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Dodgers: Eyeing a title

Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

This set the stage for the Dodgers to be purchased in 2012 by their current owners, Guggenheim Baseball Management. The group paid a record $2.15 billion for the franchise. In Guggenheim's first year in charge, the Dodgers made a statement by taking on more than $260 million in salary obligations to acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the Red Sox.

The Dodgers transformed into big spenders under Guggenheim. They have spent money to ensure Clayton Kershaw would remain with them. They have spent money on free agents such as Zack Greinke. They spent money to restock a farm system that was neglected in the final years of the McCourt ownership. They spent money to assemble an All-Star front office. And they spent money to retain their own free agents, spending close to $200 million last winter to bring back closer Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill.

They spent because they had or knew they would soon have an influx of cash from the 25-year, $8.35-billion deal they signed with Time Warner Cable in 2013. And their investment on the field has been rewarded with five consecutive NL West championships. The World Series felt within reach.

The downside of this is that the new channel, SportsNet LA, remains unavailable to the majority of Angelenos. Even after Time Warner Cable was acquired by Charter Communications, the channel has reached fewer than half of local households.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department settled its lawsuit with AT&T, resolving claims that a DirecTV executive illegally colluded with other cable television companies to block the channel's rollout in 2014. As part of the agreement, however, the government didn't force AT&T to start carrying SportsLA.

If you have a 1-year-old child, it's very possible he or she could be a college graduate by the time the Dodgers could be watched throughout the market again.

On one hand, this is Los Angeles, and, if we're going to be honest, the majority of sports fans here don't focus on baseball until October.

On the other, baseball doesn't require focus. Think back to last year, when Vin Scully was retiring and fans shared their memories of him. What was striking was the number of people who recalled doing something else while listening to the Hall of Fame broadcaster, like, say, fixing cars with their fathers. Baseball can be the soundtrack to people's lives, the familiarity of the broadcaster's voice and the sounds of the game offering comfort and a sense of home.

A new generation of viewers should be forming that kind of relationship with the Dodgers' current play-by-play man Joe Davis, who is one of the most promising broadcasting talents in the country. They should also be following the development of such players as Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, just as the generation of fans before them grew up as they watched Clayton Kershaw and Ethier go from being prospects to veterans.

The situation now is one in which fans are first introduced to the likes of Seager and Bellinger in October, when games are shown on Fox, FS1, TBS, ESPN and MLB Network. Listening to the defeaning ovations Ethier received over the last two months, it was natural to wonder if fans would ever be able to make similar connections with Seager and Bellinger.

Turning a product into a luxury television item has consequences over time. Ask boxing, which has become a niche sport.

Still, it's undeniable the Dodgers energized Los Angeles similar to how the Kobe-and-Shaq Lakers once did. The city came together. Players became celebrities.

And, really, whether this television deal was worth it will depend on how often the Dodgers can replicate their World Series run. Do this every other year, maybe deliver an actual championship here and there, and, yes, the memories they create will outweigh the memories that were lost. But they have to be mindful of how they don't have the luxury of becoming lovable losers. If they lose, no one will ever see them.

(c)2017 Los Angeles Times

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