I love Opening Day. Especially when it comes at home against the hated San Francisco Giants. The best day of the year against our most bitter rival. If that doesn’t get you pumped up, I don’t know what would.
But while I think about all of the reasons that I lvoe Dodger baseball, I can’t help but think about the growing chorus of doubts about the team ownership which have started to creep into days reserved for only true baseball optimists.
First it was the surprising decline in attendance numbers at Camelback Ranch this spring. According to the Arizona Republic, attendance at Dodgers games was down 17% while attendance at White Sox games went up 12.4%. Hmm.
Then there was the Bill Plashke article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times about former season ticket holder Brian Gadinsky who returned his tickets and turned down an opportunity to meet Frank McCourt. He vowed not to renew until new ownership was in place. The article has generated 98 comments (with the majority favoring the fan). Care to guess how many comments there were on Chad Billingsley’s contract extension from the same day? Zero. Something’s brewing people.
Finally there was the oddest story of them all: Andre Ethier speaking about potentially leaving the Dodgers. Per Jim Peltz of the LA Times:
“If I don’t play well, we’ve seen them non-tender guys here, and if you play well, I’ve seen them not offer arbitration because they’re afraid guys are setting their salaries too high,” he said.
When a reporter asked Ethier whether being non-tendered was the only way he could leave after this season, Ethier replied, “Or traded.”
Whoa. It’s one thing for fans to not have confidence in the ownership, but another for one of their star players to speak out like that. Fortunately it doesn’t sound like ‘Dre wants to leave, but more like he wouldn’t be surprised if the club non-tendered him after a down year, like his friend Russell Martin (although I seriously doubt anyone really believes that Martin was non-tendered for any reason other than his hip injury and declining production). Sure, Ethier’s agent walked this statement back, but it made clear that there are lingering questions in the clubhouse about ownership and their ability to field a championship team (to say nothing of the potential impact on free agents wanting to come to LA).
But you know what? Today I don’t care about any of that. Hope springs eternal on Opening Day with plenty of tantalizing questions for Dodger fans to ponder including: How will rookie manager Don Mattingly do? Is this the year that Clayton Kershaw contends for a Cy Young Award? Will Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier return to form and be the monsters of the lineup?
But most of all, I’m looking forward to slipping on my headphones while in the office, sitting back, closing my eyes and enjoying Vin Scully call yet another Opening Day while delighting and informing us with his unique brand of storytelling.
It’s time for Dodger baseball. Indeed it is!