alex Cora, fan favorite. Never mind Kent was the best player on the Dodgers and maybe the best player in the division. Alex Cora had heart! There was also JD Drew. Before a fastball hit him on the wrist, breaking a bone, he was on pace to be better than Kent. But JD is injury-prone, so we should have seen that coming. Right. Then there’s that first baseman I was talking about. You’ve heard of him. He hit six homeruns in three games one weekend, but got crap for playing time after that, so the sports shows talked him down. His name is Hee-Seop Choi. My daughter knew him and one other player on the team. Milton Bradley.
We loved Milton here. Then he and Kent got into a fight. Jim Tracy, the same manager I mentioned above, failed to contain it, and Milton melted down. Milton was then found to be hurt, so we missed him in San Fran when we went. We had seats where we might have been able to speak to him, and from everything I’ve heard about him, The Girl would have had a great time with his generosity. But he had to go. He may not be back. We’re pissed.
Overall, more than 1,000 games were lost to Dodger players due to injury. That’s a shitload. A serious shitload. After the season, Jim Tracy, the same manager who wouldn’t do what Paul DePodesta, his boss, wanted, was fired. Rightfully so. He refused, it seemed (I say it seemed because it was so damn obvious but I am not privvy to internal conversation), to implement the plan of DePo. That means he has to either change or go. He had all year to change – he didn’t. He had to go. Hence, the firing of Jim Tracy.
The new managerial search began. We were led to believe that DePo was on his way, and many Dodger fans were excited for the weekend to hear if an announcement had been made. Little did we know that DePo himself was the announcement. He’s gone. As is, it seems, his philosophy. That sucks. Now we not only don’t have a manager, we don’t have a GM, whose job it is to hire a manager.
Never mind that DePo had only 21 months, including one offseason to make moves to improve the team. When you hire a GM you do it because you think he might know how to win. Especially if you give him a five year contract. But giving him a year and a half to make his moves is absolutely ridiculous. Did I tell you I’m pissed? I’m pissed. What I see happening is a new GM is hired and his job, as he knows, is dependent on immediate success, so he makes moves that jeopardize the future of the team. The result? Improvement over 2005, but no World Seres title. How can one not improve over 2005? They lost over 1,000 games to injury. That’s like six full-time players. Of course the team will improve. They just dealt with an incredible string of bad luck.
The result, for me, is to be pissed. I will pay attention to the moves this offseason. Maybe Frank McCourt will get lucky and hire somebody good. Probably not. But if he does, I will pay attention. I most likely will not pay to see the Dodgers this coming season, whether in San Fran or LA. That certainly won’t matter to the team, but I’ll feel better. And if they somehow win the division, I’ll root for them. But moves like this from an owner can only make a fan wish for their departure. I can’t wait. I will celebrate the day Frank heads back to Boston, because he sure as shit seems like an idiot.UPDATE
I guess I’ll add a little bit here. For anyone stumbling upon this, I should point you to a far better place for information. The articles at Dodger Thoughts are ridiculously good. That man should be writing about the Dodgers for a lot of money.