December 21, 2014

Frank McCourt’s Last Straw

We’ve held off on commenting on the events of the last 24 hours here at given the complete media blitz on the topic (other than a few tweets). The action by Bud Selig and Major League Baseball signals that there are serious issues afoot in the McCourt camp and the $30 million loan needed by McCourt to make Dodger payroll (as reported by the Los Angeles Times)was as red a flag as I’ve seen in my 30 years of watching baseball. The consensus is clear – McCourt’s alleged financial difficulties make it next to impossible to for him to manage the team and MLB is no longer willing to be an idle party in what could otherwise be the destruction of a proud franchise.

Jon Wiseman of ESPN Los Angeles had, what I consider, one of the most thoughtful views on what has transpired over the past several weeks in this article posted yesterday evening. I’d encourage you to stop reading my post and click through to his assessment and then come back.

Wiseman makes the observation that this is more than the alleged mismanagement of the team’s finances – at the core is the horrific Bryan Stow beating and the shock of the initial reaction of McCourt who felt nothing could have been done to prevent that ruthless attack. Many fans simply decided making a trip to Dodger Stadium wasn’t worth it – whether it was for safety reasons, performance reasons (the team’s record), or financial reasons.

Wiseman also points out that, while this wasn’t an organized protest, it’s clear that many fans have simply thrown up their hands and turned their back on the organization:

The thing is, it hasn’t been an organized boycott, not on any widespread level. It’s been people on their own coming to the conclusion that life was too short to waste on a franchise in this condition.

This includes people like my father, who chose during the offseason not to renew my family’s season tickets for a 30th season. It also includes the people who typically would improvise their ticket purchases after the season was underway.

That’s not to say Dodger Stadium was or would be empty. Some still show up because they love the team through thick and decidedly thin. The game’s pull remains strong. I myself have been trying to figure out when to get my kids to their first game of 2011.

But things haven’t been this low at Dodger Stadium before, have they? I think back to 1992, the worst team in Los Angeles Dodger history playing against the backdrop of a city torn by riots, and there was not such bitterness over the state of ownership.

Dodgers fans have been wandering through a desert of uncertainty and dismay for well more than a year since the McCourts’ marital strife put control of the team in limbo. What the Bryan Stow incident did, besides put the life of a man in jeopardy, was amplify the fear that with McCourt in charge, there might be no bottom.

Selig’s actions yesterday have certainly limited how much further the team could tumble down the rabbit hole, but what now? Can McCourt really make a comeback from this? Does he have any supporters left? I can’t think of a way out of this other than a forced sale at this point, but perhaps I’m wrong on this one. I do hope, however, that Jon Wiseman and I are right – because that hope is what many of the remaining Dodger fans are clinging to at this point.

It’s Time for Dodger Baseball!

I love Opening Day.  Especially when it comes at home against the hated San Francisco Giants.  The best day of the year against our most bitter rival.  If that doesn’t get you pumped up, I don’t know what would.

But while I think about all of the reasons that I lvoe Dodger baseball, I can’t help but think about the growing chorus of doubts about the team ownership which have started to creep into days reserved for only true baseball optimists.

First it was the surprising decline in attendance numbers at Camelback Ranch this spring.  According to the Arizona Republic, attendance at Dodgers games was down 17% while attendance at White Sox games went up 12.4%.  Hmm.

Then there was the Bill Plashke article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times about former season ticket holder Brian Gadinsky who returned his tickets and turned down an opportunity to meet Frank McCourt.  He vowed not to renew until new ownership was in place.  The article has generated 98 comments (with the majority favoring the fan).  Care to guess how many comments there were on Chad Billingsley’s contract extension from the same day?  Zero.  Something’s brewing people.

Finally there was the oddest story of them all: Andre Ethier speaking about potentially leaving the Dodgers.  Per Jim Peltz of the LA Times:

“If I don’t play well, we’ve seen them non-tender guys here, and if you play well, I’ve seen them not offer arbitration because they’re afraid guys are setting their salaries too high,” he said.

When a reporter asked Ethier whether being non-tendered was the only way he could leave after this season, Ethier replied, “Or traded.”

Whoa.  It’s one thing for fans to not have confidence in the ownership, but another for one of their star players to speak out like that.  Fortunately it doesn’t sound like ‘Dre wants to leave, but more like he wouldn’t be surprised if the club non-tendered him after a down year, like his friend Russell Martin (although I seriously doubt anyone really believes that Martin was non-tendered for any reason other than his hip injury and declining production).  Sure, Ethier’s agent walked this statement back, but it made clear that there are lingering questions in the clubhouse about ownership and their ability to field a championship team (to say nothing of the potential impact on free agents wanting to come to LA).

But you know what?  Today I don’t care about any of that.  Hope springs eternal on Opening Day with plenty of tantalizing questions for Dodger fans to ponder including: How will rookie manager Don Mattingly do?  Is this the year that Clayton Kershaw contends for a Cy Young Award?  Will Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier return to form and be the monsters of the lineup?

But most of all, I’m looking forward to slipping on my headphones while in the office, sitting back, closing my eyes and enjoying Vin Scully call yet another Opening Day while delighting and informing us with his unique brand of storytelling.

It’s time for Dodger baseball.  Indeed it is!

Reminder: Single-Game Tickets Go On Sale Saturday

Just a friendly reminder that single-game tickets (including Opening Day) go on sale Saturday morning at 10:oo a.m. PT on or down at Chavez Ravine.  Looks like the Dodgers have a fun day planned, but frankly nothing beats the convenience of buying your tickets in your own living room!