Los Angeles Dodgers: Why the Golden Era at Chavez Ravine Is Over
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On Thursday afternoon, legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully spoke for the first time about the current Dodgers situation. For myself, a lifelong Dodger Blue bleeder, his "I'm not going to make myself the story" type of answers about his feelings about current/former owner Frank McCourt seemed perfectly fitting.
However for many fans, the fact that Scully didn't put the McCourts on blast from here to the Hollywood hills chapped them and made them question his loyalty. Really? We are questioning Scully's loyalty to the franchise? That is a sure sign that the Golden Era of Dodger Blue is Over.
Long before the saga and troubles that are the McCourts, and long before the team set its current pace to shatter the low point in Dodgers history, the franchise has been trending downward. Some would say the FOX era started the nosedive, and some argue that when Scully stepped away from the radio mic it hurt the team's aura, when in reality it was a combination of those and many more.
The franchise peaked most recently in 1988, when the offensively challenged Boys in Blue jumped on the back of a "Bulldog" to their most recent World Series title over the heavily favored Oakland A's. It was a season which saw ace Orel Hershiser set the record for consecutive scoreless innings and free-agent signing Kirk Gibson win the NL MVP before hitting the most memorable home run in World Series history.
When will the Dodgers stop trending downward?
However, the magic disappeared in '89 and for the rest of the O'Malley era, the team would not win another playoff game despite setting another major league record: five consecutive Rookies of the Year. Once FOX moved in, the team suffered even more as TV people personnel making baseball decisions led to the Lasorda-groomed manager-in-waiting Mike Scioscia to be passed over, popular catcher Mike Piazza to be traded and the diehard Dodger fan experience to descend.
The Dodgers missed rock bottom with FOX as owners thanks to the legendary "walk-year" season of Adrian Beltre (deemed by Sports Illustrated to be one of the best "walk years" ever) and Cy Young-level years of closer Eric Gagne. Thankfully, FOX "sold" the franchise to their current "owner(s)" who proceeded to throw wool over the fanbase's eyes.
For every one step forward, there were multiple steps in the wrong direction.
The McCourts' placed legit baseball people into their proper places, causing some of us forgetting that they bought the storied franchise with less money down than it costs for a Dodger Dog. The upgraded interior of Dodger Stadium is great, though they forgot to finish the refurbishing, address the traffic in and out of the stadium and the ever-present thug atmosphere at the ballpark.
We brought up a great crop of young players, but forgot to continue to develop them, sign them or even find a new group while forcing them to learn how to lead without the help of an established veteran.
McCourt did authorize some big contracts, except he and GM Ned Colleti forgot to check their medical reports (Jason Schmidt), calorie count (Andruw Jones), age (Juan Uribe) or where they would fit on the team (Juan Pierre) before signing them.
Some of that can be attributed to Colleti, a man who seems as overmatched as all the managers he has hired including Grady Little (too nice, no leadership), Joe Torre (disinterested, bandwagon rider) and current bench coach Don Mattingly, whose first impression to the Dodger fanbase was getting closer Jonathan Broxton pulled in a save situation against the rival Giants because he visited the mound twice in the same visit (a rule that he didn't even seem to know).
But hey, they made the playoffs three times (albeit in an epically weak division), which sounds great except for the fact that it caused an average team to think too highly of itself and overlook its flaws leading to their current state of bottom-dwelling baseball.
The franchise is falling and even with the potential sale, the Dodgers cannot get up from the bottom in their current state. The task at hand is overwhelming to think about when you consider what changes and decisions need to be made.
From the upcoming free agency of stars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, what to do with the half-remodeled Dodger Stadium, the much-needed change of the fan experience and culture, to possibly the most important decision in franchise history: who replaces Vin Scully?
No matter who gets their hands on the Dodgers next, they will need to give the franchise and their fans an intervention. It will be a long road back in recovery with many potential relapses on the path. But the future can be bright. This is one of the most storied franchises in baseball that, until now, regularly drew three million fans a year and competed for the playoffs more often than now.
Dodger fans, the message is this: Rock bottom is coming and it's not going to be pretty and probably going to be that way for a while. Let's just hope that Charlie Steiner isn't calling Dodger games when we do see the light.
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