LOS ANGELES — If you have not been to a game at Dodger Stadium, make sure you get their at some point. It is an absolute picturesque setting. On the drive up you cannot even seen the park itself. It is set beautifully in Chavez Ravine and once you go up the hill and into the parking lot, it appears. All you can say to yourself is “wow.” Some say the stadium itself is old and not a great place to watch baseball, but judging by my experience last night, I would completely disagree.
My previous trip to this venerable place was in 1998, or as my friends like to refer to it as “The Summer of Todd.” My friend Sean and I had just graduated from The University of Kansas (well, he had graduated, I still had one semester left) and as a present to ourselves, we took a trip out West and hit all of the California ballparks while driving from San Diego to San Francisco, hitting all points in between. We were 22 without a care in the world (well, Sean did, he needed to find a job). Ballparks were crossed off the list, alcohol and greasy food were consumed. Lots of both. We crashed on friends couches in every city, including Los Angeles where we saw the Dodgers take on Mark McGwire and the St. Louis Cardinals. It was the trip of a lifetime.
One of those friends I crashed with, Billy, is still out here in LA. He and I had a mini-twin thing going on in high school. Billy was a grade ahead of me in high school and we were doubles partners on the OHS Tennis team. We wore all white with Black shoes and did the Slaughter/Langhorne high five on the court after big points that we won. Then there is Todd, one of my oldest and dearest friends and former pre-school carpool-mate, whom I shared amazing countless times with visiting his alma mater the University of Wisconsin. We used to refer to him as the Mayor of Madison.
It is not too often that we are all in the same place, but there we were, three old friends, still diehards for our Cleveland teams, meeting up to watch our Wahoos take on the big, bad, Los Angeles Dodgers in the city they now call home. Both of them still watch most of the games they can (it’s tough with so many 4:05 PM start times), but would have been shut out from watching the team they grew up with play in the city where they now reside because the Dodgers and Time Warner Cable are still locked in a bitter dispute over TV rights with the other cable providers over the rights fees. Currently 70% of people in Southern California cannot see Dodger games. They are completely blacked out to people with DirecTV for example.
This is from an recent LA Times article about the standoff. Imagine this happening in Cleveland:
The new owners then managed to dupe Time Warner Cable into spending an even more obscene amount — $8.4 billion — for the rights to broadcast the games on SportsNet LA. And why are all these high rollers happy to throw around that kind of money?
Come on, you know the answer.
Because they figure they’ll get all of it back from you and me by raising the price of tickets and hot dogs and the fees for getting the games on TV. It’s not even about baseball. It’s about printing money with sports and communications monopolies. I don’t even want to see what it’s going to cost to go to a Clippers game if Microsoft gazillionaire Steve Ballmer’s inflated $2-billion offer for the team goes through.
But in the case of the Dodgers, there was a snag along the way. DirecTV and other companies didn’t like Time Warner’s asking price for the right to carry the games, and they told the cable giant to stuff it. So the standoff continues, with half the season gone and no relief in sight
For Billy and Todd, they were just happy to see the Tribe inside of one of baseball’s gems for the first time since 2008. I was obviously more than thrilled to put this experience in the old memory bank. I couldn’t even imagine how upset I would be if STO wasn’t available to me for an entire season. But this is the way things are going in LA, and this is surrounding a first place baseball team with one of the biggest payrolls in the game.
The park then seemed old and decrepit when I was last there some 16 years ago, but no longer. I truly recall thinking the views and the setting were amazing, but the park itself was unimpressive. However, this offseason, ownership spent more than $150 on enhancements and they were easy to see. The place has the beauty and charm of an old time ballpark, with a 2014 feel. From the concession stands to the team shops to the expanded concourses, everything was immaculate. The sight-lines seemed improved. The signature dark yellow allowed more legroom. Even the old hexagon scoreboards, a Dodger Stadium original, were kept, but now with massive, crystal clear gigantic HD screens. It is the perfect mix of tradition meeting the present. You can do these things when your ownership group is flush with billionaires who treat their team like their toy, rather than their sole source of income.
I won’t cry foul here, because there is no crying in baseball, but the fact that the Indians and the Dodgers are able to operate in the same league under the same set of rules is ludicrous. But that is another story for another day.
Thank goodness for the beauty of a perfect Los Angeles evening, because the product on the field that I was forced to sit through from my beloved Cleveland Indians certainly wasn’t worth the (steep) price of admission. For the second consecutive game, all the Tribe could produce was a single hit. A single infield hit that had to be overturned by replay might I add. Poor Corey Kluber deserved better than this. Giving up one run on six hit in six and two-thirds should be good enough to win you and your team a ballgame. But in this one with bats making Dan Haren look like the second coming of Pedro Martinez, Kluber had to be perfect.
This offense is getting more frustrating by the minute. I keep waiting for Jason Kipnis to find himself. I keep waiting for David Murphy’s slump to end. I keep waiting for Asdrubal Cabrera to stop swinging at first pitches in key spots (I also keep waiting for 2015 when Cabbie is elsewhere). It’s almost the All-Star break and at this point you essentially are what you are. I know what the run statistics say, but if you watch the Indians closely each night like I do, you know this isn’t a good offensive team. The lack of power and right-handed balance in the lineup is staggering and there isn’t much they can do about it.
If you expect GM Chris Antonetti to go out and get you another piece in the trade market, think again. If anything, this team will be sellers at the trade deadline the way things are going right now. There won’t be much available in the form of a big bat and whoever is available will cost prospects that you wouldn’t be interested in parting with.
Here is the thing that makes the game of baseball so great: While our team barely registered an offensive pulse all night, I got to spend three hours with old friends, shooting the bull about our lives, our families, old stories and memories, and all things in between on a 72-degree summer night. I will take a night that this one every time.
I will give it another shot tonight and hopefully the beauty of the park and all that surrounds it can be matched by the play of my favorite team. Is that too much to ask for?