Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The song remains the same.


Recent days have not been kind ones to Frank McCourt and his hopes of owning the Dodgers long-term. Over the weekend came the news that Team Frank had jetted to New York to convince Major League Baseball that McCourt ownership is salvageable despite Frank’s  several-hundred-million-dollar tab potentially coming due. Further, it was reported that, while the Commissioner might have difficulty directly removing Frank McCourt from baseball, Selig had a few methods by which he could make continued McCourt ownership plenty difficult.

These methods of potential coercion are mostly financial; Selig could reject a television contract that would offer Frank a lifeboat in his quest to retain the team. Further, the Commissioner could decline to allow Frank McCourt access to the sort of emergency funding most recently and notably tapped into by the Texas Rangers prior to their sale last year. Both of these tools would deny Frank that resource which most believe he needs scarcely less than oxygen: cash.

Yesterday and today, the news didn’t get much rosier. Tuesday, Buster Olney speculated that Major League Baseball might, in the event Frank indeed moves to sell the Dodgers, effectuate such a sale by essentially trading A’s owner Lew Wolff the Dodgers in exchange for his current club. The A’s, like the Montreal Expos before them, would likely operate under MLB command for a season or more while certain stadium-related issues are resolved and a new long-term owner can be discovered and wooed.

Of course, this being the Dodgers, something strange had to happen: today, Wolff communicated to Major League Baseball’s central offices, the Los Angeles Dodgers brass, and the media that he has no interest whatsoever in the occupants of Chavez Ravine. While such a statement is not entirely without an embedded message—Wolff surely doesn’t want Oakland fans thinking he’s shopping around for a new club like the Miami Dolphins searched for a new coach—the fact remains: Wolff prefers the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

And, at this point, that’s at least a defensible position. Make no mistake: there’s not likely a more toxic ownership situation in American sports than what we find ourselves in. The major unknowns are how the organization rises again—and it will—and whether the McCourt family will be part of that renaissance.

It is easy to see Frank’s loss on the MPA, followed by his recent New York roadshow, as sure indications he’s not long for the Dodgers. And maybe he’s not. But know this: Frank McCourt is a fighter. If Selig tries to block his attempts to raise cash through a TV deal or emergency funding, you can bet Frank will look to other methods. And if he can’t find any, he’ll look some more. And if he still can’t find them, he’ll ready himself for whatever battle might come his way.

A good friend of mine is fond of paraphrasing the Forgetting Sarah Marshall line by saying, “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Say ‘F*** the lemons’ and bail.” Frank McCourt will do neither. He’s not one to make lemonade. He’s not going to bail. You see, Frank McCourt doesn’t believe in lemons. It’s, as the cliché goes, perhaps his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.

So, the same way he couldn’t keep the Dodgers’ issues private by settling with Jamie 18 months ago, the same way he couldn’t stop the bleeding by settling before news of the MPA switch came to light, the same way he couldn’t avoid trial, the same way he couldn’t give Jamie what she wanted before Judge Gordon’s decision, he’ll stick to his guns. Why?

Because all of this is the same way he held onto the Boston Seaport property through years and years of contentious litigation, and ended up trading out some parking lots for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While it might make the most sense not to get out while he can still do so on his own terms, doing things that make sense to you and I and most other people isn’t necessarily Frank’s way.

So the fights—and there will always be fights—will continue.


The above was written on a flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. My welcome-home present was this blog post from the Times' Bill Shaikin (shocking, I know). When reached in passing, Frank McCourt remarked that he does not share other owners' privately-expressed concerns about his chances of keeping the Dodgers. (Also shocking, I know)


  1. Maybe he's figured out that she'll get half no matter what. Maybe Frank has decided to decimate whatever he has left out of spite. Kamikaze mode .... it's at least a funny thought.

    I can't help but think the whole spectacle of it all worsens his situation though. Why he doesn't understand that is beyond me. If this was done quietly and behind closed doors, baseball and it's owners wouldn't have the issues they currently have with helping him.

    It's stands as a gigantic public mess though. All financial issues aside, who the hell would want to align themselves with either one of these people?

  2. Even broke, Frank still has a fair amount of leverage. Selig can't have this ownership mess stretch out for another 3 yrs with one of his premier franchises. But, ousting the Frank will take that kind of effort. I fully expect Frank at the helm of this team for the foreseeable future. Facilitating some bridge financing to get Frank to the new TV contract seems like the right answer for MLB to maintain stability for the Dodgers.

  3. "Facilitating some bridge financing to get Frank to the new TV contract seems like the right answer for MLB to maintain stability for the Dodgers. "

    I swear I'll stop watching the Dodgers on TV as well then. I'm already not going to another game until he's gone.

  4. The squeeze has begun, Frank is in the vice, he is a fighter that is lacking a solid chin and is on the verge of being knocked out, use any euphemism you want...the slow, inexorable, inevitable, water torture ending has begun. The divorce is now officially final, the next dog and pony "trial" is about to begin, Lew Wolff and company are denying, denying, denying any link to Chavez Ravine from his owner's perch in Oakland, yada yada's all rhetoric from now until his signature is affixed to his ownership end, which appears to be coming sooner than later. He is trapped like a rat, with nowhere to hide, no support from anyone but his own image in the mirror, and is beginning to look eerily like Al Pacino in Scarface. In fact, it would not at all surprise me if he hunkers down in his office and has to be removed by the bunko squad, or whatever squad governs the surrounding Elysian Park Police Academy HQ.
    Thank you Howard Cosell for your immortal words, "it's over, it's over, it's all over".

  5. Come on, Frank, show some dignity. Spending three days on your knees at the commish's office must have been so embarrassing. Plus, you didn't even get to see the big man. Take the hint and take a hike.

    I just heard you took an advance from Fox, so now you can't even pay the bills in the off season. Lawyers are expensive and they are draining you and that means they are draining your sole source of income, the Dodgers. Furthermore, by taking the advance, those vampires at Fox has now preclude you from starting a more valuable Dodgers network. Good job in sticking another knife in the organization.

  6. The real story, at this point is: will Bud Selig approve the nine figure FOX TV contract extension to McCourt, in essence paying Jamie her settlement. If he does this, we will know that the fix is in, and has been in from the very beginning, as I have always said. I have always said that MLB is behind this transaction, is using the Dodgers to siphon money directly to FOX and in order to pad his own wallet. While that sounds bizarrely paranoid, could it be any more so than Shpunt? The Dodgers are, essentially, a FOX/MLB money laundering operation.

  7. "But know this: Frank McCourt is a fighter. If Selig tries to block his attempts to raise cash through a TV deal or emergency funding, you can bet Frank will look to other methods.”

    WTF?!?! Are the Dodgers paying you to write this spiel?

    -22 Front Office Employees have left in 15 months including three vice presidents and the Team President

    -The Dodgers finances have been exposed as over leveraged, little outside income that isn’t going to banks or private placement groups.

    -The Dodgers as a team have around $450 million in debt with the entire Dodger organization with $650 million in liabilities.

    Fighting in a corner, by one’s self with the banks, MLB office, your ex wife poking sticks at you isn’t the way to have a fight... The handwriting is on the wall, Frank has to sell. He is way, way over his head.

  8. I've watched some of their games before and the Dodgers are definitely the best baseball team I've seen in so many years. I hope they'll continue their winning tradition so they can make a history mark in their chosen field.

  9. What a lot of worn out cliches and mixed metaphors hiding some very worn out and inaccurate thinking. Garbage journalism at its worst. To see more info please visit

  10. Your articles are always interesting and understandable. Thank you!