Dodgers Signing, Fans Not Buying

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Andre Ethier gets a walk to drive in the go-ahead run against the Philadelphia Phillies in the eighth inning. The Phillies couldn't recover the lead -- losing the game 2-1.

    The Dodgers have awakened from their winter hibernation.

    Today they reached new deals to keep more of their core intact — Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton, Russell Martin, James Loney, George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo all reached deals with the Dodgers in the last 24 hours. Those players were arbitration eligible and the Dodgers have avoided that in each case.

    Ethier and Broxton, as Matt Kemp did last week, signed a two-year deal with the franchise, providing a bit of stability. Ethier had 31 home runs last season, drove in 106 runs and was the team’s best clutch hitter. Broxton became one of the most feared closers in baseball on his way to 36 saves last season.

    All these deals mean that the Dodgers are going to take the field next season with almost the exact same roster as took them to the National League Championship Series the last two years. While the team has not made any splashy signings — like bringing in the ace pitcher manager Joe Torre has suggested the team needs — they have not backtracked either. A young core that should be better next year than last will take the field in April.

    But so far, fans aren’t buying it.

    Season ticket renewals were down. How many came through at last Friday’s deadline remains to be seen but heading into that the Dodgers were off 3,200 season ticket sales compared to last yea. That is a lot of money for a cash-poor team.

    Certainly the national and regional economy plays a part in all this. People are cutting back on entertainment expenses everywhere. Unless the product is named Avatar.

    But the nasty public divorce between team owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie — both of whom claim ownership of the team — has led to questions of confidence in the finances of the team. While the payroll for next year will not be far off last year, especially after the raises all those young core players got, the perception is that the Dodgers are in trouble. And that the problems of ownership will trickle down to the field. And why should people shell out good money if the product is getting worse?

    Maybe the recent signings will start to change that perception, but more likely it is going to take more than that.

    It is going to take winning. That is the balm to all ailments in professional sports. If the Dodgers win and are exciting – as they have been the last couple years — fans will come to see them. However, if the improving Rockies or Diamondbacks move past the Dodgers in the standings, and the Dodgers can’t go out and get name free agents or make trades to change that, it will start to show at the gate.

    Just a little more pressure on a young Dodgers core that has accomplished so much already.