The Road to Where?

The Dodgers are on the move. The question is to where? The Dodgers have begun the total pullout from the fabled Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach, shifting its top Class A team to the West Coast. (The field will be sublet to somebody else for 2007).

One of the assets in Vero Beach that the Dodgers are walking away from is physical proximity to the nearby offshore islands - islands like the Dominican Republic, where the Dodgers have found gold again and again.

Vero Beach was a quick plane trip to the Dominican. The large Hispanic population in South Florida made the tremendous jump to the mainland all the easier for scared kids. It was a natural fit, a fit that will be no more.

Of course, the Dodgers had earlier cut back the Los Palmos de Campos site from two teams to one team, and in effect gutting a top producing mine while it was still bringing up high grade ore. This to save money. Think of it, the Dodgers closed their mint as an economy move. One of the strangest decisions ever made by a new owner who knew absolutely nothing about what baseball really is all about.

So now the Dodgers have a shell of an operation in the Caribbean and the last legs of an operation at Dodgertown in Vero Beach.

They blamed falling attendance. Well you can manufacture falling attendance right easy. Just price the product out of reality. If the bozos will pay to park for spring training, they will pay to park for minor league games. If they will pay $6 for a beer for spring training, they won't mind doing it in the summer. $4 dollar hot dogs. You got it, they fleeced the rubes until they final said "enough of this, we ain't gonna take it anymore."

The Dodgers had a good thing going in Dodgertown and the connection with the productive islands and now both are gone.

Who has won? We will tell you who won, the teams that signed Miguel Cabrera and his followers, the teams that happily and quickly picked up Dodgers employees who were let go - the very guys who learned the secrets of mining the islands and who are now using those secrets for somebody else.

Of course, the Dodgers will jettison Vero Beach for spring training as well. It is now a real estate matter.

The Dodgers got Dodgertown for a jar of peanuts, got scads of taxpayer dollars and guarantees over the years, and will depart with a tidy profit. Their half century in Indian River County Florida will have turned out to be quite a deal. And particularly since there will be some other sucker willing to start the old giveaway process all over again. P.T. Barnum was right, there IS a sucker born every minute.

The Dodgers also ducked out of Columbus, Georgia, in the middle of the night, moving Michigan. Last time we looked at the map, you don't go to L.A. via Michigan, and late spring weather in Michigan is hardly conducive to good weather and full stands.

The moving-on Dodgers moved on from Triple A manager Jerry Royster very, very quickly, a move that had to have been in the works for some time. Royster frankly thought he had earned his stripes in the big leagues and had a right to be there. He was, as many ex players who have lived the high life and who expected the merry-go-round would always be there, wrong.

Now non-baseball bean counters who come in with new owners earn credits by saving $75,000 here and $75,000 there, a scout here, a minor league loss cut there, earn inside plaudits for their paper cuts, not knowing that they can cut the heart out of a baseball operation in so doing.

Why would Terry Collins be interested in going to Japan? The collection of aforementioned stupidities is why.

Yesterday, Editor Holmes invited the readers to comment on what they would do to better the Dodgers. Then he cut out the chances of real change by telling us who was signed for how long. For some inexplicable reason, baseball teams have always been more than willing to cut out a bunch of little guys, scouts, minor league instructors, etc., than to bite the bullet and eat the second year of a two year contract given a "stiff."

Of course, the unknown guys let go may have been exactly the unsung genius who could teach a kid to throw the circle changeup, to pivot on an inside pitch and generate power, to lay down a bunt (a lost art that cost the Dodgers a number of games this past season).

Dick McLaughlin, long gone, used to teach bunting by using a fishing net (in order to demonstrate how to deaden the incoming pitch). He's gone and the Dodgers ability to bunt has gone with him. Anybody note the connection. The Dodgers give two year coaching and managerial contracts to pump stability.

So what we will get is another year of the same we got from these guys this past year. What we got last year was using veterans first and rookies seldom, even if the veteran was playing on one leg and the sitting rookie was hitting lights out, even if the proven veteran came in with a dozen homers and didn't hit a single homer in a Dodgers uniform in a half season, even if the veteran hurler loved giving up runs, either as a starter or reliever.

There has been doubletalk in baseball as long as there has been doubletalk in politics, the White House, and the State Department. Official announcements are preconceived pablum having nothing whatsoever to do with what the speaker (or his or her bosses) really thinks or means. Is meant to sedate a gullible public, and to deflect real inquiry as to what is going on. Baseball owners doubletalk is frequently matched tit for tat by baseball writers doubletalk.

Getting the major league baseball beat for a major league team is a cream job. The perks are top notch. The team makes the travel arrangements. You get the leavings of the perks the players don't want, both legal and illegal, moral and immoral, and its not a job one would tend to want to give up easily. Keeping the job means going along. It wasnt always like this in New York, but it has become so over the years in LA.

Nobody knows the art of baseball doubletalk better than Dr. Thomas Lasorda. He is so good at it, he could be a presidential press agent, a secretary of state, or a U.N. emissary in a heartbeat. Fleece 'em boys, make 'em laugh, distract them, move on, answer a question with a question, the answer you give 'em don't have to have anything to do with the question asked. Remember what Winston Churchill said, "sound good, say nothing."

It is in this vein that the Dodgers said they certainly want Nomar Garciaparra and Greg Maddux back next year.

The real decision about these two admittedly fan favorites and longtime baseball heroes is a whole lot more complex than that, a whole lot more complex.

Why is Nomar so brittle? At 33, he is very, very brittle. More so than the average professional athlete. The injuries have come to often, year after year, to be just a matter of chance.

As to Maddux, the number of professional baseball pitchers who have had as much wear and tear on their arm at the big league level as Maddux has had AND who get to do so after age 40 are less than one per cent. The ones who have done so successfully after age 40 are even less than that.

Now keeping these two household names, while sentimental, and popular at first glance, is a nice thing to contemplate, but the COST of doing so, is many, many, many minor league baseball scouts, or piddling subsidies to a minor league instructing budget, or tireless scout machete-ing his way through the Caribbean.

Doing what is popular in the home office at the expense of the manufacturing level where the goods are made is rarely the path to success -- as the big three auto makers have come to learn.

An organization, even a sport, with no R&D (research and development) must make up for this lack by paying megabucks later for somebody else's trademark. And even that is no guarantee of success.

Just ask the Yankees.

So endeth the sermon.

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