After enduring another disappointing end to a season of ups and downs, Dodger fans find themselves in a haze. What will it take to finally win another World Series? Unfortunately for us, ownership might not care that much. Let me break it down for you.
Obviously Dodger fans are disappointed after another horrendous crash and burn out of the playoffs. Some will point to the club’s four straight division titles as an indication of true success. While fans know that true success means World Series or bust, ownership will see otherwise.
There used to be a time when the Dodgers played disappointing baseball and people didn’t show up. The Dodgers last drew under 3 million fans in 2011 at the height of the Frank McCourt divorce. But now that the Dodgers are winning division titles year in and year out, the Dodgers can expect to draw in at least 3.5 million fans, and perhaps push 4 million. The Dodgers drew over 3.7 million fans in 2016–by far the most in baseball. The second place Cardinals drew just over 3.4 million fans. The difference between drawing 3.4 and 3.7 million fans is at least $6 million in parking profits alone. But probably more.
At the end of the day, all roads lead to money for Dodger ownership.
Baseball is a business after all, and Dodger fans have been very good for the club’s bottom line. Therefore, there is no real incentive for ownership to field an expensive World Series favorite. Just as long as the Dodgers make the playoffs, the team will have a puncher’s chance, and people will fill the stadium. Money will be made.
Over the course of a season, 3.7 million fans equals $74 million in parking alone. Think about it. The Dodgers have made back the massive $250 million in extra salary resulting from the Adrián González trade in 2012, and then made millions on top of that on parking alone. Yet, the team has cut payroll every year since that trade, because it means more money for ownership. Can you fault them?
So moving forward, what kind of moves can we expect from the Dodger front office?
Expect the Dodgers to continue putting heavy emphasis on the farm system. Developing prospects is “cost efficient” compared to shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for a top free agent. Speaking of top free agents, don’t expect the Dodgers to be breaking any free agent signing records any time soon. Why cut into profit?
One day, maybe even next year, the Dodgers might enter the postseason as World Series favorites because of its strong farm system. But for every penny that is saved by building a farm system over signing big free agents, the result on the field becomes a little less predictable. This means that we’ll have to continue hoping for Joc Pederson to bat over .250 one day, and for Pedro Baez to one day record meaningful outs.