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Dodgers fatten the roster but it's still slim pickings for fans

T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers have added a lot of star power in the last month, and a sense of fun is starting to return to Dodger Stadium. But the fan experience remains second-rate.

August 26, 2012|T.J. Simers
  • Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Cruz and Hanley Ramirez welcome Nick Punto to the postgame celebration.
Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Cruz and Hanley Ramirez welcome Nick Punto to the… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

Yippee and hooray upon the arrival of Adrian Gonzalez and his Red Sox pals, the Boston Herald proclaiming "Bums Away," but then Los Angeles is dazzled by star power.

The public address announcer introduces the newest Dodgers — Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto — the crowd cheers and then Hanley Ramirez emerges from the dugout and takes an unannounced curtain call as well.

It's perfect, the fun that has been missing here returning with a stadium-wide laugh, and a few Manny-esque moments later Gonzalez hitting a three-run homer.

Dodger Stadium begins to feel as if it has a pulse again.

It's been slow in coming, this game beginning with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, another small crowd and an entire ownership box adjacent to the Dodgers dugout sitting empty.

While the Dodgers have added star power, it still appears as if bobblehead dolls are the only sure-fire draw.

But then it's not easy being a fan here as I learned Friday night; so many roadblocks to overcome in the quest for fun.

The toughest of them all is the decision whether to stay home and listen to Vin Scully or take on Friday traffic and the parking lot and pay $75 to have someone stand in front of you occasionally.

I chose to pay the $150 for two loge-level tickets Friday night to watch the Marlins and Dodgers, even knowing the Marlins have already surrendered and the Dodgers were not offering a discount.

And now I have new respect for fans who pay to watch the Dodgers, a newfound understanding why the owners deserve no special thanks for improving the entertainment package here, and renewed resolve to rip any athlete who doesn't care about the faithful.

When I arrive, there's talk of a Red Sox-Dodgers trade, but no rush where we were sitting to take advantage of the 20% discount on James Loney jerseys. Why aren't they free?

The daughter sits down, screaming a little as she does, and then the P.A. urges everyone to stand for the national anthem. It takes almost the entire song for me to pry her out of her seat.

The seats are so skinny on the loge level, metal bars on each side of the seat so unforgiving, it's almost painful to be a Dodgers fan. And the seats are so close together that personal hygiene is as important at a Dodgers game as Nancy Bea.

Meanwhile, Scully is on the scoreboard telling everyone to enjoy a great Friday night at the ballpark . . . but if you notice, he has no one sitting next to him.

The game starts and Andre Ethier hits a ball deep. The skinny people are able to stand, which explains the fireworks. It's a signal to the fat people stuck in their seats that a Dodger has a hit a home run.

Roger Owens, the Peanut Man, throws a bag to the daughter, who misses, two kids in the next row getting conked in the head. They are unruly kids, so no one in the area complains, including their parents.

We miss the second inning when a group of fans can't decide whether they are in the proper seats.

Until now, the Dodgers should've been paying people to show up rather than the other way around.

It's amazing when you think about how faithful some fans have been. For much of the season they have been paying to see really no one special, Matt Kemp and Ethier hurt and everyone else pretty much a slug.

But now that the Phillies, Red Sox and Marlins have let their fans down, the Dodgers have traded for their underachievers who are now considered saviors here.

Most of the time when a team acquires veterans who have been in a pennant race it's considered a good thing. They have experience, we're told.

Gonzalez, Beckett and Carl Crawford played for a beer-drinking, chicken-eating bunch of chokers a year ago that went 7-20 down the stretch, wiping out a nine-game wild-card lead and missing the playoffs.

But the thing Dodgers fans have to hold onto is the fact the Red Sox also sold Babe Ruth, who reportedly liked his beer and chicken as well.

Listening to baseball folks, there doesn't seem to be any doubt Gonzalez will be a standout, one media type going so far as to say he will be the team's most popular player by next year.

Last season when the Red Sox were eliminated, Gonzalez told the media, "I'm a firm believer that God has a plan and it wasn't in his plan for us to move forward."

That didn't play well with many folks in Boston who thought he was looking for someone to blame, but I think we all agree that sports fans in Boston, and Philadelphia for that matter, are really weird.

As for Beckett, one published story in Boston begins this way: "This is Josh Beckett. At any given moment, Beckett can be a defiant personality, a man who is rarely remorseful and barely cares about public perception."

He will pitch for the Dodgers in Colorado on Monday and I will be there after the game to talk to the defiant one to see if he really doesn't care about public perception.

He has to prove himself to L.A. fans, not the other way around, something Joe Blanton might also want to keep in mind and Andrew Bynum never did.

The Dodgers have 35 games remaining to demonstrate they are playoff-worthy, and while Dodgers fever has yet to catch on, maybe the Gonzalez poke is a start.

Ownership is spending money like it said it would, and while it has to increase the star power to win a richer TV contract, everyone benefits.

Look what it's meant to the Angels.

Well, everyone should benefit.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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