The greatest asset that the Los Angeles Dodgers have ever had since they came west in 1958 isn't a player. It is Vin Scully, their 88-year-old broadcaster who has been with them since the Brooklyn days. His mellifluous voice, gift for storytelling, dramatic sense and knowledge of baseball have been critical in establishing and maintaining fan loyalty.
Sadly, this will be his last year. Few in the Los Angeles market will get to experience this last year of greatness, as 60 percent to 70 percent of the Dodger television market has been unable to receive games through DirecTV or their cable provider the past two years.
The Dodgers created a sports platform, SportsNet LA, with only the Dodgers as content. They made an $8 billion deal with Time Warner. The richness of the deal pushed Time Warner into a negotiation stance with other television providers that carried a higher than normal monthly charge. The negotiations stalled with DirecTV and other providers, and they have been deadlocked since.
Los Angeles is the second largest media market in the country with 18 million people able to receive a signal. The five counties are geographically spread across a massive area. The one unifying factor in the early years of Dodgers broadcasts was their radio broadcasts, and it was Vin Scully who was the distinctive voice of the Dodgers. I recall walking down our street on a Saturday morning during baseball season and people were out front working on their lawns or cars. I walked the entire block able to follow the Dodgers game through the dozens of transistor radios all tuned to hear Scully. He is arguably the most venerated figure in Los Angeles.
The absurdity of the deadlock is that no one with the power to solve this will take any responsibility or dynamic action. The chairman of the Dodgers, Mark Walter, refuses to take responsibility for the situation. Team President Stan Kasten says, "It's not my job." The head of Time Warner? Nowhere in sight. The head of DirecTV? Missing. The commissioner of MLB? No clear involvement.
How does the most beloved of all Los Angeles franchises create a situation that deprives the majority of the fans of the ability to follow the games? Isn't the first rule of marketing to cater to a fan base of supporters? Not in Los Angeles. There is no joy in Dodgersville, every responsible executive has struck out.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.