Major Leagues: Dark days for Dodgers
By Jim Alexander
Scripps Howard News
LOS ANGELES ó Wednesday was a dark day, maybe the darkest in the history of an iconic franchise.
Yet it was a bright day, too, when Los Angeles Dodgers fans could hope the mess that has been the McCourt Era is finally coming to a conclusion.
Major League Baseball’s decision to assume control of the clubís day-to-day operations was wildly popular with a fan base that lit up talk shows and kept Twitter buzzing all day.
But for both current and former members of the organization, even if wresting the franchise from underfunded Frank McCourt’s grubby hands is the best thing for the sport, the city and the team, it stings.
“When you have turmoil within an organization and when you have a situation like this, I don’t know how that can be considered a good day,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.
It is an embarrassment that a trailblazing franchise that has developed such a dependable brand is now a ward of the Commissioner’s Office.
Then again, that’s no less embarrassing than the venality with which both McCourts have conducted their affairs. To the very end, as it turns out.
As Frank McCourt is preparing to file a lawsuit challenging Commissioner Bud Selig’s authority to strip him of control, estranged wife Jamie issued a statement proclaiming herself as “the 50 percent owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers,” even though a divorce court judge hasn’t yet made that determination.
What, you thought they’d go quietly?
This had the earmarks of a hostile takeover, though USC sports business professor David Carter blanched at that characterization.
“That’s a little harsh,” he said in a phone conversation Wednesday. “Let’s say you’re McDonald’s. If you own the business and one of your franchises is in trouble, not living up to expectations or creating all kinds of uncertainty, you find some way to remedy that.
“It’s not so much death by a thousand cuts, but every time you pick up the paper you’re reading about things other than what happens on the field. The minute that becomes an issue … you have a real problem.”
For the players, it will remain business as usual, with no worries about the paychecks clearing the bank.
For Colletti there’s uncertainty, though he noted that the Rangers under MLB control were able to acquire Cliff Lee and Bengie Molina , parts that helped them to the World Series last October.
Selig said he would assign a trustee in a matter of days. Ideally, it should be someone local, and someone who can provide stability during a process that won’t be quick and might be messy.
“The goal is for faith to be restored in the franchise,” Carter said. “They need a local patriarch who knows his way around town, to revive the brand.
“It’s the Dodgers. People will roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
Assuming Peter O’Malley isn’t interested in reassuming control, who better than his former lieutenant, Fred Claire? Who knows more about this franchise and this city?
Either way, this is it. The Dodgers have officially hit bottom. Their future has to be better, doesn’t it?