Sunday, August 26, 2012

Baseball's Future Rides on the Dodgers

Remember the infield, built from within the organization, that seemed to last forever?  It was Garvey at first, Lopes at Second, Russell at Short, Cey at Third and Yeager doing the catching.  What are they thinking about the LA Dodger legacy, now?

Is this how they envisioned baseball would become 30 years later?

After the Los Angeles Dodgers traded with the Boston Red Sox to take on more than one quarter of a billion dollars in salary of Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzales and Josh Beckett, there can be no doubt that they are trying to be the marquee team of Major League Baseball with the New York Yankees.

The sentiment is that the Dodgers want to re-build their brand by buying it.  To say they are risking a lot doesn't even begin to describe the situation.  They and many other teams might be pricing themselves out of the market.

Magic Johnson and his co-owners are looking at this trade and the other high-profile moves they have made as investments.  They have increased their payroll to whopping numbers (120 million+ for this season), including signing deals with Andre Ethier for 85 million (5 years) and a Cuban prospect for 42 million (7 years) over the last couple of months.  See here for complete list of Dodger salaries.

With the way their lineup looks, the Dodgers should run away with the title this year.  They have 2011 NL MVP runner-up, Matt Kemp, and reigning Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw, to add punch and punch-outs.  But, there are no guarantees and it's possible over the next few seasons, they won't win any titles.

Just ask the Texas Rangers.

But, whether the Dodgers win or don't win may not be as important as how they are perceived.  What matters most in the eyes of Major League Baseball executives is what will be the fan reaction at the ballpark and in the local/national Tv ratings.

The hopes of Major League Baseball could be riding on the fans of the Dodgers.  In terms of performance, the fans are probably more important than the players.

The spending by the Dodgers appears ridiculous on the surface.  Some, though, would argue, it is savvy business in re-branding the team.  The question is whether baseball is worth this price of re-branding.  Who are the target demographics worthy of this kind of re-branding, because for the money being spent, it should be everyone in the U.S.

The base of baseball fans is older, the entertainment options for younger generations is limitless.  Why are people going to invest 162 days in the regular season of their valued time watching on Tv for four hour games sometimes or at the ballpark where they might be baking in heat?

Something has to give between baseball's excessive spending, huge ballparks to seat more than 40,000 (some up to 50,000-Dodger stadium is one) and long games and long schedules.  At some point soon, owners may see that their team is no longer worth as much as they thought.

The game is a wonderful pasttime.  It still remains a dramatic affair to watch that is different than others;it is not played on a rectangular terrain and is played without a countdown clock.

Hopefully, the pro game is not completely ruined for future generations to see.  But, at the rate it continues, baseball may have to face an ugly truth 5-10 years from now.

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