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Dodgers Dugout: The hidden cost of the TV deal

Dodger TV
Bill Peterson of Los Angeles and about 25 others protest the TV blackout outside Dodger Stadium in 2015.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and I’m waiting for my turn to deliver a walk-off hit.

TV

We’re going to turn our attention away from the team on the field for a moment and turn it to the TV deal, which I haven’t written about in a while.

Nothing has changed. Most Dodgers fans can’t watch the team on television.

I get a lot of emails after each newsletter, and some of them will include at least one angry line toward the Dodgers blaming them for the whole thing. The entire, complicated nuances of the TV impasse is too lengthy to get into in this newsletter, but you can read about it here and here and here.

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No matter who you blame, there is one thing the Dodgers aren’t realizing: The fans look to the team to explain what is going on, but the Dodgers never really say anything about it to the fans. There is a giant communications blackout, and if the Dodgers truly believe they shouldn’t be blamed for this, they should state their case to the fans. Instead, nothing.

If I were Dodgers ownership, I would be handing out fliers at every home game explaining the situation. I would have Magic Johnson, still one of the most beloved figures in L.A. sports, in as many ads on as many TV and radio stations as possible, explaining everything. I would make him the face of this campaign, just as they make him the face of a lot of the positive announcements the team makes involving the community.

I always get the impression Dodgers leadership is like the little kid who sticks a finger in each ear and says “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” when he is getting in trouble for something or being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do. It seems they figure if they don’t address the problem, it will go away on its own. But the TV deal isn’t like a T. rex from “Jurassic Park,” it doesn’t go away if you stay still and don’t move.

There’s a hidden cost of the TV deal that I think the Dodgers need to worry about. It’s a problem that won’t show itself for another 10 years or so: They aren’t building brand loyalty with kids.

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Whenever I go to a Dodgers game, I see a lot of guys my age wearing Dodgers jerseys. I don’t see a lot of kids wearing Dodgers jerseys. I have sat near kids who wonder who all these guys on the field are while their parents high-five each other after another victory.

When I go to an Angels game, there are tons of kids wearing Mike Trout jerseys.

The kids who live next door to me are huge Angels fans. Why? Because they can watch the games on TV.

And that’s the other point, probably most important. Most of us became Dodgers fans because our parents watched the games on TV. Back in those days, not every game was on TV, but that was the case for every team, so it wasn’t a big deal. When a Dodgers game came on, my parents watched and eventually I fell into the habit of watching as well. Soon, I would go to sleep each night listening to Vin Scully on the radio.

Now, no kids develop the habit, even if only from osmosis, of watching and listening to the Dodgers. Their parents will take them to games occasionally, but they aren’t emotionally invested in the team. So, when it comes time in 10 to 20 years to take their kids somewhere, a Dodgers game won’t be their first choice.

Of course, you have to figure most of the Dodgers leadership will be elsewhere in 10 to 20 years, so, in other words … “la-la-la-la-la-la-la-they-can’t-hear-you.”

Clayton Kershaw

There seems to be a small but vocal minority of Dodgers fans out there who are convinced Clayton Kershaw is done. Which is far from the case. Let’s take a look at Kershaw’s season.

--He has pitched at least six innings in every start. He has never done that in a full season.

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--2.77 ERA, fifth in the NL

---1.038 WHIP, fifth in the NL

---7.408 hits per 9 IP, ninth in the NL

---1.939 walks per 9 IP, ninth in the NL

---4.68 strikeouts-to-walk ratio, 10th in the NL

Kershaw critics would be singing the praises of any other Dodgers pitcher who did that.

You only make the mistake of thinking “Kershaw is done” if you compare him to his prime, when Kershaw was pitching at a level that few in the history of baseball have reached. Don’t make that mistake. Kershaw is still an excellent pitcher. He is no longer superhuman, but if we were to judge all pitchers by the level Kershaw set a handful of seasons ago, then there wouldn’t be any pitchers in the league.

Any team in baseball would happily take Clayton Kershaw and put him in their rotation, and on a majority of teams, he would be their ace.

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Corey Seager

Times columnist Dylan Hernandez talked to Corey Seager about the struggle of coming off two major surgeries (hip and elbow). Some interesting quotes from Seager:

On returning to the starting lineup on opening day: “It was weird. It felt natural, but it wasn’t what you did before. You remembered what you did, you remembered your thought processes, you remembered all of the things you did before and you tried to do that and you were just not in the same spot, you were not doing the same thing.”

He also had to become reacquainted with his body, which included a new elbow ligament and a more flexible hip.

“My hip has been noticeably different in just the fact of having more range, having more flexibility. It’s been trying to learn those new ranges, learn those new positions I can get into and how to manage that position.”

Seager batted .225 through May 11.

“So there’s definitely times you got upset, irritated, fighting yourself, almost,” he said.

In mid-May, everything started to click again. Over a 26-game stretch from May 12 to June 11, Seager batted .354 with six home runs and 26 runs batted in.

“It was comforting to be able to know that you could do it again, you know?” he said.

But Seager then strained his left hamstring rounding third base in a game against the Angels. He tore the same hamstring in 2013, his first full season in the minor leagues.

“That one was really hard for me, more mental than physical,” he said. “I finally got past not being in rehab mode, where I was worried about my body, worried about having to get everything completely ready, finally going and then having to basically start back over and do the rehab process again. It was difficult.”

Seager also says he learned a lot from Adrian Gonzalez during their time on the team together. It’s a really good column, worth a read by clicking here.

Interesting

Since coming to the Dodgers, reliever Casey Sadler has given up one run and seven hits in 12.1 innings, striking out eight and walking four. He has allowed his only inherited runner to score, and I don’t think he is as good as he is pitching right now, but he has been a solid addition and could pay off during the postseason.

On May 27, Joe Kelly gave up two runs to the New York Mets without getting anyone out. His ERA was 8.83 and he was getting booed.

Since then, in 22 games, he has given up four earned runs and 13 hits in 21.2 innings, striking out 33 and walking 10. He has held opponents to a .163/.264 OB%/.225 SLG% and has a 1.66 ERA.

Right now, a postseason bullpen of Sadler, Kelly, Kenley Jansen, Julio Urias, Rich Hill, Pedro Baez, Kenta Maeda, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin looks decent to me. Of course, there’s a little less than two months left in the season, so a lot will happen before we get to that point.

In case you were wondering

The Dodgers have 10 walk-off victories this season. The team record is 15 by the 1974 Dodgers. Just look at the names that had walk-off hits (or sacrifice flies) in 1974. It’s a true journey down Dodgers history:

Tom Paciorek (home run)

Steve Garvey (single)

Steve Garvey (single)

Joe Ferguson (sacrifice fly)

Steve Garvey (home run)

Jim Wynn (home run)

Von Joshua (single)

Bill Buckner (home run)

Joe Ferguson (home run)

Ken McMullen (single)

Ron Cey (single)

Manny Mota (single)

Willie Crawford (sacrifice fly)

Jim Wynn (home run)

The last walk-off win was because of a passed ball by Atlanta catcher Johnny Oates.

Ask Orel Hershiser

I’m pretty excited to announce that Dodger legend Orel Hershiser has agreed to answer reader questions. It will work similarly to “Ask Ross Porter” or “Ask Fred Claire.”

You email me your question for Orel and he will answer selected ones in a future newsletter. This is a rare chance to connect with one of the best Dodgers of all time.

My advice: Try to come up with a unique question. You don’t want to be the 112th person to ask “What was it like to break the scoreless inning streak.” And thanks to Orel for agreeing to take part. Start sending in your questions now.

Ask Ross Porter

Ross Porter will once again answer reader questions this season. All you have to do is email me your question at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. I will forward the email to Ross, and he will answer some each week. Take it away, Ross.

Ron Buccieri of Thousand Oaks asks: The Dodgers are 18 games ahead. Is that close to a record for runaways?

Ross: The largest margin ever between a first and second-place team occurred in 1995 even though 18 games were not played because the 1994 strike carried into the next season. Cleveland finished 30 games ahead of Kansas City. In 1902, Pittsburgh wound up 27 1/2 games in front of the Brooklyn Superbas after posting a 103-36 record.

John Robertson of Westlake Village asks: I have been a Dodger fan all my life Ross, but cannot remember the last time they won the World Series before their fans. When was it?

Ross: You have to go back 56 years, John. In 1963, the Dodgers swept the Yankees, wrapping it up in Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium. They are the last National League team to sweep a World Series that began on the road.

Maryann Rinsch of Cleveland asks: Is it true that baseball did not have the dynasties it had when the Yankees dominated in the 1950’s?

Ross: That is correct. No team has won consecutive World Series championships since 2000 — the longest such drought in major-league history.

John Bennett of Santa Fe, N.M. asks: Hi, Ross, when I was a kid in the 1970s, the Dodgers relief pitchers were driven from the bullpen to the mound in a Datsun 280-Z, visitors in golf carts. What years did that start and then end?

Ross: For several decades, motor vehicles did it, maybe to save time. The idea was popular in the 1970’s, began a decline in the 80’s, and in 1995, the last bullpen vehicle was retired. That was the Brewers’ sidecar-equipped motorcycle. Increasing liability insurance rates might have been a cause.

Javier Sanchez of Big Bear and Dan Witte of Laguna Beach ask: What is the history behind the rule that allows a batter to run to first base on a strikeout if the catcher does not cleanly catch the ball?

Ross: That rule was approved in 1868 —three years after the end of the Civil War — and stated, “if three balls are struck at and missed, and the last one is not caught, the striker must attempt to make his run and he can be put out on the bases.”

Best record in baseball

The Dodgers are clinging to a narrow 18-game lead in the NL West, so let’s take a look at the race for best record in baseball, which will be used to determine home-field advantage in the World Series:

New York Yankees, 76-39

Dodgers, 77-40

Houston Astros, 75-40, 1 GB

Minnesota Twins, 70-45, 6 GB

Cleveland Indians, 69-46, 7 GB

Atlanta Braves, 68-49, 9 GB

Tampa Bay Rays, 66-50, 10.5 GB

Oakland A’s, 65-50, 11 GB

Chicago Cubs, 63-52, 13 GB

Washington Nationals, 61-53, 14.5 GB

The first tiebreaker for World Series home-field advantage is head-to-head record, which makes the upcoming three-game series at home against the Yankees (Aug. 23-25) very important. The second tiebreaker is best record against teams in their respective division (Dodgers vs. NL West) and the third tiebreaker is best record against teams in their own league (Dodgers vs. NL teams).

Dodgers poll

Which team has the best 1-2-3 rotation in baseball? Is it Houston, with Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Gerrit Cole; Washington with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin; the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler or some other team? Vote by clicking here.

More KTLA games

Five more Dodger games will be televised on KTLA Channel 5 this season. They are:

Saturday, Aug. 31, 5 p.m. at Arizona

Saturday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m. vs. San Francisco

Saturday, Sept. 14, 4 p.m. at New York Mets

Saturday, Sept. 21, 6 p.m. vs. Colorado Rockies

Saturday, Sept. 28, 1 p.m. at San Francisco

Up next

All times Pacific

Tonight: Arizona (*Robbie Ray) at Dodgers (Walker Buehler), 7 p.m.

Saturday: Arizona (*Alex Young) at Dodgers (Kenta Maeda), 6 p.m.

Sunday: Arizona (Mike Leake) at Dodgers (*Hyun-Jin Ryu), 1 p.m.

*-left-handed

And finally

All of the Dodgers walk-off wins from 2019. Watch it here.

You can subscribe to this newsletter by clicking here. Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me and follow me on Twitter: @latimeshouston.


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