The Los Angeles Dodgers, despite the recent moves made by the Anaheim Angels, have always been “LA’s team." They are the Lakers of Los Angeles baseball—a truly historic franchise with a proud and decorated past.
This past season was a low-point in the history of the franchise, one they would happily forget. Between the unfortunate opening-day incident, the lack of consistency on the diamond and the ownership meltdown, quite a bit went wrong while only a couple things went right (Kershaw and Kemp, of course).
The team now faces a real challenge in the months (and unfortunately, years) ahead. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim just took a big step forward in their talent, future and brand with the signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. These are two moves that back the in-flux Dodgers into the corner.
All is not lost, however. The Dodgers are still the Dodgers, and they can still win back their city.
Here are seven creative ways to get the ball rolling.
The Dodgers don’t have as much control over this as they would like, but the reality is that until a new owner takes the reins, not much can get done.
Ownership has been such a sour subject in Los Angeles for over a decade that the fans quite frankly (speaking as a Los Angeles native) cannot take it anymore. As things spiraled out of control this season, fans showed their disinterest with ownership more than with the team by simply not showing up.
The organization needs to be embodied and represented by someone from Los Angeles that fans of all ages and orientations can relate to.
I wrote last week about why Magic Johnson should be the owner, and I stand by it today.
The sooner the ownership is installed, the sooner moves can be made. Dodger fans are as anxious as Dodger players are.
This can be done with or without an owner, simply because the new owner would, in no way, object to these moves being made.
Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the National League, if not all of baseball.
Andre Ethier, despite his inconsistencies and injuries this past season, is an all-star and a “face of the franchise” kind of guy, along with his partner-in-crime in the outfield, Matt Kemp.
Giving Kershaw and Ethier contract extensions would ensure a solid core for many years to come. It would show the fans a willingness to spend money where it needs to be spent.
Most importantly, it is a show of faith to the players themselves, something that will give them confidence and hope for the future.
Dodgers fans remember the glory days of yesteryear, when No. 99 was sprinkling the bleachers with home run balls and every inch of the stadium was full. “Mannywood” glistened in the sun, and “Bleacher Beach” was a mirage in the desert that was the upper deck.
As recently as 2009, the Dodgers (thanks, of course, to Manny Ramirez) were selling out game after game and, in turn, were winning them.
Ownership and management had the flexibility of promotions and “gimmicks” thanks to the star power that came with Manny, and they did so successfully.
Since his untimely departure, attendance and revenue have both gone down. Not showing a willingness to change, they have reverted to their old ways, churning out the same old-school promotions that, to be frank, are not getting the job done.
Creativity sells in the world we live in. The Dodgers need to come down off their high horse, admit things are not working and start to turn things around.
They have nothing else to lose.
The Dodgers have always been applauded and looked up to as one of the marquee franchises when it came to drafting well and milking their farm system. The beauty of baseball, to true and pure fans, is the ability a franchise has to essentially “craft” their own talent. The Dodgers have, time and time again, done just that.
I wrote this past summer about the Dodgers’ ten best prospects and their futures with the club. Four of the ten guys on that list saw time in the show last season, and I expect much more of them on the big stage this coming season.
The rest of the list, particularly the starting pitchers, have all shown raw potential, and given their youth, they all share an immense upside. A great way to recapture the attention of fans is to give them something new.
Dodger fans are both smart and dedicated; they will not sit back and be spoon-fed the same underachieving mediocrity from veterans of old. Fresh faces, young talent and hope are what will bring in fans.
Before proceeding with this explanation, I will admit that it is more of a personal pet-peeve than anything. I, as do most fans I’m sure, get enraged at the management of the Dodgers during losing seasons.
As the Dodgers fell behind in the divisional standings by over 10 games this past season, little changed in the approach taken by manager Don Mattingly.
Why not try that unconventional double-steal in the fifth? Why not hit and run in the second? In the Dodgers' situation this past season, they genuinely had nothing to lose as they kept losing.
The NL West has shown signs of drastic improvement over the last several seasons, and being a realist means excepting the fact that the Dodgers most likely will not contend for a pennant this upcoming season. So, Don, why not play aggressive baseball (you know, like Mike Scioscia does down there in Anaheim).
If I have to see a losing ballclub, I want to see a fun losing ballclub that is not afraid to take chances and make risks.
This one runs parallel to “display their youth."
The Dodgers put five guys on the mound last year that were highly capable of winning 10 to 15 games. Unfortunately, they did not quite get it done. This coming season, nothing will change. All five guys in the rotation have potential to be double-digit winners and then some.
If they do not get it done in the spring or the beginning of the summer, the Dodgers need to cut their losses and move forward. Call up your young guns, mix up the rotation and try something new.
It would be disrespectful to the guys putting in productive work at the big-league level to sit back and do nothing as starters' ERAs move north of 4.00 and batting averages dip below .250. Fans will not show up, and things will not change.
If the Dodgers want the spotlight back on them, they need to continuously keep things fresh, current and, in doing so, exciting.
This, more than anything, speaks for itself.
The Dodgers finished 2011 on a miniature run (led, of course, by my NL MVP Matt Kemp), finishing the season above .500. They played hard down the stretch, made a little noise and garnered plenty of respect.
This upcoming season has untapped potential for the Dodgers as it does for every team come Spring Training (just ask members of the Tampa Bay Rays). With the reigning NL Cy Young and NL MVP (yes, I said it again) the Dodgers have the ability to make noise in one way or another.
Winning games is all it takes to remind fans who they truly love and why the love is truly there.
I, as a Dodger fan, do not expect greatness, but I expect good. Lots of it. Good things can come from wins, particularly the re-emergence of Dodger fans throughout the stadium.