Dodgers players focus attention on field
If the sky was falling around them Wednesday afternoon, the rank and file among the Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t pay much attention. Major League Baseball was taking over the team’s day-to-day operations? No problem.
“Same cash, right?” outfielder Andre Ethier asked.
Same cash, right. Ownership has changed hands, and embattled Frank McCourt is no longer in charge. But for the players, nothing else has changed.
“It doesn’t really affect us,” catcher Rod Barajas said. “Major League Baseball is taking over the team, but that’s all they’re doing. We’re not getting a new manager, we’re not getting new players, we’re not getting rid of players. It’s basically going to be the same product we’ve had. We have to just keep going out there and playing baseball.”
That’s the message manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti relayed to the players before the Dodgers played the Atlanta Braves in a mostly empty Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. No matter who’s signing the paychecks, their job is still to win games, something that’s been happening infrequently in the young season.
“Honestly, it shouldn’t affect us at all,” Mattingly said. “It’s still not going to have any control over whether we make pitches or get good pitches to hit or make good plays. It shouldn’t have any effect over what we do on the field. The way I look at it, our job stays exactly the same.”
In many ways it does, although no one is certain how day-to-day operations will be affected. But something similar happened to the Texas Rangers last year when the league took control to expedite a sale and the team still was able to get pitcher Cliff Lee and catcher Bengie Molina.
“The Rangers last year went to the World Series and acquired Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina and probably a few other players,” Colletti said. “I don’t think this is in place to hinder the Dodgers.”
As the afternoon drifted into night, players took their turns in batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran in the outfield. Fans slowly took their seats, and some felt encouraged by the prospect that changes were coming.
“It’s not a sad day at all,” said Timothy Terelli of West Los Angeles, sitting in field-level seats with his friend, Richard Martner, also of West L.A. “Everybody likes to see a family-owned team, but if the guy can’t handle it, then it has to change.”
“If McCourt gets out all the way, I think a lot of Dodger fans will come back,” Martner said. “With an acceptable ownership, you’d get a lot of the old fans back.”
But not everyone was certain that McCourt’s loss of control of the team was a good thing.
“Big picture-wise it’s never good for a team to be left in limbo like that,” said Tess Levett of San Juan Capistrano. “There’s a season, players need to be purchased and so on, and now it’s a wash because no one’s in charge.”
That might be true, but the players seemed confident that nothing critical will change on the field — or in their paychecks.
“This organization, this team, the players are protected under Major League Baseball,” Ethier said, “and there’s going to be a Dodgers team no matter what. We’re going to go out and do our job. The fans deserve to have a good team, and we’re going to continue to keep fighting and playing as hard as we can.”