"Unless Frank McCourt was visiting my home and trying to kill my cat, I doubt I would ever base my decision on attending a game on what the ownership does."
That comment, from Bob Timmerman, represents the majority of respondents to my little experiment of two days ago. Winning, affordability, and the gameday experience all outweighed personal feelings toward ownership, though the anti-Frank contingent was well-represented and admirably passionate. Still, the consensus was that people, generally, do not much care how sausage is made.
That's certainly in line with my own feelings on the subject. I'm a relatively unemotional consumer; I can count on one hand the number of stores I avoid based on non-business factors. I don't care a whole lot about which political party a company (or its management) supports, and, with a couple exceptions, I'm not particularly won over by a company's charitable efforts. Long story short, I'm a results sort of guy.
And, so, it seems, are most of you. I'd guess that my readers tend to be among the organization's most critical, so for a majority of the commenters to focus on the field rather than the owner's box is telling. This isn't to say people don't care who owns the team. Just that they separate their personal feelings from their rooting interests.
Frank McCourt and team management would be wise to consider this dynamic carefully. I'd guess that Dodger fans would be relatively quick to find other ways to spend a few summer hours should the team enter a down cycle. If ownership is serious about keeping payroll at or near its modest-for-the-market level, management needs to spend much more efficiently than it does now. The Dodgers are remarkably lucky to have so much young talent--Kemp, Kershaw, Ethier, Billingsley, Broxton--under control so cheaply. But they'll start to get expensive pretty quickly.
The bottom line is that winning on $100 million per year is hard, let alone the club's rumored intent to operate a little bit under that. It can certainly be done, but the club must be much more committed to acquiring and developing top-end young talent than it has been in recent years. It has drafted too low to snag premium players without going over slot in the draft, and the system has suffered for it. There is no wave of talent in the minors ready to form a major league core like the team features now. If the dollars aren't there for premium free agent acquisitions, this team could struggle to compete as soon as 2012.
I don't want to find out what attendance looks like when fans don't trust ownership and the team is losing. Neither, I'm sure, does Frank McCourt. But the reality is that if payroll stays where it is and management does not drastically alter its approach to the draft and amateur free agency, we'll all find out soon enough.
Winning means a lot to Frank McCourt. It will put butts in the seats, which he needs. It will also heal the fractured relationship with the fans, which he wants. The wins will begin to dry up soon, though, unless the Dodgers spend more or spend smarter. And, as a lifelong fan, I sure hope at least one of those things happens.
Thank you all for responding so eagerly and thoughtfully to my call for opinions. I'm going to leave anonymous commenting enabled unless it turns out to cause problems. Judging by the comments left to the last post, I don't anticipate that becoming the case.