Dodgers: Eyeing a title

Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES--However anticlimatic and painful the ending, this was a glorious month of baseball in Los Angeles. The Dodgers overwhelmed their opponents in the first two rounds of the postseason to reach their first World Series in 29 years. A new generation of October heroes emerged, from All-Stars such as Justin Turner to role players such as Enrique Hernandez.

Now that it's over and the Astros have returned to Houston with the World Series trophy, the question has to be asked: Was this worth it? More specifically, was the last month worth the Dodgers' four-years-and-counting television blackout?

It's worth contemplating, largely because the World Series run wouldn't have happened without the controversial $8.35-billion television contract that has made regular-season games invisible to the majority of the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

If that deal with Time Warner Cable -- now Charter -- was a deal with the devil, the devil at least held up his end of the bargain this October. For the first time since who-knows-when, this was a baseball town again, courtesy of the Charter billions.

But there are no indications Dodgers-owned SportsNet LA will gain wider distribution any time soon. The agreement with Charter will be in place for 21 more seasons.

So, again, was this worth it?

For some perspective, it's important to revisit the past, to remember what the Dodgers were like under the previous owner, Frank McCourt. These were simpler times when ambitions were modest. The Dodgers had a below-market broadcasting deal with Fox, the company that sold McCourt the franchise. Considering the size of their market, the Dodgers were relatively thrifty when shopping for players.

The McCourt Era wasn't entirely awful. In their eight seasons under McCourt, the Dodgers reached the playoffs four times. Anyone in a market with a basic cable package could watch all 162 of their regular-season games. General manager Ned Colletti compensated for the team's financial limitations by offering free agents shorter contracts with higher average annual values. The team's inability to shop on the high-end of the free-agent market resulted on a focus on homegrown talent, which produced Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, Jonathan Broxton and James Loney.

At the same time, the Dodgers never looked like a World Series team, namely because they could never afford the pitching to get them there. Their best chance, in 2008, was because of a borderline miracle: Manny Ramirez's relationship with the Boston Red Sox deteriorated to the point where the Dodgers were able to acquire the dreadlocked star at a minimal cost.

Of course, nothing in life is free. McCourt bowed to public demand and re-signed Ramirez, who turned out to be on performance-enhancing drugs. The deferred payments that were a part of Ramirez's new contract helped sink the Dodgers into bankruptcy. By this point, Los Angeles viewed McCourt as a villain, as his divorce proceedings revealed he and his wife had drained the franchise of virtually every revenue stream to spend on their lavish lifestyle.


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