We Don’t Need “Fans” Like This

Reader Cory directed me to a piece by Paul Oberjuerge today, and at first I couldn’t remember why I knew that name. Then I remembered; he’s the genius who called Matt Kemp “an utter dolt” and asked if “there was a dumber guy in baseball”. And we’re not talking about in 2006, when Kemp was an inexperienced kid; we’re talking about September of 2009, when Kemp had ascended to being possibly the best center fielder in baseball.

Oh, and what else did we learn about Paul?

But I’m glad a friendly reader brought this to my attention, because this piece of crap is actively calling Matt Kemp stupid. Now, I’d never heard of Paul Oberjuerge, and this appears to be his blog, so I was going to ignore the rantings of another blogger. But I did some research, and Oberjuerge was apparently a real reporter at one time – best known, apparently, for being fired from the San Bernardino Sun, calling a transgendered female LA Times columnist “not an attractive woman”, and having a former employee of his write a scathing retort to that insensitivity. Plus, he mostly writes about soccer for the New York Times. So we can see what kind of winner we’re dealing with.

That transgendered columnist, Christine Daniels/Mike Penner, ended up committing suicide last fall. So, there’s that.

Anyway, Paul’s at it again today, and he’s putting me in a very difficult situation. You see, he’s ranting about how the mismanagement of the McCourts is causing him to renounce his Dodger fandom. The problem here is not that he’s mad at ownership – believe me, I know the feeling – but that he’s mad for all of the wrong reasons. So while I want very much to refute his continued idiocy, that makes me sound like I’m defending the McCourts, which I’m clearly not.

Still, the comments appearing on his blog are mostly supportive, and I can’t let misinformation like that go unchallenged. So after a little background on how long he’s been a fan and how he’ll no longer follow the team, he explains why:

Let’s review some of the appalling facts around this team.

–According to statistics obtained by USA Today … today … the Dodgers’ payroll is down for the second year running, to $95 million. Down from $100 million last year. Which was down from $118 million the year before. The Dodgers now have the 11th-highest payroll — despite playing in the nation’s No.  2 market. The Giants, Tigers, Twins and White Sox are paying their players more than the Dodgers. Oh, and the Angels, too.

Again, I’m not defending the McCourts here, because we all know how horribly they hurt the team this offseason. But Oberjuerge seems to be mistaking “high payroll” for “success”. Sure, the Giants have a higher payroll. But they’re also foolishly paying Barry Zito $18.5m this year, along with $12m to Aaron Rowand and $10m to Edgar Renteria. Those are the players you want?  The Mets have the fifth highest payroll in baseball, yet how well are they doing? Tampa is in the bottom half, yet how many of us would prefer to have the players they do?

Besides, he’s also missing a very important point: with all of the talented young players the Dodgers have promoted and still have under team control, payroll was almost certainly going to go down. Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw are combining to make approximately $4.4m this season. Would you prefer Andruw Jones in CF and Jason Schmidt in the rotation just because they made something like $30m (forget deferrals for the moment) last year?

We’ve all been dying for the Dodgers to play their young talent for years. Now they finally are, and while I do think this is going to be a missed opportunity because the owners can’t pay for that last push over the top, this guy is complaining because he can’t watch unbelievably overpaid Barry Zito throw 78 MPH curveballs for doubles every night.

–The payroll is skewed toward a known cheat, Manny Ramirez. Who is getting $18.7 million this year.  So, one sleazy guy, who can’t be troubled to play hard, gets 20 percent of the payroll. Grand. Another reason to love the team.

Snore. We’ve been through this a million times. Yes, he’s a jerk, but Manny’s still productive, he was still in the top 10 in OPS last year (if he had enough AB to qualify). If anything, he was massively overpaid on the free agent market, which would be another strike against him… if it didn’t, you know, completely invalidate Oberjeurge’s point that the team is being cheap. Next.

–The payroll cuts are part of the Dodgers’ grand scheme to jack up prices and keep expenses low through 2018, information that was made public in the McCourt divorce case. Their plan is to soak fans while not paying players. With ticket prices nearly doubling by 2018 while payroll inches up. They have planned this; thought it through. It is club policy. The owners think they aren’t charging you enough money. They are confident they can charge more, and they plan to, until one of the last affordable entertainment options shuts out any fan who doesn’t make $50,000 a year.

I particularly love the part about “it is club policy”, except for the fact that that isn’t really the case. Yes, these financial documents sounded shocking. But they’re also not worth the paper they’re printed on.

Baseball Prospectus:

Did you hear? The Dodgers are getting cheap. Really cheap. By 2018, they’ll be spending less than the Royals on payroll, all while pocketing about $300 million in profit. If the team doesn’t do well, so be it—people will come to the games anyway, because in the history of sports (and particularly in Los Angeles, where there’s little else to do), there’s nothing that fans enjoy more than a rich team that doesn’t spend.

Now back to reality, where the only thing more ridiculous than that scenario is that the LA newspapers actually seem to think it’s plausible.

(snip)

Now, on to the ridiculous parts. Based on their “projections,” the Dodgers will be spending 25 percent of their revenue on payroll in 2018. For comparison’s sake, that’s about what the Marlins have been spending lately, based on Forbes’s estimates. Not only would they get absolutely destroyed for this politically, it doesn’t even make economic sense; there’s a reason teams generally spend about half of their revenues on major-league players, instead of just cutting costs and pocketing whatever they can. There are huge rewards for fielding a competitive team, both in terms of operating profits and franchise value, particularly in a market like LA.

(snip)

Needless to say, it would be a terrible business decision for the Dodgers to do this, and I’m inclined to believe that that the invisible hand wouldn’t even allow them to: unless they’re really terrible, the marginal gain of spending that extra 15-20 percent of revenue on player payroll will always exceed the marginal cost. And I’m sure they know this. Unless they’re all on some kind of psychoactive drug cocktail, or possibly preparing for the next round of MLB collusion, there’s no way those projections are anything but a sales tool, pitching an investor on what they think he’ll want to hear.

But remember, according to Oberjuerge, this is a done deal. Your 2018 Dodgers will charge you $500 tickets to see 25 AAA players. Run! Ahh! Moving on:

–The owner (Frank McCourt) or owners (Frank and Jamie McCourt) are detestable.  Which we get to see every time their divorce case moves ahead. In the latest … Jamie McCourt told the court she needs — needs, deserves — $988,845 per month in temporary spousal support. To pay for what? Her extravagant lifestyle. Her over-the-top lifestyle. And Frank is no better. He’s blowing through money, too. Money both of them got from you. The fans. The least they could do is let you hang out at any one of their Malibu homes a few days per summer. Wait by the mailbox for your invitation.

Yes. Fine. They’re horrible, awful people. This isn’t news; we’ve been talking about this for six months now.

–And these are people whose delusions of grandeur — fueled by, yes, the money fans hand over — are almost off the charts. Frank thinks he will run a global sports empire, with soccer teams in China and England. But he is thinking small compared to Jamie, who (according to Frank) aspires to be … wait for it … president of the United States.

This does sound ridiculous. Yet don’t forget, the “according to Frank” part is huge, since you can’t trust a single thing either of them say about each other. Secondly, Jamie claimed that it was never her idea, but that it was a plan laid out by former Dodger exec Charles Steinberg. Third, Josh Fisher from Dodger Divorce summed it up nicely:

My first instinct on this is that it’s being blown out of proportion. This is probably just the daydream of a very wealthy woman. We all get carried away. It’s just that most of us don’t have the power to make people indulge us and create action plans for carrying out our whims. And, it’s quite safe to say, our delusions of grandeur rarely reach as far as attaining the highest office in the world.

Let’s hear Paul’s next fallacy:

So, while these weasels fight over money they squeezed from their ridiculously loyal fans … they are scrimping on the current team, which ought to have a chance to contend but entered the season with Vicente Padilla as its opening day pitcher and a retread named Charles Haeger as the fifth starter.

Padilla being named Opening Day starter was annoying, but ultimately irrelevant, since he’s the #4 starter on a club with Clayton Kershaw, who was only the toughest starter in baseball to hit last year. Charlie Haeger is all of 26 years old, an AAA All-Star last year, and potentially a very valuable piece for his ability to suck up a lot of innings with his knuckler. That’s a retread? Hey, Paul, how’s Tim Wakefield worked out in Boston?

A team with no plans to spend on free agents in the future, with a core that is no longer young, with a minor-league system that appears to have dried up … that is going to keep raising ticket prices.

The core is no longer young? Kershaw’s 22. Kemp, 25. Ethier, 28. Martin, 27. Loney, 26. DeWitt, 24. Billingsley and Broxton will be 26 this year. Of the 8 starters on Opening Day, 5 were under 30. This is an old team?

As far as the minor league system drying up… well, the top levels aren’t what they once were, but there’s a pretty goddamn good reason for that, just judging by the paragraph above. Look at all the young talent that’s graduated to the bigs in the last three years! That there’s a year or two gap between this crowd and the talented young guys behind (Gordon, Lambo, Withrow, etc.) is no surprise at all.

When the McCourts are gone, check back with me. I may return. I may not. I certainly won’t be back while either of them control the team. I would recommend other Dodgers fans do the same. But you can figure it out for yourself.

Thanks, Paul. If this is the kind of misinformation you’re going to spread, then I think we’d all prefer you don’t come back. Hey, I hear there’s a team in San Francisco that spends a lot of money! Maybe you should follow them?

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