Friday, October 30, 2009

And then there was Plaschke.

Wikipedia puts so much information at my fingertips. It affirms my recollection that Bill Plaschke is a four-time AP National Sports Columnist of the Year award-winner. It points me toward places helpful in reminding me that he really, really hates steroids. I like to verify things outside of Wikipedia, though. And sometimes, there are helpful footnotes, so I feel comfortable treating the information as fact and providing analysis based on it. There was no citation for this, though, so I'll let you folks come to your own conclusions about "Bill's" given name.

William Homer Plaschke opines in the LA Times:

By the time Frank and Jamie McCourt chose to publicly level their marriage, their ownership legacy had already been disintegrating.


By the time the McCourts started one divorce, another was already being finalized, between the team and the values that once made it so special.


At the same time the McCourts were scrimping on players, they were raising some of their highest ticket prices, using video messages to foster an unsettling street feeling in some parts of the stands, and, oh yeah, after one playoff game, I counted a full hour before the parking lot could empty.

Divorced or not, understand that when it comes to their fans, the McCourts have long since lost that loving feeling.
I really struggled with what to cut out. The video messages fostering "an unsettling street feeling" were recordings of "celebrated stoner Snoop Dogg [promoting] the team on the video board." For all his vitriol, Plaschke never notes the irony that, like it or not, the sport of baseball as a whole celebrates drug users. Plaschke doesn't completely miss the opportunity to lob grenades at Manny Ramirez, though.

According to Plaschke, the foundering McCourts doomed the 2009 Dodgers in two principal ways: they coddled Ramirez and failed to acquire Cliff Lee. Plaschke says that by not forcing Ramirez to fess up and make good with the public, the McCourts created a "huge hole in the middle of their lineup." On Lee, Plaschke suggests that the Dodgers declined to pursue the ace lefty over salary concerns.

Leaving aside the number of teams that would have been much better off with such a "huge hole" in their lineups, and the complete uncertainty over what the Phillies might have sought from the Dodgers, it's fair to ask if the McCourts' personal problems affected this season. Certainly, some moves the Dodgers made were on the cheap--the club got some help in the Thome and Garland deals, for instance. But the team also acquired George Sherrill, due the remaining portion of his $2.75 million contract and eligible for a raise in arbitration. They also paid what was left on Belliard's $1.9 million deal.

Cliff Lee was owed $5.75 million this season and his team holds an $8 million option for next season (with a $1 million buyout). If the Dodgers acquired Thome, Garland, Sherrill, Belliard, and Padilla--but didn't pursue Lee over financial concerns--I think it's fair to say that would be baseball operations malpractice of the highest order. I don't believe money was the obstacle to a Cliff Lee deal. Cleveland already had Carlos Santana, the Orioles were on the verge of acquring Josh Bell, and the Dodgers just didn't have many premium pieces left. Plaschke can wring his hands all he wants, but giving up Kershaw to get Lee would have been an overpay.

The point here is that it's awfully easy to connect dots when you're not worried about ending up with that cute duck holding a flower in its bill. Drawing lines between tenuously-related points and calling what is left "art" is certainly worthy of a spot on Mom and Dad's fridge. Earlier, I noted that Dodger fans should remember the amenities enjoyed by the McCourts when cost concerns influence a roster move. I'm just not ready to say that the McCourts are why the Dodgers didn't get Lee. Not without more.

The narrow focus of this little corner of the internet is the McCourt divorce and how it will affect the Dodgers moving forward. I'm not convinced that the non-trade for Lee is a relevant data point to that analysis.

Get ready, guys, there will be lots of this.

I think we can all agree that the McCourt divorce could have a devastating effect on the medium-term outlook of the franchise. Especially if the club becomes a ward of the court for any length of time, organizational development could be set back quite a ways. But I think extending the doom and gloom over next season is a little much.

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle offered his take:

When a guy fires his estranged wife/CEO, as Frank did to Jamie, it speaks volumes about a franchise's stability. The best-case scenario is that the ma-and-pa power struggle doesn't immediately impact the payroll, either Clayton Kershaw or [Chad] Billingsley becomes Tim Lincecum and [Manny] Ramirez's goofiness doesn't wreck the team as it nearly did in Boston.

If that's the case, the Giants could be looking up at the Dodgers for another year. But if the McCourt divorce has an effect anything like the Moores divorce, which crippled the Padres, the Dodgers are in a heap of trouble.

Shea's points, generally, are well-taken. But even if the Dodgers, as Shea predicts, can't play in the Lackey-Figgins sandbox of this year's free agent class, we're not looking at an uncompetitive team. Whether signed to long-term deals or kept through arbitration, the Dodgers aren't losing Billingsley, Martin, Kemp, Loney, Ethier, Kuo, or Broxton. Yes, those guys will get expensive, but the club is not going to be so severely handcuffed it can't bring those guys back, raises in hand.

The Dodgers will also return the core members of the team outside of the arbitration-eligibles. Kershaw, Elbert, Troncoso, McDonald, and Belisario are all cheap. Ramirez, Blake, Kuroda, Furcal, and Pierre are all under contract. Here's what the Dodgers return without dipping into free agency at all:

C Martin
1B Loney
2B (Hu? DeWitt?)
SS Furcal
3B Blake
LF Ramirez
CF Kemp
RF Ethier

OF Pierre

SP Kershaw (LH)
SP Billingsley
SP Kuroda

SP/RP McDonald
SP/RP Elbert (LH)

RP Kuo (LH)
RP Sherrill (LH)
RP Troncoso
RP Belisario

CP Broxton

I'm not going to go into an extensive offseason plan for the rest of the spots. Mike Scoscia's Tragic Illness took a fine stab at that already. I just want you to look at how good that roster is already. According to the guesses made by Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts, the above core will cost about $98.5 million. It includes some serious firepower, including 10 players worth 2 or more wins last season according to Fangraphs. Kemp (5.1 wins) and Kershaw (4.2) are bonafide stars now, Ethier (2.6)* isn't far behind, and Billingsley (3.1)* is much, much better than you might think.

*How bad is Ethier's defense? Dismal. And on Billingsley, remember he was pretty darned good this year--and he was hurt. He's still a star-in-the-waiting.

What I'm getting at is that even if you can't spend a ton of money filling out the rotation or finding a better second baseman, that's a competitive core as-is. Will the Dodgers be the best team in the National League again without dipping into free agency? Probably not. But will they be strong competitors for October baseball? Absolutely.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

We've gone international.

George Kimball of the Irish Times discusses Jamie's indulgent tendencies and pokes fun at her pool-access demands. He then writes:
None of this is likely to go down well with Dodgers fans already disgruntled by the McCourts’ history of penury with respect to the free agent market.

And the truth is, by the time this convoluted case is resolved Jamie may well be as capable of buying out Frank as Frank is of buying out Jamie.

Isn't that just delightful? Kimball, evidently familiar with California divorce law, concludes that the court will ignore the asset-transfer agreement and that the club's value will be split. He also wonders how Jamie can make herself out to be an integral part of the Dodgers while seeking unfettered lap pool access from 8am-2pm daily. 

The first court date, November 5, is to hear Jamie's petition to be reinstated as CEO of the Dodgers. Let's be real here, people: the judge ain't gonna do it. And that's probably fine with Jamie, too. She doesn't want to deal with Frank and Dennis Mannion and the rest. But she absolutely had to ask for it, as painting herself as a key member of the organization might be tremendously valuable to her case.

Well, that and she's been relatively fortunate so far in that the maintenance figure widely discussed now is the if-she's-reinstated $320,967 monthly allowance. What she really wants is $487,634, justified by the loss of income suffered by her firing. 

If Frank's lawyers have any idea what they're doing, however, they'll quickly note that she's already been paid her salary through the end of the year, making the higher maintenance figure Jamie seeks pretty damn ridiculous. I don't know what the timing of all this was--it's very possible Frank didn't pay her salary until after she filed. But I do know that if she asked for money she had already been given once, she'll be off to a tough start with the judge. We'll just have to stay tuned to "As the McCourts Turn." 

It's on.

As promised, a closer look at Shaikin's piece, which is just loaded.

  • Jamie says she's got the financing to take Frank out. 

    • We know that she'd met with several luminaries inside and outside of the Dodger family. Her claims must be dependent, though, on a judicial determination that she does co-own the team with Frank. That hasn't happened, to this point, so it's tough to take her all that seriously.

  • Frank's not taking offers.

    • His position here will be that, as the sole owner of the team, he has no intention of selling. Like Jamie's "ready to buy" statement, Frank is relying on a favorable ruling regarding ownership of the team.

  • Jamie's lawyer, the semi-legendary Bert Fields, believes his client's position is not affected by the question of ownership. He says that even if the court finds Frank to be the sole owner of the Dodgers, the club would be treated as community property and the value would be split.

    • I'm not a divorce lawyer, but I do know this: courts like agreements. If there's a valid document out there, executed during the marriage, which purports to divvy up assets, I'm inclined to believe it would be followed. Yes, California's a community property state, but the 50/50 split is not absolute. An asset-transfer agreement might be treated like a post-nup, in which case it would control. Clever posturing here by Fields, but it's not conclusive.

  • Frank and the Dodgers are trying to paint Jamie's position with the team as strictly ornamental, claiming she rarely showed up to work and didn't perform many standard duties at all.

    • Ironically, this line of argument is going to make people like Frank even less. Remember that, in her filing, Jamie wanted to be restored to her position mainly to get the money and perks back. If it turns out that she didn't actually, you know, do anything for the Dodgers, all that cash sent down Benefits and Perquisites Alley is gonna seem even worse.

  • Jamie's still seeing Jeff Fuller, her lover/bodyguard/driver, but her lawyer says that relationship didn't begin until well after Frank tried to cut her out.

    • Even if true, it has to be wondered at this point if Fuller's the only one. It's entirely possible he is, I suppose, as the McCourts seemed to have their stuff together for a long, long time. But if Jamie, given her education and professional background, would make such a grievous error on the eve of major litigation...well, I'd lose a little bit of respect for her intelligence.

  • The Dodgers' President, Dennis Mannion, slams Jamie further, saying that when she did show up for work, it was to pursue projects designed to garner positive press for her at the expense of the club.

    • All you Dodger fans out there must be thinking the same thing that I am: Mannion is at least a little full of crap here. Whatever Jamie did to promote her own public image to the team's detriment, Frank was right there on board. Pumping up Jamie's role with the Dodgers was a team effort.

  • Jamie's lawyer, Fields, counters Mannion, saying: "When people find out what she did as opposed to what he did, they're all going to want her to run the team."

    • I think I speak for all of us: I'm not sure I want any of these clowns running the team. Frank, Jamie, Mannion, Fields. This sucks.

Dates of note coming up...on November 5, the family law court will hear Jamie's petition for reinstatement as CEO of the Dodgers. On December 1, the court will entertain Jamie's request for spousal maintenance.

Major developments from Shaikin...

... accessible here.

Bottom line is that Frank has begun the long, arduous, and entertaining journey to discredit Jamie. These two seem intent to litigate this in the court of public opinion. I know how judges work--this isn't going pleasant places.

There's so much in Shaikin's piece that deserves extensive treatment, so I'll leave it alone for the night. But you can sleep soundly--or not at all--knowing that this is going to be a war.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fun with context.

(Or, "When empty PR quotes go wrong.")

Frank, to Thomas M. Mulligan of the LA Times in 2005:

"Being profitable isn't the point," McCourt said in an interview in his wood-paneled office overlooking left field. "The point is to at least break even and have a sound, healthy business."

As long as a sound, healthy business is one that hemorrhages cash to pay for the owner and his wife's lifestyle. Wait...make that "co-owners'." Almost slipped there, Jamie.

Early conclusions.

Dodger blogger-extraordinaire Jon Weisman isn't waiting:

I don't think it's too soon to state that regardless of how this divorce plays out, Frank and Jamie McCourt have torched themselves in the Los Angeles community. From player payroll to Dodger Stadium ticket and amenities pricing, the explicit acknowledgment of where so much of their money goes, their unrepentant selfishness and greed, is going to bring exponentially more skepticism to any future Dodgers-related decision they make.
Jon's right, of course. Jamie McCourt details their lifestyle in her filing:

Everything is always first class. Many of our travel costs are paid by the Dodger Entities. When we fly, we usually fly on private planes, typically a Gulfstream-IV, through Net Jets paid by the Dodgers. When there was solely personal usage, we were to reimburse the Dodgers. I am informed that in 2008 and 2009, we booked over 250 and 300 hours, respectively, on Net Jets flights, at an average cost of $12,500 per hour. When we fly commercial, we always fly first-class, where available. We always stay in suites where available at the nicest of locations, such as The Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons Hotels. It is not uncommon for us to spend over $1000 or more per night at hotels. We always have limousines and drivers meet us and drive us to our ultimate destinations. When we travel, we frequently dine at the finest restaurants, such as the Citronelle in Washington, D.C., Danielle in New York, and Via Matta in Boston, Massachusetts. It was not uncommon for the two of us to spend over $400 on dinner when dining out together.
If you read the filing, you'll note that one of the perquisites and benefits she asks to retain through the divorce is "unlimited travel expenses." Given what we just read, is there much doubt the Dodgers paid for just about all of the services listed above? 

I'm all for the McCourts enjoying their wealth. Think what you might about them, but they did work very, very hard to achieve their positions. High achievers make a lot of money, and they spend it lavishly. I just ask that, regardless of what happens in this divorce, you think about what kind of baseball player(s) $8 million might have bought in 2008 and 2009. Because that's probably what the Dodgers have spent ferrying Frank and Jamie around the world on private jets. Is it an impact bat? A shutdown starter? Probably not.

But, for a team which fell three wins shy of the World Series each of the last two years, could it have made a difference? And while you ponder that question, think about how you'll react next time the Dodgers don't make a move citing cost concerns.

Will the Dodgers go the way of the Padres?

SI's Lee Jenkins wonders:

If the Dodgers do not think divorce can affect them, they need only look 120 miles to the south, to a franchise that was paralyzed by the split between owner John Moores and his wife Becky. In 2007, the Padres finished the regular season tied with the Rockies for first place in the National League West. That winter, Becky Moores filed for divorce. The next season, the Padres lost 99 games and finished last in the division.

A variety of factors contributed to their decline -- injuries, underperforming players, questionable personnel decisions -- but none more than divorce. California divorce law stipulates that all assets must be split in half, and since Major League Baseball requires that each team has a principal owner, John Moores decided to sell.

Jenkins notes that Moores stripped down the franchise and quit investing in it before reaching a deal to sell the club to a group led by Jeff Moorad. He goes on to conclude that the Dodgers are better situated to weather the storm than were the Padres for a number of reasons, including talent.

And he's certainly right that the Dodgers don't need to invest in a whole lot of outside help. As Eric Stephen discusses, the Dodgers have a young talent base comparable to what the Phillies built around to win big in recent years. The main pieces aren't going anywhere.

So while there's little reason to fear the Dodger Divorce will lead to a Padres-like gutting, is it fair to worry that the Dodgers' championship hopes might still be damaged? I think so. Until the ownership situation is resolved, it's going to be awfully tough for the organization to make any big moves. Much as the Cubs' uncertain position influenced personnel decisions, Ned Colletti might not have the freedom to make the sorts of deals he could otherwise.

The scarier situation is if the litigation sours further, and control of the club--as the marriage's primary asset--is given to the court. This could be a disastrous outcome, as personnel and financial matters might require judicial approval. Trust me, folks, that takes time. The Dodgers are constructed well enough to weather the storm of the McCourt divorce as it stands now, but all bets are off if the court takes control.

Some housekeeping and a note on length

Hey guys. Things have been getting a little long-winded around here, and I understand that. The goal, going forward, is to be a little more quick-hitting in providing instant analysis of breaking news along with the longer thoughts on big-picture issues. I thought it important, though, to lay out the basics at length.


What might happen?

From this little corner of the internet, it looks to me like there are three main possibilities. Basically, one party could buy the other partner out, the Dodgers might be sold to a third party, or Frank and Jamie might both retain an interest in the club.

It's hard to see Frank or Jamie having the financial wherewithal to buy the other out and still have enough money to run the Dodgers on their own. See, if Jamie's to be believed, the Dodgers account for $800 million of the couple's $1.2 billion estate. If everything's split up, neither partner would be able to take the other out without some serious outside financing help.

While that sort of thing might not be as hard as you think, it still ain't easy, especially if you believe the whispers that the McCourts needed some pretty heavy financing to buy the team in the first place. The money just might not be there for one party to buy out the other.

If this doesn't work out, the McCourts might sell the team to a third party. As you might have heard, the number of folks walking around with $800 million in their pockets is pretty darned low right now. And in the time it takes to find a suitable ownership group (presumably one that doesn't go nuclear on itself after 29.96 years of marriage), the Dodgers might have to be run on a shoestring. That's bad news for a team with World Series aspirations.

The third possibility in all this is that the McCourts keep their joint ownership in some way. This would require a great deal of creativity, as they can't, you know, stand each other right now. As a refresher, she cheated and he moved to cut her out of the fortune. Productive business partners, these two ain't.

But it could happen, if one or both agreed to step back from operations of the club. This doesn't seem all that likely, however. Frank enjoys being public about his role with the team, and you might recall that Jamie holds herself to be the "face of the Dodgers."

So what will happen? Well, we're all waiting to find out.

Who owns the Dodgers?

This, friends, is the $800 million question, and I'd imagine we'll spend much of the next few months discussing it. This post won't hit everything, but I'm hoping it serves as a sufficient primer.

This is all subject to change once we see the documents. For now, all we have are Jamie's account in her application and various newspaper reports.

The agreement

In 2004, Frank and Jamie executed an asset-transfer agreement which gave Frank the Dodgers and Jamie the couple's residences. The family lawyer supervised the process, and Jamie was not represented by independent counsel. Among other things, the agreement may serve to protect the couple's personal assets from creditors in the event the Dodgers failed.

Frank's position

Frank's lawyer has told the LA Times he is the sole owner of the Dodgers, relying on the signed asset-transfer agreement. Frank will also note that he is listed as the owner and "control person" of the team to Major League Baseball.

Jamie's position

Jamie's application contends that the asset-transfer agreement is ineffective to divest her of her interest in the Dodgers. She says she thought the document was paperwork required to maintain the status quo of their ownership interests upon the move to California. She also says she never intended to transfer her interest in the Dodgers to Frank and that he essentially tricked her into doing it. Finally, Jamie asserts that Frank confirmed to their estate lawyer than he didn't mean the document to strip Jamie's ownership of the Dodgers (or his interest in the residences).

The unsigned agreement

According to Jamie's accounts, the couple asked the estate lawyer to draw up a new agreement confirming Jamie's position. This document was signature-ready in August 2008. Jamie says that Frank "repeatedly found reasons to avoid" signing the document, and that at some point in 2009, Frank told Jamie he wouldn't be signing them at all. That seems to me to be the breaking point of the marriage and the epicenter of this maelstrom.

So what's going on?

A whole lot. Both parties' positions and likely arguments have serious flaws. Remember that Jamie practiced law for over 20 years. She spent ten years as General Counsel to the McCourt Company, which was responsible for the real estate development business which propelled the couple toward extreme wealth.

Here's the thing: courts don't like it when lawyers use the "he tricked me" argument. Jamie's contention that she didn't know the effect of the document she signed will be much less effective than your average divorcee's. Between her requests for a pool large enough for long-distance swimming and unfettered access to Dodger greats, Jamie will have to explain to the judge why she didn't at least consult independent counsel. The judge is going to want to know why a successful, experienced lawyer should be able to say she was fooled into signing a document which gave up more rights than she intended.

Frank has problems here, too. Agreements are generally invalid in the absence of consideration; that is, both parties should generally give something up in order to get something back. Here, a judge will want to know what Jamie was getting in exchange for her rights to the Dodgers. The residences might not be enough, and Frank's lawyers will had better know this.

Frank will likely say that Jamie received peace of mind from the arrangement. She admits in her filings that she had always been concerned the real estate development business would fail and the couple would lose everything. That's why the residences were put in her name and not offered as security for the debts of the business. Jamie says she thought the signed agreement served only to maintain this arrangement as it concerns the Dodgers.

The weight the court gives the signed agreement will be ground zero of the battle for the Dodgers, and it's impossible to speculate as to what the court will do with this little information. I hope I've given you a solid foundation for the tempest to come. The future of our franchise is at stake, and the organization will be severely handcuffed until the question of ownership is resolved.

Frank responds

No docs for me to peruse yet, but I'm sure we'll go through them at length later.

For now, know this: the Dodgers and the divorce court are now facebook friends, which means the Dodgers can post links on the court's wall.

Not really, but kind of.

The Dodgers claim, and TMZ has confirmed*, that Jamie was, as previously mentioned, involved with the help. The Dodgers note the hollowness of Jamie's demands to be reinstated, stating, "These two married but estranged people cannot even deal with one another from a distance. Yet she wants to reenter full employment and get dropped off and picked up every day by the individual who betrayed his own employer and its owner." From this angle, I think they're half right. She sure as hell doesn't want to be in the office with Frank right now, but she may indeed wish to be ferried around by Fuller, safe from whatever harm might befall a baseball team owner traveling to dangerous places. The Dodgers have also paid Jamie her salary through the end of this year.

*As a novice blogger but barely un-novice legal writer, I'm a little wary of saying TMZ confirms things. I need a bloggy security guard to protect me in these dangerous places.

McCourt claims that the 2004 asset-transfer arrangement left him with the Dodgers and her with the residences. The Dodgers are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and the real estate perhaps a mere hundred million. Such an imbalance in consideration is sometimes ok, but also sometimes not, as we'll discuss later. You can guess which McCourt will say it's a fair trade. He says she was motivated by the desire to shield herself from creditors should the Dodgers fail. The plan was that if their $1.2 billion empire crumbled, they'd still have some fancy roofs over their heads. Of course, she thinks that was all a ruse. This is gonna be fun.

I'm still waiting on the documents, but in the mean time, more:

The AP reports that Jamie and Jeff Fuller--her lover/bodyguard/driver--did some Dodger business in Israel in July. She, as the "face of the Dodgers," was there to sponsor the baseball portion of the Maccabiah Games--an international athletics competition. Jamie and Fuller then gallivanted about France for two-and-a-half weeks on the Dodgers dime. Frank claims that Jamie failed to perform an integral role of an $800 million operation's CEO: updating him on her whereabouts and activities.* These two are a pair, folks.

*One wonders how detailed this responsibility was. When I was a kid, my parents didn't really care where I was, as long as I told them when I was changing places and came in to say goodnight when I got home. I picture this with the McCourts, except in G-IV's and multimillion dollar homes, some of which have dreadfully small pools unsuitable for long-distance swimming.

Fuller, incidentally, was fired along with McCourt. I can think of better legal strategies than essentially painting the picture that you fired a woman for not sleeping with you anymore. This is gonna be fun. I keep telling you people that, and I mean it. Time for me to change locations. Will I be fired for not giving my boss proper status updates? It's about as likely as taking a two-and-a-half week vacation in France with my lover/bodyguard/driver.

Jamie's side.

All of this is culled from Jamie's application for divorce.

Jamie, the self-proclaimed "face of the Dodgers," wants the court to order Frank to pay her $320,967 yearly monthly if he restores Jamie to her $2 millon/year post as CEO of the club. Should he not want her to stay in that position, she's seeking a monthly payment of $487,634. And that's just maintenance. She will also seek half the marital assets, but that's a road for a later date.

Regardless of whether or not she's rehired, she wants to enjoy all the benefits and perquisites of being the owner of a MLB team. These include, among many other demands: travel by private jet, only the finest accomodations and restaurants wherever she travels, access to current and former Dodgers, and professional hair and makeup service.

Also listed is 24-hour security and a driver. While the court may indeed allow this request, I can't imagine Frank will let those positions be filled by Jeff Fuller, Jamie's former "Director of Protocol." Why?


Fuller geschmoigatied Jamie's geflavity with his googus. But that's for Frank's side, so we'll get to that later. Moving on:

Her most explosive allegations are that Frank systematically worked to cut her out of, well, nearly everything. In 2004, she claims, he manipulated her into basically signing away her share of the bulk of the marital assets. Things came to a head when he refused to revoke the agreement divesting her of the property. The situation got toxic, and he eventually cut her off entirely, going as far as to empty her accounts and stop paying her bills. He also, of course, fired her as CEO.

His alleged actions are best summed up by this topic heading in her application:

"Frank begins to rewrite history concerning our ownership of the dodgers and to drive me out of the organization."

So her position going forward is going to be that Frank coldly and calculatedly excised her from the family wealth over a number of years. If her allegations are true, Frank comes out to be quite the jerk here. With what sounds to the proletariat like unlimited wealth, he left her illiquid and jobless. He left our beloved Dodgers faceless.* He rendered her pool-less**. He stole from her what they had spent a lifetime building.

*If Jamie McCourt is the "face of the Dodgers," can Kershaw be the arm? Manny the hair? Billingsley the, you know, hindquarters? I could go on for days, but I sense you're not amused. Thank goodness Visanthe Shiancoe is a Viking footballer, not a Dodger. This could have got out of hand.

**My personal favorite of Jamie's lifestyle demands? Access to the indoor pool at the Charing Cross residence Frank will keep during the divorce. Of course, the $27 million Malibu beach house where she'll slum it through the proceedings has a pool already. But folks, please keep in mind that it is small and "unsuitable for long-distance swimming." Perhaps I've lived away from California for too long, but it seems to me that a beach house would afford all sorts of long-distance swimming opportunities. 

So we're running a little long here, but splitting up $1.2 billion empires takes time, people. In a nutshell, they built vast wealth, she says he tricked her into signing her part away, and that ain't right. I'm sure we'll refer back to her preliminary filings over and over again, but this is a good starting point.

Who are these people?

To start, here's Jamie's application for divorce.

If you're here, you know some of the basics. Frank and Jamie McCourt, the co-owners of the Dodgers--if you believe Jamie's story--are divorcing days shy of their 29th anniversary. The couple had lived a mostly blissful* 29.964 years together, amassing what she claims to be an estate worth over $1.2 billion. They met as freshmen at Georgetown, where she earned a degree in French and he in Economics. Not content to teach French, translate French, or move to France, she pursued a law degree at the University of Maryland. After a couple years practicing (French?) law at a small international law firm in New York, she married Frank in 1979 and moved to Boston.

*I say blissful, because, as you'll see, they lived quite the life of luxury. To those who say money doesn't equal happiness, I reply: oh grow up! Yes it does!

Their ascent to the loftiest perch of American aristocracy started slowly. At times, the sherriff would come to their door as the result of tardy mortgage payments. They persevered, however, and struck it rich when Frank developed the hell out of a 24-acre plot of real estate, most of which was used as public parking. Through a variety of twists, turns, and confusing spirals which my car can barely fit through, they accumulated enough net worth to buy the Boston Red Sox.

The Red Sox disagreed, however, so the McCourts ended up buying the Dodgers from the O'Malley family News Corp. in 2003 for $430 million. The franchise and the surrounding real estate is now worth--again according to Jamie*--approximately $800 million. Frank is listed as the owner of the Dodgers per MLB rules which require a single name. However, Jamie notes that the asset was purchased as a couple and that it has always been referred to as a family ownership. That, in a nutshell, is why we're here (if you leave out the parts where he allegedly tried to squeeze her out of millions or she allegedly got down with the help).

*The wonderful Craig Calcaterra expects the "team valuation figure to vary wildly in the future depending on whether Jamie buys Frank out (she'll then claim it's $500 million); Frank buys Jamie out (she'll claim it's worth $1 billion) or they sell the team and split the money (They'd jointly ask $1.6 billion)".

Over the next few posts, which will all be tagged "Basics," I'll break down the important stuff, leading to a post in which I'll identify what I expect to be ground zero of the McCourt divorce.

Hello, and welcome!

Greetings, Dodger fans, and a pleasant afternoon to you, wherever you may be. Welcome to Dodger Divorce, a blog designed to be your one-stop shop for news and insight into the McCourt divorce and how it will affect the Boys in Blue.

A little about myself: I am a self-professed Dodger diehard, a news addict, and a law nerd. I grew up in Los Angeles, attending as many Dodger games as I possibly could. Seats 1-4 of the Loge Level, Aisle 124, Row D served as the epicenter of my indoctrination. The generous, kind, and wise Sid was my guide--I believe the Dodgers called him an usher, though. My favorite moment at Chavez Ravine? Definitely the Alex Cora 18-pitch at-bat which ended with a homer. As far as Stadium cuisine goes, if I wasn't eating a Dodger Dog, I was dipping fries in ice cream.

Anyhow, thanks for stopping by. I hope you find this little corner of the internet to be thorough, informative, and enjoyable. Let me know what more I can do to keep you in the Dodger Divorce loop.