The 2018 offseason has been a grueling slow burn for the Dodgers and, in turn, the fanbase. This past weekend, that slow burn suddenly ignited into an inferno amongst fans after team president Stan Kasten glibly dismissed the idea of them having any discontent with the team’s money-saving approach. He considered them “anecdotal,” even accusing the media of making it up, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
If you missed the action, I highly recommend you take a look at our Tim Rogers article on the subject.
[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-news-stan-kasten-speaks-at-fanfest-and-many-fans-are-not-happy/2019/01/28/” color=”red”] Stan Kasten upsets the fan base[/button]
Luxury Tax Talk… Again
The luxury tax and its role in shaping the offseason has been repeated more than classic rock stations play “Stairway to Heaven,” but for posterity, let’s take one more overview. The ownership has made it clear it wants to stay under MLB’s $206 million luxury tax threshold, which it accomplished last year and has maintained so far this offseason. Their current budget sits around $198.2 million. By all accounts, they plan to keep it that way for the next few years.
That is perfectly clear. What’s also clear is that Stan Kasten disrespected fans that are not only frustrated, but rightly so.
To start, these comments are both out of touch and deeply insulting. Few fanbases can claim to be as loyal, as knowledgeable, and as soulful as Los Angeles Dodgers fans. Kasten seems to view us as a mob of meatheads, dutiful consumers of a product who don’t care about its quality. Never mind that the staggering attendance figures as of late are no doubt partly due to many fans being unable to watch the team as a result of the TV deal. No business should insult its customer base, and while owners have to deal with realities that can’t keep all fans happy, acting like we don’t understand the complexities of the offseason is condescending.
More concerning, however, is the rift in expectations these comments seem to indicate. When the Guggenheims took over the franchise from the hated McCourts in 2012, fans reasonably hoped the new regime would use its financial might to do what’s necessary to finally win a World Series. There should be no avoiding the most pressing circumstance: this team has not won it all in a long, long time. Kasten’s comments seem indifferent to that urgent factor, and show that he’s content with a team that simply contends like the ’90s Braves. Those teams, despite coming up short most seasons, at least won it all in 1995.
As of now, the Dodgers don’t have their 1995 to take any solace in. 1988 is officially over three whole decades ago, and continuing to revel in it like it’s just yesterday is only going to get more embarrassing with each passing year. Kasten of all people should be especially aware of this similarity, given he was president of those Braves teams until 2003. Even with 1995 in the bag, Atlanta’s perennial runner-up status in the following years fomented so much apathy amongst fans that empty seats at Turner Field in the postseason soon became a regular occurrence. For him to be so cocksure that Dodgers fans won’t tire of a similar product is all the more baffling with that in mind.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Of course, Kasten could very well end up being vindicated. The Dodgers, especially at full health, do have as good a chance as any to win it all this year with the pieces they have. Should they hoist the flagged trophy in October on a budget, it would be a victory that, in addition to healing a starved fanbase, would make being cheap far more acceptable for quite a few seasons. To boot, it’d ensure the satisfactory attendance Kasten takes for granted. All would be forgiven then, although he will (or at least should) regret these remarks for a good while.
As of this moment, though, frustrated Dodger fans are unquestionably in the right. We are far smarter than he realizes, and understand full well the ownership’s approach the past few years. After the initial flurry of Guggenheim money, reigning in spending and rebuilding the farm system was the right call. That adherence to building within over pricey free agents allowed the team to manifest homegrown stars like Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Cody Bellinger, and Walker Buehler. Their clockwork postseason appearances, with six division titles and two NL pennants, shouldn’t be taken for granted.
At the same time, that frugality hasn’t yielded a championship. It’s put together a team that, even at its mightiest in 2017, rolled over and put up no fight in game seven at home. The deeply flawed 2018 team, unadorned for the sake of resetting the tax, fought admirably to return to the Fall Classic but was no match for a star-studded Boston squad. One that, it should be noted, gladly paid the luxury tax for their fourth championship in 14 years.
The 2019 team has no shortage of question marks going into the season, from Muncy avoiding regression to Kershaw’s potential decline to Pollock’s health. And that’s before considering the improvements made by NL competitors like St. Louis and Atlanta, and the fact that the AL powerhouses aren’t going anywhere. It’s not impossible for Los Angeles to overcome all of these obstacles, but standing pat and rolling the dice when more could be done is frustrating.
We as fans understand the reality that the Dodgers have clear needs to get over the hump, and that the ownership has the bottomless resources necessary to fill those needs. Living by the rules of Moneyball is how any franchise should operate most of the time. But one that boasted a $310 million not long ago in 2015 (a chunk of which was for players no longer with the team) can, and should, open up the wallet to tune up a World Series contender.
And there’s no better time for Kasten and company to spend than now. The greatest free agent class in MLB history is at their disposal, led by two generational talents, either of which could put Los Angeles over the top in October. The luxury tax is a price worth paying for a cleansing title, and while Harper or Machado alone won’t guarantee it, they would greatly improve the odds.
That, Mr. Kasten, isn’t something we just made up. It’s a reality borne out by facts. It’s time to address that reality and deliver a championship product.
[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/andrew-friedman-speaks-at-dodgers-fan-fest/2019/01/29/” type=”big” color=”red”] Bryce Harper, Corey Seager, and more: Andrew Friedman speaks out at Dodgers Fan Fest[/button]