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Cheating scandal leaves Dodgers fans feeling tagged out at home

Dodger fans
Dodger fans watch batting practice before Game 6 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It’s so difficult for lifelong Dodgers fan Joseph Daniels to talk about that magical October night in 2017, when his boys in blue clinched a spot in their first World Series in 29 years.

Daniels was there, at Wrigley Field, for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. He was part of that blue-clad Dodgers crowd that just wanted to bask in the euphoria, that chanted “We’re not leaving!” in the stands even after the stadium lights went down.

“It was surreal that we were actually going,” said Daniels, a 32-year-old diesel mechanic from Crestline. “I was born in 1987, and the last one we won was in 1988. Watching baseball that long and never getting that far — it was a great feeling.”

Now, it’s a gut punch.

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It never made sense to Daniels that his Dodgers went on to lose the World Series to the Houston Astros. That is, until this week, when Major League Baseball released a report detailing how the Astros illegally used technology to steal opposing teams’ pitching signs in home games during the 2017 season.

Managers were fired; fines and additional punishments were issued. Other shoes — or baseball cleats — are likely to fall.

But that’s not enough for many Dodgers fans, especially after they learned that the Boston Red Sox, who beat the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, also are under investigation for alleged cheating.

“There needs to be some kind of asterisk on those years, 2017 and 2018,” Daniels said. “No one won.”

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Dodgers fans say they were robbed — of both sweet victory and of the steep cost of those World Series tickets — and many believe that Major League Baseball should strip the Astros of their championship.

On Tuesday, the L.A. City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution demanding that MLB award both the 2017 and 2018 titles to Los Angeles.

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Benjamin Rodriguez sports his Dodger blue top hat before Game 2 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium in 2017.
(Hailey Branson-Potts / Los Angeles Times)

“Our role is to raise our voice for something that we feel is a moral crisis,” said City Councilman Gil Cedillo, one of the sponsors of the resolution. “You see the challenges we have in Washington when we have people that don’t play by the rules. We don’t want to make cheating the new normal.“

Cedillo, whose district includes Dodger Stadium, and Councilman Paul Koretz each wrote separate, individual resolutions this week, without knowing the other man had done so. After they realized what had happened, they came together and co-sponsored the current resolution.

“We can’t allow the game to be treated this way with such an egregious example of cheating and not have a dogged response,” Koretz said. “I think this resolution makes the point that this is not just some people talking. The whole city officially feels wounded and offended.”

Desiree Garcia, co-owner of the Dodgers fan group Pantone 294 — named after the official shade of Dodger blue — said the last few days have been a roller coaster of emotions. They’re angry. They’re sad. They’re in denial.

“We have the strong, loyal fan base,” Garcia said. “The majority of us have grown up watching baseball with our grandparents on TV. It’s one of those things we’ve all grown up with and learned to love, and when baseball is affected it’s not just a Dodger thing. It’s a fan thing in general.”

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2017 World Series
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulls pitcher Clayton Kershaw out of the game against the Houston Astros in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

But Garcia, and many others, she said, are just trying to stay positive and focus on the approaching season. She hopes the whole ugly situation just fires up the Dodgers, “lights a fire under their butts” and propels them to the victory they’ve deserved for so long, she said.

Garcia said devastated fans need to keep in perspective that the players themselves are hurting as well.

MLB has told teams to not comment on the situation. That did not stop players across the majors, including Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and pitcher Alex Wood, from lamenting on Twitter.

“For the sake of the game, I hope this isn’t true,” Bellinger tweeted. “If true, there needs to be major consequences to the players. That completely ruins the integrity of the game!!!”

Joshua Zonni, 21, of Chino Hills, said his heart broke as he sat in Dodger Stadium during Game 7 of the 2017 World Series and watched the Astros celebrate on the field.

It was the first time he had seen his team play for a championship. The Dodgers’ 1988 World Series victory happened 10 years before he was born.

In 2017, Zonni said, he respected the Astros and “gave them props” for having the better team. Not anymore.

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Zonni said he thinks MLB should give Los Angeles the title. Barring that, he said, the Astros should be stripped of the championship at “bare minimum.” But the damage is done, he said: The Astros robbed him and fellow Dodgers fans of a possibly once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that’s something they can’t get back.

Eduardo Nunez
Boston Red Sox third baseman Eduardo Nunez falls into the stands after catching a foul ball hit by Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger during the 2018 World Series.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

“Anyone would agree that when a competitor cheats, the organization who plays fair is entitled to the championship,” Zonni said. “But either way, it will never be the same as watching your team win it live.”

Daniel Juarez, another Dodgers fan, sees it a little differently.

Juarez, 24, has worked at the Dodgers Clubhouse in Universal CityWalk for about two years and remembers how packed the fan apparel store was during the World Series. The scandal, he said, is unfortunate, especially since fans worked hard to be able to afford the expensive tickets.

Still, the North Hollywood resident doesn’t think L.A. should be awarded the championship.

“We know we deserve it, but it’s over with and done,” Juarez said. “Dodgers fans are the most loyal fans in baseball. We want a ring, but there’s nothing we can do about it. If they vacate the title, that will be justice for the fans and Los Angeles.”

Ethel Alvavrez, a 35-year-old fan from Whittier, agreed.

“You can’t do a redo, and the teams have changed since then,” she said. “I think Houston getting reprimanded is good, and they should also vacate the title.”

Daniels, of Crestline, said he too doesn’t want a 2017 or 2018 World Series trophy.

“I don’t like handouts,” he said. “I want the feeling when we win a World Series to be the most exciting moment of my life.”

That night in Chicago, when a World Series win seemed as if it was a given, Daniels had roamed the stadium in a state of pure joy with his uncle, Albert Bujanda of Yucaipa, who carried a homemade sign reading: “Airfare Cali to Chicago = $700. Hotel Room = $300. Ticket to NLCS = $600. Watching Your Boys in Blue Clinch: Priceless!”

A few days later, Daniels attended a World Series game at Dodgers Stadium with his father and his sister-in-law. Their left-field tickets cost about $1,200 apiece. The Dodgers lost that night, which hurt badly enough before the cheating news.

“That’s money we’re not going to get back,” Daniels said. “The good thing is I can say I got to go to the World Series with my dad. But it makes it hurt even more.”


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