As part of his belated media blitz, Dodgers (co-?)owner Frank McCourt has been urging fans to ignore the messy off-the-field stuff and focus on the team's performance.
“Some might be surprised to know that the four out of six years we were in the playoffs were the only four times in a six-year period the Los Angeles Dodgers were ever in the playoffs,” he said last week.
That is technically true, but it obscures more than it clarifies.
In fact — contrary to the conventional wisdom — the Dodgers' record under McCourt is worse than it was under Fox, his much-reviled predecessor.
Under six years of Fox ownership (1998-2003), the Dodgers' winning percentage was .524.
Under seven years of McCourt (2004-2010), the percentage is .523.
The L.A. Dodgers have made the playoffs more than they have in the past because it's easier than ever to get to the postseason. (The Dodgers won the wild card in 2006, and won a weak division in 2008.)
If McCourt's talking point is “surprising,” it's because every Dodger fan who can remember the 80s (or the 70s, 60s or 50s) knows intuitively that recent Dodger teams have not been up to the historical standard. And that intuition is correct.
From the time of the move to L.A. in 1958 to McCourt's purchase in 2004, the
Dodgers had a .537 winning percentage. Again, since McCourt, it's been .523.
As for sustained bursts of excellence: in an eight-year period from 1959-66, the Dodgers posted a .574 percentage, went to the World Series four times, and won it three times. In a five-year stretch from 1974-79, the Dodgers went to the World Series three times and put up a .586 percentage.
And the legendary Brooklyn Dodgers — which Frank omits from his talking point by specifying that he's referring only to the “Los Angeles Dodgers” — went to the World Series four times in five years with a winning percentage over that stretch of .625. (Books have been written about it.)
The L.A. Dodgers have had roughly 30 years of greatness, followed by 20 years of decline. Postseason appearances notwithstanding, McCourt has not stopped the team's slide into mediocrity and irrelevance.
And that's just on the field. Let's not talk about off the field.