December 20, 2014

Talkin’ Dodger Baseball with NPR

Here at dodgerfan.net, we’re always happy to speak to media outlets about the Dodgers, but I was particualrly thrilled and honored to get a call from my favorite NPR affiliate, KCRW-FM, asking if I could speak with them about the current state of the Dodger organization.  The segment aired in the local news portion of “Morning Edition” (in keeping with the moment, I tried to use my best NPR-voice)  and although it was heavily edited, I think it turned out pretty well.

Here was the lead-in, which isn’t on the audio file:

Could Frank McCourt finally be on his way out of Dodgerville?

As the World Series wraps up and concludes the baseball season either tonight or tomorrow in St. Louis, there’s news from Delaware that could cheer the hearts of Dodger fans who just suffered through one of the most agonizing years in franchise history.
A bankruptcy court trial that was scheduled to begin Monday has suddenly been postponed – and there’s word that McCourt and Major League Baseball asked for the delay to continue negotiations on a settlement that would require him to sell the team.
That would be a welcome development for Chris Volk, a blue-blooded, third-generation Dodger supporter and author of the blog dodger-fan-dot-net. He spoke to KCRW producer Darrell Satzman about the season of Dodger fan’s discontent…

Is Frank McCourt’s Greatest Injustice Yet to Come?

After reading the coverage of Frank McCourt’s decision to take the Dodgers into bankruptcy in a last ditch effort to retain control of the club, my heart sank.  If it proves anything, it proves that McCourt is willing to do preserve his ownership, no matter what the long term damage is to the organization.

Frankly, it sickens me to see a proud and historic franchise like the Dodgers dragged further into the mud.  Fans are clearly staying away from Chavez Ravine, and Frank has to be aware that the actions of the fans amounts to nothing less than a silent boycott of his ownership, right?

In the end, I just don’t see how McCourt wins (if there can even be a winner in such matters).  But regardless of who owns the team or how bad the baseball is on the field, I’ll always love coming to Chavez Ravine as long as the likes of Vin Scully and Tommy Lasorda still walk the halls, reminding all of us of happier days and the promise of the future. 

But it could get worse.  My greatest nightmare is that these proceedings are so distasteful to the stately Scully that he silently walks away at the end of the season.  The fans need him more than ever to return for the 2011-12 season, ideally with a new owner in tow.  Vin Scully retiring now would deprive Dodger fans not only of one of the greatest treasures this franchise has ever had, and also an element of hope.  A light to see them through the darkness.  Scully leaving would send this silent fan revolt to a level we haven’t imagined.

I have no reason to think this will indeed take place (and certainly don’t believe Vin would ever discuss his personal feelings on the subject), but in my opinion, that would be the saddest day in Dodger history.  And Frank McCourt’s greatest crime of all.

Does Dodgers Bankruptcy Put McCourt in the Drivers Seat For Now?

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today, citing the rejection of a 17-year TV deal with Fox for roughly $2.7 billion as a prime factor. The McCourts were close to finalizing their divorce proceeding and McCourt allegedly planned to use about $150 million from the agreement to settle a divorce with his wife, Jamie, and to pay off outstanding debts. McCourt and his former wife have previously acknowledged using about $100 million in salary and loans taken against the club to finance their lifestyle.

How does bankruptcy help McCourt and the Dodgers fend off what many are calling inevitable – the sale of the team?

Attorney Chris Ward told the Wall Street Journal that McCourt’s filing may eventually pave the way for a bankruptcy court to approve the Fox Sports deal previously rejected by MLB:

Given that Major League Baseball didn’t approve the TV contract, without that revenue they’re not going to be able to operate. They may have some more leverage to get the Fox TV transaction approved in bankruptcy court over the objections of Major League Baseball. That’s what really precipitated the bankruptcy filing.

McCourt will likely be able to stay in an ownership position while all of this plays out despite the fact that the MLB consitution gives Selig the right to strip McCourt of ownership should he file bankruptcy. That’s because, according to the Los Angeles Times, bankruptcy courts can overrule MLB rules while the actual bankruptcy proceedings play out. So while MLB will likely get its way in the end, McCourt has played the one card he had left after the rejection of the Fox deal and has graced the Dodger community with more antics as the ownership saga continues to unfold.

Attorney Chris Ward also agrees that the move was really the best one McCourt could make at this point:

Deal Journal: What do you think of what the Dodgers are trying to do?

Ward: It gives them an upper hand that they didn’t have before. Strategically it was probably the right move to make.

DodgerDivorce.com was kind enough to post the filing so you can read the details. Manny Ramirez is the largest creditor with over $20 million due (no surprise there) but lots of other current, former, and minor league players are on that list as well. Poor Vin Scully is stilll owed over $100k on his contract (here’s hoping he gets all of it) and the team apparently also has over $300k in unsecured credit card debt with Bank of America according to the filing.

Video summary courtesy of ESPN

Selig Says No; McCourt Out of Options?

So, as expected, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig ruled that Frank McCourt’s new broadcasting deal with FOX (rumored to be worth an estimated $3 billion) was not in the best interests of the Dodgers, nor their fans.

“As I have said before, we owe it to the legion of loyal Dodger fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future,” Selig said. “This transaction would not accomplish these goals.”

Ouch.  Apparently part of the problem was the big up front payment (about $325 million) and the fact that the McCourts would need some of the funds for financial responsibilities outside of the Dodgers.  Given some of the revelations that came out of the divorce proceedings, that was not ok with the Commish.

So now what?  Given the litigious history of Frank McCourt, I don’t expect he’ll back down without a fight, and the following statement from Steve Susman on behalf of Frank McCourt backs that up.

“Commissioner Selig’s letter of rejection is not only a disappointment, but worse, is potentially destructive to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Major League Baseball.  Accordingly, we plan to explore vigorously our options and remedies with respect to Commissioner Selig’s rejection of the proposed FOX transaction and our commitment to protect the long-term best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers.” 

Yikes.  Strong words, but maybe, just maybe, Frank will see that Selig is intent on seizing the team if he can’t make the rumored June 30th payroll  and his back is legitimately against the wall.  Maybe, just maybe, he’ll be open to a settlement.  Either way, it’s the beginning of another chapter for Dodger fans that just want solid ownership with the necessary financial bankroll to fund a winning team, year after year.

In the meantime, thank God for Clayton Kershaw in keeping Dodger fans’ minds where they ought to be: on the field, watching a brilliant two-hit shutout.

Steve Dilbeck’s Letter to Frank McCourt

The following was posted by Steve Dilbeck on the LA Times site about two hours ago…couldn’t have said it better myself, Steve!

Dear Frank McCourt,

I write to you as a friend. Please don’t snicker. Yes, I have been very hard on you as owner of the Dodgers. Tried to speak the truth when felt it necessary. That’s what friends do. I wonder if you have any of those. Not attorneys or Howard Sunkin or employees who tell you what you want to hear. But real friends who look you straight in the eye and speak honestly, however hard or painful it is to hear.

So I say this to you without animosity or hostility: It’s time to let the Dodgers go.

You say you love the Dodgers? Then do what’s best for the team and the franchise. Sell the club and move on.

I know it’s against your fighting nature. And that you can design a list of ways you believe you’ve been wronged or treated unfairly. That you have designed various scenarios to keep the battle alive.

And do what to the Dodgers in the meantime? Into just how many pieces do you have to tear the team and franchise before it’s enough?

I’m trying to visualize a scenario in which you think you actually come out victorious. You’re allowed to sue Major League Baseball and you actually win? Unlikely, but how long would that take and what would be left of the team by then? How many fans would still be at the Ravine? What would your relationship be with MLB and the other 29 owners?

You lost this city and its fans a long time ago and it’s only going to get worse if you dig in. Forget the convoluted schemes. Forget trying to keep control of some of your 26 entities or declaring bankruptcy or trying to find more Peters to pay Paul.

It’s over, and in truth, it has been since the day MLB took control in April. This should not be about ego or hubris or getting in a last uppercut.

This is no longer about you, it’s about what’s best for the Dodgers. And going through protracted legal maneuvers that would likely take years to unfold is not it.

You really, truly love the Dodgers? Then end this. Let them go. It’s the right thing to do.

Your friend,

Steve Dilbeck