This is a golden era of Dodgers baseball.
Parity can take its act somewhere else. Say, the American League West. When the Houston Astros clinch, the AL West will have crowned four of its teams as champion within the past five years.
The National League West? The- Dodgers, five years of time running.
The Dodgers have fielded a team since 1884; this yearâ€™s squad could demolish the club record of 105 victories in a season. The- personalities are compelling and likable: Clayton Kershawâ€™s intensity, Justin Turnerâ€™s happiness, Kenley Jansenâ€™s passion, Yasiel Puigâ€™s exuberance, Corey Seagerâ€™s drive, Rich Hillâ€™s perseverance, Chase Utleyâ€™s Yoda.
It should be quite a party when the Dodgers clinch the division championship, any day now. It is absurd in that all of Los Angeles will not be able to watch the live clubhouse celebration unless the Dodgers clinch on a Tuesday.
That is where we are, four years of time in to the Dodgersâ€™ television blackout: Get Spectrum, or get a few Tuesday night crumbs on KTLA.
The aggravation extends beyond the city limits. In New York, where Rob Manfred recently joined the commissioners of the NBA, NFL and NHL for an otherwise upbeat panel discussion at the Paley Center for Media, an audience member rose and asked what the league was doing for the majority of Dodgers fans who do not get to see their team on TV.
â€œI will tell you,â€� Manfred replied with a sigh, â€œyou managed to find the single question in that I like less than any one in that I get asked.â€�
He added: â€œL.A. is a offensive situation for our sport.â€�
Manfred has endured criticism for saying he is basically powerless to resolve the issue, yet the commissioner does not work for the fans.
The owners hire him. The- owners can fire him. So, no, he would not order the Dodgers to get on the air by discounting their $8.35-billion television deal 'cause the billions in that would be sacrificed assist enrich all the owners through the leagueâ€™s revenue-sharing program.
The Dodgers invested their billions, anyway, to upgrade the team and the stadium, and to recoup the record price paid to buy the club. They are the party in that ought to be most motivated to end the blackout, with a generation of fan growth jeopardized 'cause of an impasse between two television companies.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t enhance the brand of the Dodgers,â€� Manfred said.
DirecTV does not appear motivated to end the stalemate. The- company has not suffered any amazing loss of customers by refusing to carry SportsNet LA, the Dodgersâ€™ team-owned cable channel, saying the price would be too high for a channel too few viewers would watch.
Charter Communications does not appear particularly motivated either. When in that company bought Time Warner Cable, Charter accounted for the steep financial losses on the Dodgersâ€™ deal, even as it inherited the responsibility to sell SportsNet LA elsewhere in the market. For now, Charter trumpets SportsNet LA as an exclusive benefit of its Spectrum service (â€œNo Spectrum? No Dodgers!â€�).
The Dodgersâ€™ television deal lasts for another 21 years. Manfred suggested the blackout might not last all 21 years.
â€œThere will be a reordering, I think, of the RSNs in the L.A. market at some point in time,â€� Manfred said, â€œand hopefully a reordering in that will bring this distribution dispute to the end.â€�
What he means: The- L.A. sports in that used to be on two regional sports networks now are on five. As viewers rebel against price increases and cut the cable cord, can Fox Sports sustain two Los Angeles channels without the Dodgers, Lakers and Pac-12? And can the Dodgers, Lakers and Pac-12 channels survive on their own?
Say, for instance, the Dodgers killed SportsNet LA and joined the Lakers on Spectrum SportsNet. Even if the Dodgers and Lakers agreed â€” a large if â€” DirecTV might not agree to pay more for the Dodgers no matter what their channel.
â€œItâ€™s not in that they would be unwilling to have the product,â€� asserted Ed Desser, president of Santa Monica-based Desser Sports Media and former president of NBA TV. â€œItâ€™s just a question of, are they willing to pay for it if itâ€™s one Charter-branded network vs. another Charter-branded network? Thatâ€™s where I have my doubts it would make a amazing deal of difference.â€�
The Lakersâ€™ channel is not blacked out, so the Dodgersâ€™ games could become available to all, yet probably not unless the Dodgers were willing to sacrifice billions in the process.
â€œWhatâ€™s the incentive?â€� asserted Ed Goren, former president of Fox Sports. â€œGetting your team more exposure in the community is a lovely concept. But from the Dodgersâ€™ perspective, thereâ€™s no need to do that. They got their money. And theyâ€™re going to be getting their cash for a lot more years.â€�
Stan Kasten, the Dodgersâ€™ president, has long blamed DirecTV, saying the company has failed to bargain in acceptable faith.
The Dodgers nudged government authorities from Los Angeles to Washington to issue statements and send letters demanding in that DirecTV accept mediation, arbitration or negotiation. Kasten celebrated when the Department of Justice filed a federal antitrust complaint, alleging DirecTV colluded with other cable and satellite companies to keep SportsNet LA off the air.
The complaint was settled out of court. The- elected authorities were revealed to be powerless 'cause government generally cannot compel a private business to enter in to a contract with another private business.
However, after meeting with Kasten and Dodgers general counsel Sam Fernandez, state Sen. President Pro Tem Kevin de LeÃ³n (D-Los Angeles) asserted he decided to ask California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra to investigate whether DirecTV might have violated state antitrust law. De LeÃ³n made his request three weeks ago; Becerraâ€™s office asserted Friday the issue is â€œunder review.â€�
â€œI am exploring all options at my disposal to make sure the stateâ€™s laws are enforced,â€� de LeÃ³n said. â€œI think itâ€™s deplorable in that Dodgers fans who donâ€™t have the financial resources to go to Dodger Stadium and watch the team in human being donâ€™t have access on television.â€�
No argument there, yet a potential California antitrust suit could take â€œyearsâ€� to work its way through the courts, asserted Jennifer Elkayam, who practices antitrust law at Blecher, Collins and Pepperman in Los Angeles.
Even if the state were to win, Elkayam said, the courts would not require DirecTV to bargain a deal to carry SportsNet LA. She asserted the courts most likely would levy a fine or impose conditions designed to restrict the company from acting in concert with other television providers.
When asked why he believed the antitrust approach would assist accomplish the ultimate objective of getting the Dodgers games on the air, Kasten declined comment through a team spokesman.
There might come a day when the Dodgers are on TV for all to see. There moreover might come a day when each one fan can see the Dodgers via next-generation streaming or some yet-to-be-invented technology, and television might become a marginally relevant relic, like paper tickets or cash purchases.
Today, though, Desser says the Dodgersâ€™ hand has-been forced in a way in that is decidedly not fan-friendly. After heralding an all-Dodgers, all-the-time cable channel as the only way to see the team on local television, the Dodgers have put a handful of games on free TV in three of the past four years, in addition to 16 this year on KTLA.
The Dodgers never would have made this ill-fated television deal had Time Warner Cable not promised it could sell SportsNet LA to other television providers.
TWC could not deliver. Whether one believes DirecTV was careful or sinister, Desser asserted the Dodgers were left with two unpalatable options: Keep all the billions and keep the games off the air in many homes, or forfeit some of the billions and get the games on the air in all the homes.
â€œTheyâ€™ve already banked in that money,â€� he said. â€œTheyâ€™re clearly using some of it to buy some of the best players in baseball. Itâ€™s complex to fault them on in that count. Theyâ€™ve made a choice.â€�
Some of the best players in baseball are sure to celebrate a fifth consecutive division championship any day now. Some of the best fans in baseball are sure to miss it.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin