Dodgers a main part of the scene, but they can't be seen by many on TV

Four minutes before Hyun-Jin Ryu threw the first pitch of the Dodgers' home opener Friday, Time Warner Cable hit the send button.

Vin Scully had just handed the ceremonial first pitch to Sandy Koufax, two of the most beloved sports figures in Los Angeles history teaming up to welcome baseball back to Dodger Stadium. It was a goosebump moment in person and on television, except that most of Southern California cannot see the Dodgers on television.

In an email blast to DirecTV subscribers demanding their Dodgers, TWC put the blame on DirecTV. If DirecTV had sent an email, the blame would have been put on TWC. Whatever. Skip the talking points on both sides, and proceed directly to the scoreboard.

Games in which Dodgers fans have been held hostage: 5, and counting.

This is nervous time around Dodger Stadium, not only for the fans but for the executives that rebuilt the Dodgers from a bankrupt punch line into a baseball powerhouse in nothing flat. The Dodgers got closer to the World Series last October as they had in 25 years. They made home-grown ace Clayton Kershaw the richest pitcher in history. The Tampa Bay Rays could sell out every game this season and still sell fewer tickets than the Dodgers sold in season packages alone.

Now they are invisible.

For weeks, we heard how the deadline pressure of a season opener would get the Dodgers' television deals done. That was the model when the Lakers launched their channel two years ago, when every cable and satellite provider but DirecTV had signed up a week into the season. No major provider has signed up to carry the Dodgers channel yet, aside from TWC. That leaves 70% of the area in the dark.

The Australian opener is over. The North American opener is over. The Los Angeles opener is over. If the impasse goes on much longer, the urgency to get the deals done might evaporate.

The Dodgers could have avoided all of this, had they stayed with Fox Sports under what would have been the most lucrative local television deal in North American sports history. Prime Ticket already is in your home, and the Dodgers could have turned it into something like SportsNet LA.

But the Dodgers got an even better deal from TWC. Would you leave more than a billion dollars on the table?

Mark Walter, the Dodgers' chairman and controlling owner, said he does not foresee a prolonged blackout.

"I think these guys are going to get it resolved," Walter said Friday. "I know there is a lot of back and forth in these kind of big-deal negotiations. But I think people are getting a lot closer. I think things are not unreasonable, which means to me, normally, that things can get done.

"The Dodgers care about that very, very much."

TWC is on the hook for payments to the Dodgers, whether the team is on or off the air, so the negotiations are up to TWC. Walter said he sympathizes with those fans wondering why the Dodgers cannot just intervene and end the standoff.

"We have to let a negotiating partner do what they think is right for their business," he said.

Magic Johnson, the Dodgers' co-owner, said he could not believe the satellite television executives claiming demand for SportsNet LA has not been overwhelming. "That's ridiculous," he said.

Before he drove into Dodger Stadium on Friday, Johnson said, he passed a nearby park with thousands of fans dressed in Dodgers gear. It was 9 a.m.

"We are selling out the merchandise," Johnson said. "People want to see us.

"This team is very, very popular. And the thing about it is: they [the television providers] know it too. They are going to work this out. They have to work this out. … Just like they worked out the Laker deal, they'll work this deal out."

Scully certainly hopes so. He likes to keep up with his Dodgers when he does not travel with them. He has DirecTV at home, and no other option.

"We're not in a Time Warner area," he said. "I'm just hoping, like everybody else."

While some fans are worried they are missing the first few games of what might be his final season, the 86-year-old Scully said he has not decided whether this year will be his last.

"It's only opening day," he said, laughing. "I don't want to think about hanging them up yet."

And a very pleasant day to you, wherever you may be, if you can see him on TV.

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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