Dodgers fans love their team, that much will never be in question, but the pulse all offseason has been that fans are “tired” of the team not pursuing players such as Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, or other top players in the game.
Los Angeles Times columnist Dylan Hernandez, while covering the FanFest at Dodger Stadium, had an encounter with team President Stan Kasten.
From Hernandez’s article, here’s the first exchange with Kasten:
Such concerns are likely to be downplayed by team President Stan Kasten, who dismissed concerns over the team as “anecdotal,” even fictional.
“You keep making this stuff up,” Kasten said.
That was how Kasten started deflecting questions about the team’s alarming lack of spending this offseason.
“I’m dealing with facts,” Kasten said.
The facts, Kasten said, are that season-ticket sales point to the Dodgers leading baseball in attendance again. And if season tickets are selling, everything must be A-OK. – Dylan Hernandez, LA Times
The second controversial part was regarding how the luxury tax threshold is impacting team spending.
So if they would be penalized as a first-time offender this year and have plenty of money coming off the books next year, why haven’t they spent more this offseason? Is this a warning of what is to come in future seasons?
“That’s also such a weird narrative,” Kasten said. “If we can do whatever we do and stay under [the luxury-tax threshold], there are a lot of advantages to being under — by the way, a lot more advantages than you all write about.”
“I’m not going to go into that because that’s real inside baseball economic stuff,” Kasten said.
Told fans would be interested in the details, Kasten replied, “Hold on. Let me finish the answer. Some of the things are elsewhere in the collective bargaining agreement that no one’s bothered to look at. Some of the things are inside baseball. So there are more advantages than just a little tax.”
Still, no details.
Asked again if he didn’t want to offer fans an explanation for the team’s relative inactivity on the free-agent market, Kasten said, “You’re inventing a narrative that I don’t agree with because, like I said, I can almost tell you for sure, we’re going to lead the National League in attendance again. You’re inventing a different universe that is not borne out by reality, by facts.” – Dylan Hernandez, LA Times
Further on regarding the luxury tax after just signing A.J. Pollock:
What Kasten did say was that ownership hasn’t issued a directive to remain under the luxury-tax threshold.
In fact, after signing center fielder A.J. Pollock to a four-year, $55-million contract, Kasten said, “We may be over already.” – Dylan Hernandez, LA Times
On Twitter, the media and fan response was intense on both sides.
Kasten's defensiveness and, really, arrogance, in this piece is remarkable.
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) January 27, 2019
Dodgers haven’t gone for the big-ticket outside star once since the mega trade with Boston. They got below the threshold last year and continue to stay away from the mega star. Their revenues are huge and their business model is a major success. #facts https://t.co/yPdMnchu5e
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 27, 2019
Coming close in sports is not acceptable for fans, which is why 6 division titles and 2 WS appearances get dismissed so easily by some.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) January 27, 2019
Very condescending and dismissive.
— angelo renna (@Troy_on_Hudson) January 28, 2019
Are The Dodgers Already Over The Tax Theshold?
They actually might be, depending on how the season plays out. As of January 27, factoring in the Pollock contract, the Dodgers are about $6M under the threshold but that is before any incentives that are contained in the contracts of Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda. Remember, the luxury tax threshold is based on Annual Average Value (AAV) over the lifetime of the contract. Dodgers Nation has the details about the salaries here.
As this article from Major League Baseball Trade Rumors states regarding the Dodgers’ spending:
They did, after all, make the largest cash commitment to a position player thus far this winter.
Are The Dodgers Mandated To Stay Under The Threshold?
Given what Bill Shaikin reported for the LA Times in November 2018:
The Dodgers plan to keep their player payroll below the level that would require a luxury tax payment for at least the next four years, according to a document prepared for potential investors that was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
It is good news to hear Kasten say “was that ownership hasn’t issued a directive to remain under the luxury-tax threshold.” Given that they are barely under it does seem that they will need to exceed the threshold if they need to improve the team during the season. For all Dodger fan sanity, let’s hope and pray there isn’t an issue exceeding it if needed.
“Real Inside Baseball Economic Stuff”
Where Kasten set a lot of people off was his reluctance to explain how the luxury tax works. Our readers already know about how the Qualifying Offer is impacted by the threshold. The other things are the actual tax penalties, the impact to a draft pick and, the little known, income from teams crossing the threshold. It was arrogant and condescending towards the fans. Maybe Kasten just doesn’t like Dylan Hernandez or the way the questioning was going.
Back To Fan Satisfaction
Kasten spoke about how season ticket sales are leading all of baseball as an indication that the fans are satisfied.
I am a season ticket holder and know plenty of other season ticket holders. Most of us are not satisfied. The Dodgers have come so close to winning the World Series but the 2017 series, that they should have won, has done major damage to many in the fan base. Regarding the plans of the Dodgers my Dodgers Nation compadre said:
The way Stan handled this was all wrong, and he'll continue to get & deserve hell for it. However, ownership is actually doing exactly what they said they would do – spend $ early, build a winner based on prospect sustainability.
They were transparent and he's getting frustrated.
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) January 27, 2019
This is well known and mentioned in Shaikin’s article also.
(We Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
My belief is that most fans interpreted the above vision to include winning the World Series, first. When this ownership group came on board in 2012 and made the Nick Punto trade most of us thought we’d have at least one World Series championship by now. For many reasons they have failed, but 95% of the responsibility falls on the players for not bringing it home. They should have beaten the Astros 4 games to 1 in 2017 but too many highly paid players did not come through.
These failures have made the fan base very unsatisfied. We watch (those who can) and attend games because we are passionate about the Dodgers and want to see them get that World Series championship. Most are not satisfied with winning divisions, making it to the World Series or leading in attendance. Those are nice things but now it has become “World Series win or bust” for most of us.
We also cannot discount the trading of popular players, especially Yasiel Puig. Personally, I am over that one but still bothered by the Juan Uribe trade. Things like that pile on to the dissatisfaction that will only go away with an early November parade in Downtown LA.
Stan Kasten deserves a lot of credit for bringing the Dodgers to the point they are at now. I did find many of these quotes offensive, especially by not answering the luxury tax issues and hiding behind “inside baseball economic stuff.” It is saying that the fan base is too dumb to understand the issues and they should just be happy the team is good. That’s not going to work. My hope is that Kasten comes out with another interview or statement to address the fan base in a more respectful way. I believe he is better than what we saw on Saturday.
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