Since 2004 we have been bitching about what’s been going on under Frank McCourt’s reign of terror. It’s been nice that the past year or so, people have begun to get it. It took a long time for them to come around, but thanks to the LA Times continuous slams (thank you Bill Shaikin, Steve Dilbeck, and others), this season the fans began truly boycotting the Dodgers and almost entirely due to McCourt. The stadium, always the picture of big crowds and adoring fans, has been strangely quiet and empty. In my entire life, I don’t recall such a sad sight as a tiny crowd at Dodger games, even when popular teams come to town, or giveaway nights. That’s the extend of McCourt’s damages, fans stopped going. I applaud anybody who has wanted to go to a game and resisted. I have managed, and check in on radio and TV, but refuse to give my cash to McCourt. Plus, he’s made it easy – the team is crap, although they could feasibly contend this year in a pathetically weak NL West. I kind of hope they don’t, but not really, as I’m a longtime fan and MLB has pretty much tossed McCourt out. It’s not the players’ faults, or the coaches, even though it’s not much of a team. I feel for these guys who have to look around, hear the crickets, and pretend all is well (while at the same time wondering if their next paycheck will bounce or not).
This week was great as creepy old skeev Bud Selig officially said no to McCourt’s long hoped for FOX TV deal. The deal, of course, would have infused a lot of cash immediately into McCourt’s pockets, and enabled him to breathe. As it is, he’s been hunkered down in his luxurious Beverly Hills bunker – a suite at the posh Montage Hotel on Wilshire and Beverly Drive (in case you want to wait outside and spit on him).
Rightfully so, Bud says the deal is a bad one, and would not be in the long-term interests of the Dodgers (i.e. a crappy deal that would screw the next owner and inhibit a sale of the team), and would only serve to help McCourt personally, which, of course, was always McCourt’s intention. How this Botox’d phony is able to walk the streets of LA without being beaten unconscious is beside me. People, while often wonderfully nice and generous (donating to Japan when disaster strikes, etc.), they are also fundamentally stupid. I’ve witnessed years of people making excuses for Frank and Jamie McCourt, which is appalling. This is the same mentality that fights so vehemently for tax breaks for people like Frank and Jamie, though they apparently do not bother to pay their taxes. I don’t get why people would sympathize with people (and I use the term very loosely) who would step on their fingers if they hung from a window sill and asked for help.
I’ve seen people flock to the games, line McCourt’s wallet with cash by paying outrageous parking costs, ticket fees, buying overpriced food and merchandise, etc., as well as call in to radio shows like DodgerTalk or write letters or comments in newspaper or online news stories, saying McCourt isn’t so bad. Bad? He’s the worst! He makes other unliked LA sports owners look like Gandhi. Georgia Frontierre merely drowned her husband and moved the much loved LA Rams to Anaheim, and then St. Louis. Bruce McNall just lied and defrauded banks by using dead race horses as collateral for his loans. Donald Sterling only neglects his team, fans and is a racist. McCourt has done it all – including putting a fan and father of small children into a coma, perhaps to his grave. Frank McCourt is bad for baseball, bad for Los Angeles, bad for society. He’s just a terrible, empty shell of a person with a very selfish, and mean heart. He cares nothing about the Dodgers, or the fans, and Bud Selig and the other owners knew that when they allowed him to join their elite club. That much has been commented on endlessly on this blog.
Now Bud has done the “right thing,” after doing the “wrong thing” so many times. While I am happy about this, of course, I am also not jumping up and down to congratulate Bud. He did what he HAD to do for the “best interest of baseball,” but also his own self-preservation. Most fans are too casual or too dumb to recall that there would be no Frank McCourt, Dodgers owner, if not for Bud’s handiwork and greed in 2004. So now, when the Dodgers have been reduced to less than the Pittsburgh Pirates or KC Royals, and everyone is in on the gag, Bud had to act. He had no choice. Bud really, truly doesn’t appear to care about the Dodgers. For whatever reason, MLB feels a two team league – the Yankees and Red Sox – is enough. East Coast power, AL power, with a little nod to Philadelphia in the NL, East enough for MLB’s power center. The Giants (uggh) winning the World Series last season no doubt annoyed Bud; he isn’t a fan of West Coast baseball, even though many of the league’s players come from California. Bud also doesn’t care that one of the league’s most historic franchises, the Dodgers, have been without a championship since 1988, and before that 1981. You would think Bud would deem it in the “best interest of baseball” to have a balanced league, where you had strong teams on either coast, with many good teams in between. You would think Bud would understand the importance of the Dodgers, who arguably rank 2nd only to the Yankees worldwide and historically in appeal, but no, it would appear that isn’t the case.
Bud seems to have disdain for we long-suffering Dodgers fans, perhaps angry they originally left Brooklyn. Who knows what the bug up Bud’s butt is about, but it seems that as McCourt took advantage of fans and made a mockery of the team, Bud didn’t think much of it. When the press started trumpeting, loudly, the stadium began to empty and McCourt got people physically hurt, and it became a citywide, hell, national news story, Bud had no choice. He had to address it. So this is good, but not great. I don’t forget how Bud put our Dodgers into the hands of as transparent a phony as central casting could have created. That McCourt could have fooled Bud and the other owners and somehow slipped in undetected is absurd. We knew about McCourt before the sale was finalized. The unimpressive financial ledger, the promises of a reduced payroll, he and his wife labeling themselves above the team, calling themselves “The Brand.” Sickening, horrendous behavior. And Bud and the owners pushed him through for their own reasons. Most of the reason would appear to be to keep FOX happy. Mustn’t upset FOX. After all, FOX had used MLB and the Dodgers to achieve their goal – a West Coast cable sports presence – and was ready to be out of the day-to-day ownership of the Dodgers. Well, not entirely – they financed McCourt and continued to loan him $30M here and there to keep his sinking ship running. But they wanted out, and Bud and the owners want their FOX money, so the i’s were dotted and the t’s crossed.
Another reason likely was to keep large market payrolls down, to appear to fans across the nation that MLB wasn’t going to put up with the escalating payrolls. Might as well make this point in LA; heaven forbid it be done in NY or Boston. So a poorish owner who only put $9M of his own money into the purchase of the team, with ideas of increasing revenues through a series of fan-unfriendly measures, and desires to lower payroll, sounded like a good one to Bud and company.
Now here we are – June 2011 – a shoddy team on the field, no fans in the crowd, an ownership dispute, a looming circus of a lawsuit against MLB by McCourt and even Mark Cuban saying, while he would love to buy an MLB team, and the Dodgers would be of interest to him, this thing’s a mess! I wish I could talk to Mr. Cuban, because I would say that while it is indeed a trainwreck, in reality McCourt has no money, no case, and if Bud persists, McCourt will soon have to fold and sell the team. MLB has taken control of the team, and if McCourt doesn’t make his near $30M June 30th payroll, he will lose everything, and be forced to sell. So the end of this melodrama could occur in just about a week, unless McCourt finds more millions under the sofa cushions in his Montage hotel suite. Personally, I would bet FOX put the money there.
I would tell Mr. Cuban that although McCourt has went to absurdly criminal lengths to make the Dodgers a shell corporation, with 26 little companies underneath it holding everything of value, MLB will win this lawsuit, or it will be thrown out before it even gets that far, and McCourt will lose, and have to hand over EVERYTHING to the next owner, 26 little companies be damned. So if you look at it like this, the Dodgers are actually an attractive team to an owner with deep pockets and interest in winning like Mark Cuban. Hell, I’d argue that for the names Kershaw, De la Rosa, Kemp, Ethier, Gordon, Kuo, Sands alone, the future could be very bright. Imagine replacing useless parts with solid major leaguers, and heaven forbid, even an actual star or three? The Dodgers could be ahead of where they were a few years ago, when they made back-to-back NLCS appearances (only needing a star or two to become a dynasty). The Dodgers are not so devoid of talent that this isn’t possible; it is possible.
So we have waited, and this week’s news was encouraging. If McCourt missed payroll next week and Bud forces him to sell, and McCourt and his team of unpaid attorneys storm petulantly off to court, I will be very, very happy. I don’t think I will be racing back to the stadium though. I need to see something more. I want a new owner in here – preferably Mark Cuban – and a REASON to give my faith back to an organization, through almost entirely the owner’s fault, that’s let me down so many times in recent years. But if Mr. Cuban, or some other REAL rich guy, comes in, I think the gloom over LA will lift and there will be truly reason for LA fans to rejoice once more. Imagine a team with some talent that wasn’t developed on the farm? Imagine actually going after Carl Crawford when he becomes a free-agent (his Boston struggles notwithstanding), or Albert Pujols? We certainly have the needs. The best we have been able to do is sign the Uribe’s of the world. It’s time for change, time for a real owner, time to get out Dodgers back.
I am very happy with Bud’s actions this week, but I know the truth, so more has to be done before I can say thank you. Baby steps… It looks like we’re finally headed into the sunlight again.