I've been in some bad romantic relationships before, but I've been thinking about one relationship in particular of late. It's probably a pretty common experience to many of you.
It's the one where the girl was pretty good at the beginning, when everything was new and fresh and interesting and exciting. The relationship looked pretty good on paper, too, at the start. But as time passed by, you stuck with it more because of tradition and loyalty and what memories of the past, rather than any pure passion in the present. Sometimes, you could kinda tell that the other party wasn't giving full effort, not investing in the relationship the way it should--and if you fairly assessed your own behavior, you realized that you wren't really giving full effort, either. Fervor faded, interest waned, and even though you'd get together with the best of intentions, you started expecting mediocrity as the outcome, rather than try and inspire yourself with the prospect of potential bliss, so that you wouldn't be sorely disappointed when it didn't happen, and allowing you to avoid having the necessary rational discussion about the relationship's merits themselves.
This is kind of like how I feel about the 2011 Dodgers. (Except for the looking pretty good on paper part.)
Believe me, I want to like the 2011 Dodgers. Heck, I want to LOVE the Dodgers, every day, all the time. But it has been so challenging this season, when the constant barrage in the press isn't only the results of the team's horrible and embarrassing on-field performance (now 11 games out of first and in last place, far behind the vomit-in-mouth-creating Giants), but the fusillade of depressing news from the litigious circus and unabashed avarice of Frank McCourt.
I travel a lot around the world, and this year more than ever, my friends have asked me "what the hell is up with your Dodgers?". What's worse, often this question is delivered in the same tone that one would ask "why are you still driving that beater 1980's Ford Fiesta?" or "what the heck are you doing wearing that power balance bracelet?" or "why are you still dating that awful woman?" (see relationship metaphor, above). And I think to myself--and this is where it's the most pathetic of all--it's almost a relief to talk about the McCourt escapades, just to avoid having to discuss why the hell the team is performing so poorly on the field.
Our 37-49 record puts us on track for 69.6 wins, which would be our lowest win total since 1992 (the last time we finished in last place in the division, by the way). In fact, excluding the strike years, you'd have to go all the way back to 1944 (Brooklyn) to find a lower win total for the season. And they only played 154 games in a season back then, too.
Frank McCourt is too busy fending off MLB and Jamie and siphoning money to himself to both investing in the Dodgers. Ned Colletti has shot what few bullets he had on three-year contracts to Ted Lilly (5-8 with a 4.97 ERA and a 72 ERA+) and Juan Uribe (batting .206 with a 64 OPS+), which will damn us not only for the present but also for the future (consistent with how Frank McCourt manages the team's finances, I might add).
We're definitely sellers the second half of this season, and if there is any positive to the crystal clarity of that strategic position, it's tempered by the deep-seeded fear that Colletti is going to do something stupid like trade away Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, or Andre Ethier (the latter of which, whom is probably most safe given he is Colletti's finest GM moment and he probably wants to keep that jewel around).
It's going to be a long, hot, unpleasant summer.
So I read, and re-read, MSTI's excellent "Collected Sins of the Frank and Jamie McCourt Era, a well-linked, thorough list which has one shaking his head in disbelief as you recall all of the McCourts' transgressions. (I would have added the parking lot revamp fiasco, which is still confusing and has had negligible impact on parking lot wait-in-stalled-traffic delays; not to mention McCourt's outright refusal to consider funding any public transportation solution which might imperil his exorbitant parking lot revenues.)
(And I definitely would add the fact that my season tickets have gone up from $35/seat to $120 a seat (face value) over the last six seasons, which is absolutely ridiculous.)
It's easy to get depressed reading a list like MSTI's compendium. I mean, how can one in good conscience support the team knowing that our money is going toward McCourt's greed and inanity? (And in fact, it seems that other Dodger fans have come to the same conclusion, finally opting to not attend Dodgers games in person, a sight I never thought I would see. Looking at night after night with an empty Dodger Stadium, I have to think--it's come to this?)
But perhaps my depression is metastasizing into hate,as some SoSG readers have implied? I'm no Dodger-hater, even in a depressing year like this one. So off the top of my head, let me come up with some positives on this season (no links, and no verb-first format, I'm afraid).
- I'm excited to be witnessing the breakout season of Matt Kemp, who is on the road to realizing his full potential (which I think we haven't even seen yet);
- Likewise, any Clayton Kershaw start has me compelled. His composure on the mound is nails well beyond his years, but I've also been struck by his poise off the field, acting like a leader with his demeanor and philanthropic causes;
- It's been a pleasant surprise to see Kershaw and Chad Billingsley break out the bats this season;
- Hiroki Kuroda and Billingsley both have had flashes of brilliance from the mound this year, even if their records don't reflect all of their efforts;
- Andre Ethier's early-season streak was pretty compelling to follow, and at least gave me hope thorugh April;
- I'm pleased to see James Loney claw and scratch his way back to a breakeven OPS+ (almost) and a .281 batting average, even though I've become resigned to the fact that his low SLG will always be his albatross, a deficiency made more prominent when there are only two other bats of note in the lineup;
- The shorter concession stand lines are kind of nice sometimes, despite the fact that half of the stands seem to be closed for most games);
- I like the increased, visible security in the parking lots now, though I'm regretful of what it took to get there;
- Listening to Vin Scully and Nancy Bea Hefley continue to be the joys of summer.
- Oh yeah, earlier this season, I had a bad wheel and was on crutches getting around the Stadium; the staff was super-helpful and arranged a cart to come pick me up from the Stadium Club and cart myself and my party back to our car in the parking lot. The cart attendant in particular was especially polite and kind, and it saved me from a twenty-minute hike on crutches. I remain very appreciative. (Added 7/5 4p)
I am probably forgetting some stuff--but there's no way I'm getting to 51 items, that's for sure. It's a pretty short list.
So I'm not a Dodger-hater, even when the returns on my "relationship" with the Dodgers are at their nadir. The question for me is, is this 2011 Dodgers team still compelling enough for me to get fired up for every game? Does the weight of the McCourt debacle weigh my shoulders down such that I find myself avoiding my friends' inquiries, or even avoiding the Dodgers altogether?
I confess, I've watched fewer games this season. And at having attended five games this season, I'm on pace for roughly 10 games, which would be my lowest in years (I think). I still love being at the Stadium--it's a Los Angeles summer night experience like no other--but I have to admit, some of the passion just isn't there. It's moving more toward coexisting than a real passionate relationship, and I don't want that to happen.
Maybe I can still do more. Maybe I can salvage this freefall on my own, and singlehandedly repair the relationship.
Anyway, I'm going to the Stadium tonight, a grateful invitee to Dodger Blogger Night 2011, along with DelinO (who may be wearing Mets garb--we'll see). And I'm going to try something new this time, posting from the Game in a slightly different way (assuming I can get network coverage, always a crapshoot in Chavez Ravine). And actually, I'm kind of excited for this.
That relationship I mentioned earlier? I was in it for six years, believe it or not.
My relationship with the Dodgers? It's still going.