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Frank McCourt has his own version of 'Moneyball'

Dodgers' season was barely cold before an announcement of an increase in season-ticket prices.

October 12, 2010|T.J. Simers

I have a list of questions for Dodgers fans, which I will get to in a moment.

Last week Frank McCourt fired Dennis Mannion, the guy who has been running the Dodgers for the past year while McCourt has been in hiding.

He also dismissed two secretaries, and because McCourt isn't talking, I can only assume they were deemed responsible for putting the team's poor bullpen together.

The Dodgers announced McCourt "will resume a more direct and active role in managing the organization."

A few days later, seven days to be exact after the scintillating finish to the 2010 season, the Dodgers e-mailed 2011 season-ticket invoices to fans.

They told their fans they could start paying the Dodgers beginning yesterday. I can only imagine the traffic jam around Dodger Stadium as everyone rushed to be first in line.

They offered their fans the option of spreading payments over five months, as long as the first payment was made by Oct. 29. McCourt isn't talking, so I assume he wants to pass out candy for Halloween but needs cash to buy it.

As public relations go, the Dodgers rank lower than where they finished in the standings. Instead of an invoice, loyal Dodgers fans probably deserved an apology from McCourt.

Or, at least a hint of hope better days might be ahead.

So when might he offer that?

"That's a good question," a Dodgers spokesman said. "I don't know that we've set a date for that to take place. But I'm sure it will be before opening day, no question."

If initial season-ticket payments are due by Oct. 29, how about before Oct. 29?

THE DODGERS' spokesman said the organization has not raised ticket prices in four years. He said a ton of time was put in trying to do what is right by their fans. If that was true, of course, they'd have better players.

The Dodgers said they are making available 33,624 seats to season-ticket holders at the same price as the exciting season that just came to a close.

They have another 11,942 seats that will cost more to occupy. How would you like to be identified as one of the 11,942 fans who chose to pay more to watch the Dodgers?

They also have 10,732 seats which will cost less, and presumably include a view of the field and nearby port-a-potties.

Wherever the seat, or price, the easy conclusion here is that less than 72 hours after McCourt resumed a more direct and active role with the Dodgers, the first thing he did was go after everyone's money.

I wonder if Dodgers fans think of themselves as an ATM.

I know some are unhappy. They began e-mailing Sunday, primarily those who have been sitting in left field. They are looking at a 60% increase in season tickets, and probably still little chance to catch a Dodgers home run ball.

"Do I sacrifice the time I spend at every game with my son, or do I buy the tickets and feel like an idiot?" said Ray Mehlbaum. "There is no correct answer, but if I buy, aren't I condoning what they are doing?"

Antonio Corral, Jordan Lee, Ron Cooper, Jordan Anderson and Alex Sota offered similar comments in separate telephone conversations. They paid $6 for a ticket in 2007, $8 in 2008-2010 and now the Dodgers are telling them it will cost $13 to sit in the first four rows of the left-field pavilion.

The Dodgers, however, cannot tell them who will be playing left field.

If they surrender their season tickets, and several said they will, it will cost $25 for the same seat on game day.

Funny, but so far no one has e-mailed to say they have a chance to buy tickets at a lower price. They are probably still partying, or being treated for shock.

Janine Gualderon's family has owned four field-level seats since 1961. She's now asking herself, "What am I buying?"

"We don't know what the judge is going to rule and whether the McCourts are going to be here," she said. "I don't want to go through another season with the McCourts. Am I buying season tickets so they can buy another house?

"It's really a hard decision. I'm being asked to buy blindly."

That has not been much of a problem for those purchasing tickets in the past. As much as anything, they were buying the Dodger Stadium experience, which leads me to my list of questions:

1. Because no one knows right now what the Dodgers will do or will not do to improve, is the stadium experience enough to lure you there?

2. The Dodgers traditionally have been almost like family; have the McCourts changed that for you?

3. If you had the chance to say something to McCourt, what would it be?

4. Do you think UCLA will ever improve? (Sorry, wrong column).

5. Has anything really changed, or should we automatically expect the Dodgers to draw 3.5 million next season?

"The players on the field are only a part of why people come to Dodger Stadium," said the team spokesman. "It's the fan experience, tradition and time spent with the family. Year in and year out, that doesn't change.

"There's also Frank McCourt's history of success. Since he arrived we've made the postseason four out of seven years."

That's why it has to be such exciting news for fans that McCourt is back.

It's pretty clear Jonathan Broxton just wasn't the same without Frank, and for that matter, Jamie.

But that's for someone else to judge.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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