Monday, May 17, 2010

At-Game Recap: Bombed By The Brewers (May 5)

It's getting to the point that if I don't post these pictures now, they will likely become forgotten and possibly irrelevant, so I'm sneaking this in at least before the Dodgers start their next homestand. Back on May 5, the Dodgers dropped the second game at home to the Brewers, ending the Dodgers' streak of home series victories and dropping LA to a season-low five games below .500.

Things looked bleak. And even though it was a largely pleasant night at the Stadium for Mr. and Mrs. Sax (partially because we left after seeing the Dodgers piss away a key scoring opportunity, right before a five-run eighth inning by the Brewers put the game out of reach), there were enough signs around the stadium to illustrate the sad state of the team.

We hadn't gotten there all that early but the traffic to the game made the journey effortless. Which was probably because there wasn't much traffic at all; the 35,659 in attendance (63.7% full) marks Dodger Stadium's season low mark, even now. And remember, that attendance number marks tickets sold, not turnstile attendees, which had to be half that number. The place was, relative to what I've experienced the past couple of years, kind of a tomb.

Ominous sign number one came upon walking down the field level concourse, when even the staff of Canter's Deli decided to take the night off:

Field-level concession stands: closed. And Canter's wasn't the only one that wasn't open for business. I felt like I was in the Oakland Coliseum. What the heck was going on here?

This left Mr. and Mrs. Sax scurrying for other food options, so we decided to go for one of our favorite food items from last season: the Louisiana Hot Sausage. Ominous sign #2: This item is now gone from the menu, replaced by a Picante Dog which is not nearly as satisfying--basically a hot dog doused in tabasco sauce. Booooo. Not as good.

Dodger Stadium: Still the only MLB stadium I know which stops all concessions during the national anthem. What a cool tradition: it's like Spain's daily siesta, but it's patriotic.

The game started ominously enough as well, with Chad Billingsley giving up four runs in the first, only to see the Dodgers come back with two in the bottom of the first, followed by four scoreless frames of ball. (It was an ominous sign as well to see a DiamondVision trailer of Gibson's home run and the words "against impossible odds..."--after the first inning--I mean, come on, we've got eight innings to play for pete's sake!)

The Dodgers inched back to 4-3 in the sixth off an improbable Garret Anderson RBI single, but that was as close as they got in that game, squandering a leadoff single in the bottom of the seventh by Russell Martin--who advanced to second on a wild pitch with none out--but Ks from Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, an IBB to James Loney, and a Casey Blake infield out ended all hope. And then, as I mentioned earlier, we left, keeping us from seeing the ensuing slaughter.

Bills on the mound. No one in the stands.

Fat Brewer at the plate, eclipsing views of empty stands.

They ran the obligatory blooper reel, except that instead of MLB bloopers, it was a series of home videos. I'm not kidding you. Guys falling on treadmills, stupid Bob Saget-shit like that. Yet another ominous sign.

Somewhere in between innings, they celebrated Cinco De Mayo by having brilliantly colored Mexican dancers come down the field level aisles and do a dance, which was really well-received. I thought this was a nice touch, with the exception being watching some of these young children being kept up way past their bedtime, waiting to dance at the edge of the field level concourse as people walked by with fists full of $12 beers. You can see some of these kids in the first and third shots:

I should also add, before I start ranting, that I had a nice conversation with Dodgers VP of Public Relations Josh Rawitch, who was very kind to stop by and chat for a half-inning. I know he's PR, and I know he's paid to be positive. But Rawitch is one of those guys who loves what he does so much, that even when the team is blowing opportunities before our eyes, he's still got an optimistic outlook that is a little infectious. But who knows--with our seven-game win streak in hand, maybe he was right to be so positive all along.

Anyway, back to the ominous signs. The last ominous sign, sadly enough, was a pretty brutal fight on field level right behind home plate that caught the attention of most of the field level, loge level, and even the Dodger players. I've seen fights before at the Stadium, but usually not in the expensive $125+ seats. And this time, it seemed like it took an awful lot of time for security to get there and restore order.

Now, maybe this was Cinco De Mayo-related, and people had been drinking all day prior to the game in celebration. Maybe the small attendance levels meant more tickets were available for purchase, driving re-sale rates to cut-rate prices (I mean, if I was spending $125 for a ticket to a game, I wouldn't want to get thrown out and miss some of it). Maybe the Dodger security isn't taser-happy like other stadiums' staffs.

But this was the second game of the year in which an incident broke out near my field level seats, and there seems to be a trend here. I mean, the Dodgers still seem to have ushers at the backs of aisles, and I know they are trained to intervene and watch for unruly behavior and cut it off before it happens. Many SoSG readers have commented that there seems like fewer ushers around this year; I can't confirm or deny if this is the case.

But I can confirm that the tradition of the usher walking down the aisle to the bottom during the inning breaks, in order to look upward at the crowd and see what's going on, does not happen anymore. Maybe because there are fewer ushers. Maybe because that line that used to be painted on the ground of the field level, making sure standing room only people wouldn't congregate directly behind the last row of seats, is now gone and not enforced. And maybe it's correlated with what appears to be more and more people sneaking down into seats without consequence (which I don't necessarily mind, so long as they vacate the seats if the proper owners arrive, and they don't start fights and act irresponsibly while they're squatting).

All I know is, I've been at two games this year and both times it has gotten a little dangerous, and I sure as hell ain't causing the riot. There was a middle-aged woman seated next to us who told us that she had stopped taking her teenage daughter to games because it was too dangerous.

I have kids. I'd like to take them to Dodger Stadium. And I hope I can do so without fearing for our lives.

There were a lot of ominous signs around Dodger Stadium that Wednesday evening, and I hope the Dodgers' next homestand proves to have more winning and more peace in the crowd to complement the increase in bobblehead distribution rate. Let's be safe and sane, Dodger fans.

But at least Jenna Wolter probably had a good time, I suppose.


Betsy said...

gone to all but 3 home games and the usher near our row is always the first to get up and hawkeye the stands. I think he's more the exception than the rule though. No one gets past his wiley eyes, but then again it seems he's really only watching for people to sit in the boxclub seats - plenty of drunks in our area who are annoying, but thankfully no fights have broken out.

Steve Sax said...

@Betsy: what aisle, if I might ask?

Josh S. said...

If only the people that start the nonsense at DS read your blog. I don't think that's the case.

Yeah, I'm a little wary about taking my nine-month old son to a game, but we're sitting in the baseline section (meaning the ushers will give a crap about us) and close to an exit, making it easy to head for the hills if need be. I just don't like thinking I'm going to need to head for the hills.

Plus, it's ESB Night, so hopefully the stormtroopers will maintain order. (Just don't trust them to hit their targets if asked to start shooting.)

Betsy said...

We sit in Aisle B section 47

Steve Sax said...

Thanks Betsy. Third base side rocks...

So for my two games this year, I've been on the first base side once and the third base side once, both times lucky enough to be field level.

Steve Sax said...

I wonder if Jenna Wolter was the one getting in the fight.

Josh S. said...

Canter's being closed for you? Maybe not that big a deal.

Canter's being closed for Gary Canter? MAJOR problem.

(I found the link at VSIMH, just for proper credit.)

Kyle Baker said...

Thanks for bringing this up. I haven't wanted to be a downer, but as a fairly frequent attender of games at DS (~22 to 25 games/year), and as a general cynically observant person, I've noted a disturbing shift in services at the Yard this year. I'm not just trying to makie it fit the McCourt-as-cheapskate narrative, because I don't fully believe that to be true. Nonetheless, it's obvious that progress in renovating or otherwise upgrading the stadium and its services has taken a step back, or at least has slowed to a crawl.

I don't want to get into a stadium by stadium comparison because it inevitably gets emotional, and certainly we all can agree on the beauty and history that DS has in our hearts and minds. But strictly operationally speaking, DS scrapes the bottom of the barrel.

I'm lucky enough to go to several different ballparks per year, many of them newer, and the difference in services and amenities is staggering. I just returned from Petco Park, and I made a point to think about how it compares to DS while I was there over the weekend. Um, there's no comparison.

More than enough ushers are there to guide you to your seats, to head off any potential unruliness, and to stop foot traffic until between batters so that there isn't a constant flow of people walking up and down the aisles blocking one's view. What a concept!

Food options are plentiful, a combination of traditional stadium fare and local restaurant favorites (e.g., Oggi's Pizza). Beer selection isn't as good as it once was there, but that's clearly a result of Big Beer muscling out the smaller guys. And Mrs Dusty in Law actually found a stand where they sold more than a dozen different kinds of bottled beer for reasonable prices, so huge plus on that front. I had a Bass and a Sierra Nevada from there.

Restrooms were super clean, there were more than enough of them, and they were modern (e.g., they had running water and were not open troughs like so many parts of DS). Their bathrooms make ours look like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies before they discovered Black Gold/Texas Tea.

Overall, we didn't have to stand in line very long for anything, and stadium operations were quick and efficient, resulting in us actually getting to watch most of the game instead of miss portions of it while standing in line.

I've noted the services/amenities/efficiencies of Nationals Park in this space before, so I won't yammer on more about that, but again, the differences are stark.

I realize that new parks have the advantage of, well, being new parks and all the architectural/design advantages that comes with, and DS is limited by its own current footprint and dimensions. But surely the ownership could put some great minds together in a room for a couple of hours with some graph paper and a 12-pack and come up with some solutions that would give us the amenities and services we deserve. Up the street from where I live, they've controlled the friggin' Mars Rover with a joystick for years. So I KNOW someone can come up with some improved parking flow, foot traffic flow, line wait reduction, bathroom improvements for our (mostly) beloved DS to keep up with all the other clubs out there.

I'm almost finished...

On the Canter's front, why not just have one person working the grill on low attendance nights? Closing it down completely is just stupid, and offensive to those who DID pay money to see the game with an expectation of full amenities. This really chuffs me. Ownership needs to take a more active role in policing the restaurant contractor, who by every observance does an extremely poor job of managing things.

Kyle Baker said...

Two more quick things, on a more positive note:

1) Thanks for the at-game recap. Always like hearing of folks' experiences at games.

2) Huge shoutout to Rawitch for all the work he does. I always know we're in pretty good hands if he has anything to do with certain decisions. Credit where it's due...

Steve Sax said...

As per VSIMH, the Daily News says the Canters are pissed off that their Dodger Stadium deli is often closed. Me too.

Josh S. said...

I wonder if Jenna Wolter felt unwelcome for the first six innings.

Steve Sax said...

shoot, Josh S beat me to it

karina said...

@Steve Sax what's wrong with anything doused in Tabasco sauce?

Kyle Baker said...


To me, Tobasco tastes good on anything. Except a hot dog.

Steve Sax said...

@Dusty Baker 10:28a: Thanks for the long and thoughtful comment. I have to say, with the only exception being that Mars Rover reference (which I believe is roaming around the Mojave Desert, and not another planet), I'm totally with you.

Petco Park is clean, polite, and fun. I've been there with my family--including small kid in tow--and it was a great experience. Mrs. Sax wants to return, which may happen in July or September when the Dodgers come back.

I have to say, I was really hopeful about the Dodger Stadium refurbishment plan after seeing the new field level concession stands and secret urinal rooms. But years later, the field level concourse has become crowded and impassable on some nights; a ghost town with closed concession stands on others; and too many people congregating behind the seats just standing and drinking instead of moving along.

If McCourt had gone through with his plans to refurbish the rest of the stadium, I think it might be an improvement. The Loge level in particular is dreary and dark, and the reserved level could use a lot more concession stands, or even innovative kids areas, with all that extra patio space.

I'm skeptical Frankie ever intended to refurb the rest of the stadium levels in the first place.

I'm even more skeptical that, under his fractured ownership, it will ever happen anyway.

Steve Sax said...

@karina 11:59a, fair point, I should explain. I'm cool with tabasco. But I think a tabasco hot dog is not as good as a Louisiana Hot Sausage that has spices embedded in the meat, not just doused on the top.

Louisiana Hot > Picante Dog

Unfortunately, only the latter is available at the Stadium now.

Betsy said...

I really like Petco park too, it seems they have a greater variety of concession stands. We've taken to bringing our own food (shout out to Spring St. Smoke house -happy hour sandwiches $5!)since we can only eat so many dodger dogs - and there aren't too many all beef dodger dog stands. Also, why did they get rid of the grilled chili cheese dodger dogs??!

Chris said...

Great report, Sax. A couple quick points: I was at the Dodgers-Diamondbacks game last Monday in Arizona and noticed they also stop serving food and beer during the National Anthem (I was in line).

Second, whie covering a game at Dodger Stadium, Jon SooHoo introduced me to Gary Canter on the field diring batting practice. Not sure how common it is for food vendors to have that kind of access, but it sounds like Gary is indeed super tight with the Dodgers brass. Let's get Canter's open again!

Steve Sax said...

interesting. I've been to Chase Field, back when it was the BOB, and it didn't stop serving during the anthem. Maybe times have changed? Or maybe they stop serving so they can use that time to deploy police officers to check citizenship records?

Kyle Baker said...

At DS, it's really hard for me to tell if they stop serving during the NA or not, given that the lines move soooooo slooooooooooow.

Kyle Baker said...

Maybe you should go to the open house at JPL for more convincing on the Mars Rover: