Saturday, April 30, 2011

How Do I Loathe Thee? Let me count the ways...

Over the last 7 years, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the team’s owner, Frank McCourt.

On one hand, I loved his rhetoric, all the grand plans he had for the franchise, telling us that, after 7 years of corporate FOX ownership, the Dodgers have come back into the hands of family ownership.

On the other hand, I hated his actual actions. He raised ticket prices at an astronomical rate, but slashed the payroll of the team. He loved photo-ops, and put himself in the limelight in such a way that, on a whole, concern set in as to whether this man was committed to continuing the Dodgers’ half-century-old winning tradition. The fans shelled out more money, but the pizzazz that money brought eluded the playing field, instead sparkling around L.A.’s newest power couple, their many houses, chartered jets and the like. Fernando buys his own plane ticket, but Jamie gets her Olympic-sized swimming pool.

This two-faced agenda of saying the right thing to milk out the money to use for one’s own personal gain is one of the main reasons I can’t wait to see Frank McCourt gone. His inability to commit to the pipe dreams he comes up with to placate fans is only hastening his downfall.

For example, look at the way he’s handled the Stadium.

Built in 1962, it’s now the third oldest stadium in MLB, and has a chance to be the oldest, due to its concrete-in-the-hillside construction. Dodger Stadium always had a place close to the fans’ hearts due to its emphasis on baseball. Not intra-inning rat-races, not bells, whistles and loud music, but BASEBALL. A pristine, pastoral dream for those who wouldn’t think of dropping $20 of 1989 money to Ray Kinsella for his dream field. Other stadiums could have their rockpiles, playgrounds and swimming pools, but Dodger Stadium is for BASEBALL…

Now, the Stadium is like a deformed, ADD-afflicted behemoth, not knowing what it is. Loud music, enough flickering lights to give seizures to the visually impaired, 10,000 distractions to take your attention away from the product that’s supposed to make you pay $15 for parking plus tickets in the first place. Granted, Baseball on its own isn’t probably the best entertainment choice for the iPod nation, but chances are if you’re spending 21st century Dodger Stadium prices on tickets, you enjoy the game enough on its own inherent value.

After the horrendous Bryan Stow incident and the anti-Dodger Stadium sentiment it’s seemed to umask, it wouldn’t surprise me if the new owner decided it easier to raze Dodger Stadium and move downtown rather than give it a chance.

Sadly, McCourt might’ve been the only person who could’ve brought it into the 21st century, possibly even seeing a decade or two in the 22nd, if he played his cards right. But he decided haircuts and doling out Dodger Money to his family Bundy-style was more preferable to keeping up the appearance of the cathedral of a storied baseball franchise that’s his Bronze Medal, a team he wasn’t allowed to stay up late enough to watch as a kid, in the home of his least-liked basketball team. After all, as a Massachusetts native, “Beat LA” was probably no stranger to McCourt’s vocabulary pre-2004 (and post-2004, he’s done a good job of living up to that mantra).

Will Dodger Stadium pay the ultimate price for McCourt’s foibles? Or will the next owner arise to the challenge of making Dodger Stadium the pride of the league again?

Another manifestation of McCourt’s two-faced ways is his current media blitz.

Not one month ago, McCourt and Media Blitz would’ve gone together like Lawerence Welk as the fifth member of KISS.

Frank McCourt ignored his fans for years. Many, many years. The words “tin ear” came to mind when discussing Frank McCourt.

He ignored us years ago when we said security was a problem and too many angry bangers were getting in.

He ignored us when we were curious as to why we were paying more money for a continually dwindling payroll on the field.

He ignored us when we wondered why the hell he would announce the divorce on the eve of the biggest night of his fanbases baseball lives in over 20 years.

And yet, Bud steps on his manhood by taking control of the teams’ finances, and he’s crying to any news outlet that’ll hire him a new Bidderman and Hobson to primp and pamper him for yet another photo op.

Now, the King of ignoring everybody is now wondering why the commissioner won’t return his phonecalls. Somewhere, I’m sure, Joe Amalfitano and Ross Porter are smiling.

He’s under the delusion that not only do the fans love him en masse (because no one wants to be beaten by the LAPD for telling him what they think in the Pavilion), but the fans want 17-20 more years of McCourt Brand (Bankrupt and Broke) Baseball.

Always the darkest before the dawn.

Always the loudest before the calming quiet.

The third proof of McCourt’s two-faced self-serving agenda is his handling of the team on the field.

The need for the Ravine’s 10,000 distractions only becomes apparent when you realize that a Realtor with a Litigation fetish has no clue how to run a baseball team.

Wanting to find ways to spend the least amount possible on the product that made his Dodger Blue ATM Card possible, McCourt shrunk payroll as he raised ticket prices across the board, making parking more expensive than the costliest box-office ticket to the ballgame just 7 years earlier.

His FOX-farmed core of youngsters, an amalgamation of the Jacksonville Five, Andre Ethier and a much heralded youth movement in the early part of the last decade, should’ve been a component to a Championship franchise.

But to McCourt, if we were going to “compete”, this would be the boat that would take us there, loaded to capacity with has-beens, never-wases and whos-its with nobody’s prime in sight.

We have great players, and they’re capable, but Kemp and Ethier should have been holding up the stars in ’08 and ’09, not held up as stars.

We should have had our hand in every high-profile pitching prospect to compete with the Phillies, let alone the Yankees. We should’ve looked for someone in their prime to take the field with our core, not someone who no other team would touch (and now we know the reason).

We should’ve been using the farm to trade for players in their prime, not paying 2 months of salary for players falling off the crest of their prime.

Because a Realtor with a Litigation fetish would never understand that the way to make sure his Dodger Blue ATM Card would NEVER run out is to produce a championship product on the field. (Right, like a pre-’04 Boston baseball fan would know anything about that.).

But this guy couldn’t even grasp that the Dodgers would have to compete with the AL East if it wanted to win trophies and rings.

And now Frank McCourt is begging us to give him a second chance, that the money-grubbing must have gone out the door with Jamie. But he’s not the one who should worry about getting a second chance from Los Angeles baseball fans.

The man who should be begging Los Angeles Baseball Fans for a second chance is “savior” Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig.

Let’s leave the PED discussion on the bench for this one, I’m only talking about how he is implicated as the cause of this mess.

The Owner’s Commish didn’t want the Dodgers becoming a West Coast version of the Yankees, though in order to milk that lucrative LA-NY rivalry, the Dodgers would have to compete on a consistent level similar to that of the Yankees. And the Dodgers’ system of stocking the farm with talent to either bring up to the bigs or trade for prime talent had worked through the early 90′s, but as that decade wore on, it became apparent to O’Malley that baseball was headed in an expensive direction. To compete, you had to pay, and unfortunately for private owners, the bill came steep, so O’Malley bowed out.

Under FOX ownership, the Dodgers were never afraid to spend. After trading what some would say was the heart, soul and future of the team for Florida TV rights, we soon had the first $100 Million Man (I thought it was a bust, but you’ve got to spend money to make money). For all the money they spent, though, FOX found out the reason that the high-spending Yankees didn’t win EVERY year. There was a lack of chemistry, but chemistry couldn’t be bought, it could only be farmed, the product of which we’ve been reaping the past 5 years.

FOX had somewhat of an impure motivation in running the team: Rupert Murdoch wanted to find a new way to set a fire under Ted Turner, and since the news wasn’t enough, he decided to take their rivalry to the baseball field as well. But FOX soon found out that baseball was trickier than throwing money until the rings stick, so he eventually tired of baseball and, from the looks of it, put all of his development into the news.

But, FOX wasn’t about to lose the TV Rights to the West Coast Yanks, so they threw an offer out there, sans TV Rights, biding time until they’d get a huge windfall for the team. When the twice-defeated suitor became apparent, I’m sure the conversation went something like this: “What’s that? Someone actually wanted to buy the team WITHOUT TV RIGHTS?!!! Quick, draw up a contract!!!! I DON’T CARE IF THE CONTRACT WRITERS’ ASLEEP, WAKE HIM UP!!!!”

It was thought that no one could buy the team without TV rights, because thats where the money comes from in the 21st century. You can only fit 56,000 in Dodger Stadium, but there’s millions of Dodger fans around the world.

Weary of $100 million contracts and rising player salaries, Mr. Selig let this sale go through, thinking that by taking the second largest market out of the spending race, salaries would fall, and letting someone buy the team without television rights would ensure they wouldn’t have enough money to compete at the trade deadline.

Of course, it just meant that he loses out on the lucrative cross-country Dodgers-Yankees rivalry that had buttressed Major League Baseball for a half-century before his reign, and thanks to Boston’s even-more-compelling reason to spend big (having to compete with the Yanks just to get to the playoffs), salaries ballooned to heights unseen and unimagined, even in 2004.

And now, under Bud’s Reign, and because of his decision, attendance is dropping at Dodger Stadium every single day, even after his takeover. He’s managed to sink the unsinkable.

Some may say he’s a savior.

I’d just hand him a broom and say “What took you so long, Bud?”

The saddest thing to me is that I really, REALLY wanted to like Frank McCourt. I really wanted to buy what he was selling. He knew the right things to say, and it worked. We made it to the playoffs 4 times in his seven years as owner. But if he had committed more to the team on the field, and less to inflate his personal agenda on the fan's and franchises' dimes, he'd likely be the owner of a Championship franchise.

Sorry Frank. This isn't your town anymore.


  1. I don't know if my comment, which is awaiting moderation, will be posted on Dodger Thoughts.
    In case it isn't posted there, here it is:

    Walter O’Malley was a shrewd businessman who capitalized on the desperation of the civic leaders of Los Angeles in the 1950′s to get a major league baseball franchise to come to town. He made a great deal to swap Wrigley Field and the 9 acres on which it sat in an undesirable part of Los Angeles for 315 acres just 2000 feet from downtown. U.S. taxpayers paid for the millions of dollars it took to displace more than 1200 families from their homes in Chavez Ravine for what was supposed to be a public housing project. Instead, the “Red Scare” tactics of the McCarthy era branded the project as Socialist and it was shelved. The land was supposed to be for the public good but was instead deeded to O’Malley with no restrictions on what could be done with it. See more at History of Chavez Ravine

    In 2005, musician and activist Ry Cooder created a concept album that told the story. Part of the lyrics of one of the songs evokes the emotion felt by Los Desterrados, the uprooted citizens that lost their homes:
    “3rd Base, Dodger Stadium” by Ry Cooder

    Mister, you’re a baseball man, as anyone can plainly see.
    The straightest game in this great land. Take a little tip from me.
    I work here nights, parking cars, underneath the moon and stars.
    The same ones that we all knew back in 1952.
    And if you want to know where a local boy like me is coming from:
    3rd base, Dodger Stadium.

    2nd base, right over there. I see grandma in her rocking chair.
    Watching linens flapping in the breeze, and all the fellows choosing up their teams.
    Hand over hand on that Louisville. Crowning the top, king of the hill.
    Mound to home, sixty feet. Baseball been very good to me.
    And if you want to know where a local boy like me is coming from:
    3rd base, Dodger Stadium.
    3rd base, Dodger Stadium…

    Listen to the album Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine

    While O’Malley made a great deal for himself, he was also a good steward of the Dodgers and the vast acreage that came with the team.
    Fast forward to the 21st century when a ruthless capitalist named McCourt acquired the team. Far from thinking about the public good, McCourt pried away the stadium and land from the Dodgers baseball operations and put it in a separate real estate company. Now the team must pay 14 million dollars a year in rent to McCourt’s real estate subsidiary. Now I am sure that with all of McCourt’s lawyers, the transaction was probably legal and in his capitalistic mentality, the “American thing to do”, but in my mind, this is an outrageous takeover of land which at one time was bought by the taxpayers for the public good.
    My greatest nightmare is for the MLB to take away the Dodgers from McCourt but to leave him free to develop the land as he wishes. No doubt that would eventually include luxury condo highrise towers ringing the edge of the parking lot with killer views of downtown L.A.
    I sincerely hope that Tom Schieffer has the cashews to stand up to McCourt, root out all the sleezy financial deals, and make a full and damning report to Bud Selig.
    The related entity of the Dodger’s real estate must be folded back into the team before it is sold.
    Sorry Frank, while we want to talk about what is on the field, that is NOT THE ONLY THING WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT!
    Sell the team!

  2. Wow, I shudder at that thought. I'd always kinda figured that Frank would sell the 300 acres of prime LA real estate, but that thought's even scarier.

    Walter O'Malley's tenure proved that if you win, no one cares about the means. Over 50 years after the Chavez Ravine land grab and threatened boycotts by the Latino population, Latinos are one of the cornerstones of the Dodgers' LA Fanbase. So much so that Frank trademarked "Los Doyers" last year in an effort to get his hands on that $8 t-shirt money (which,in true McCourt fashion, are now above $20).

    Thanks 32&53Fan!

  3. Hi'Ya North!! This is Wally from ITD!! Nice blog!! I look forward to reading you here!!!
    Great post 32!!