W(h)ither the Dodgers

I just got back from L.A., where my Grandma Ida celebrated her 90th birthday. She drives a red Grand Am named Sophie, loves to roast chickens and plays bingo as much as possible. Life is good. A native L.A. girl, she's also a lifelong Dodger fan, for which I can never forgive her. I almost bought her a Giants cap for her birthday, but she might not have seen the humor in it and quite possibly might have socked me in the nose.

Over dinner, we all discussed the sad, sad story of the Dodgers, agreed upon the venality and pox that inhabits the earth in the guise of Rupert Murdoch, and clucked our tongues. Well, I clucked somewhat disingenuously, secretly glad that one of the world's nastiest media congloms had, Nosferatu-like, drained the lifeblood from one of the world's most vile sports teams. But we definitely agreed that Kevin Malone was a dolt who, if ever again applying for a job, should be forced to stand naked on one leg and spell "Darren Dreifort" backwards fifty-five million times or for five years, whichever comes last.

So the conversation -- it included several aunts, cousins and uncles, all consigned to live overmediated fossil-fueled lives of shallow consumption in the warm sunny nether regions of our state -- turned to this McCourt chappie, this silver-haired Hub denizen, this lad of land, who's now the principal owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. No one was convinced that McCourt had any grand designs to restore the Think Blue glory of Billy Russell-to-Davy Lopes-to-Steve "Is Not My Padre" Garvey, of Steve Yeager with a bat shard in his throat and Dusty's wristbands and Reggie Smith getting pelted with batteries in the cold right field of Candlestick. (Those, as they say, were the days, made all the sweeter by Reggie coming to the Giants for his final year in 1982 and nearly leading them to an improbable playoff appearance.)

Indeed, the overwhelming sentiment amongst my kin was that McCourt is making a land grab. Privately-owned Dodger Stadium is perched on some mighty fine downtown LA real estate that could stand some developin'. I don't know much about LA zoning or real estate shenanigans or even going rates of urban acreage, but I could see McCourt -- he of the deep abiding love of the Dodgers -- flipping the team and the property, or selling off the chunks of land around the Stadium for development, for a nice sum in a few short years.

Now, with that cynical speculation out of the way, let us turn to another development: Paul DePodesta. Looks like the young Turk of the foul mouth and prodigious laptop database skills (see: Moneyball) will be the new Dodger GM. Panic for Giants' fans? I guess there's a lot of concern because DePodesta + Dodgers = Beane + a lot more money. Or seems to =.

Is Harvard Paulie going to run circles around Sabean, Garagiola, Towers and O'Dowd? First of all, he won't have Steinbrennerian, Johnhenrian, or even Artemorenian wads of cash to flash. Reports have the Dodgers payroll shrinking to $85 million in the next couple of years, with thin operating margins due to heavy debt leverage.

So, roughly, they'll be in the same boat as the Giants. And just because DePodesta has squatted for years on the bearskin rug of Wise King Beane doesn't mean his skill sets translate to Dodgerville, where media scrutiny is greater, expectations are higher and only 30,000 fans a night is a serious bummer. If he embarks on a Moneyballish brain reign, jettisoning or foregoing overvalued Tejadas in favor of undervalued Hattebergs, will he have a thick enough skin to withstand the LA siren call for starpower?

Memo to Paul: Never underestimate the shallowness of the LA luxury box crowd.

True, the Giants, like a black-and-orange Blanche DuBois, have recently relied upon the strange incompetence of their NL West neighbors. And at least in LA, that crutch will be gone if/when DePodesta steps in.

To be honest, I grudgingly would like to see the Dodgers become a real franchise again, going toe to toe with the Giants for the division crown each year. That would be fun. As long as they finish behind the Giants in the standings. No way am I going to let Grandma Ida get all up in my face.


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