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Teams That Grind My Gears – The Real Tragedy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Anybody who has read this blog know how I feel about the Los Angeles Dodgers; if not you may want to check my original treatise on the subject before reading any further here; you may find having the additional perspective helpful.

What has happened to this franchise really should be a crime. If there were a way to make the combination of ego and stupidity illegal, Frank McCourt’s ownership of the Dodgers would be the case which got that law passed. Understand that as much as I hate the Dodgers, that hatred is all about what happens on the field. What has happened in this case is so incredibly beyond that it boggles the mind.

First there is the destruction of the franchise. In seven years, McCourt has managed to turn a cornerstone franchise into one needing the league’s recievership. If you aren’t familiar with the Dodgers, you may not understand the scale of what that means. I am old enough to where I can remember the Dodgers under the ownership of Walter O’Malley, the man who brought them to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1957. Like him or not, O’Malley ran the Dodgers like a family business, and always made sure that Dodger Stadium was a family-friendly place.  Let’s take that piece by piece – under O’Malley, the Dodgers were the model of stability. For their first forty seasons in Los Angeles, the Dodgers had exactly two managers. In its seventh year, the McCourt regime is on its fourth. In nearly fifty years of owning the Dodgers, the O’Malleys fired two managers. In its seventh year, the McCourt regime has fired as many, and would have likely fired Joe Torre had he not retired. The Dodgers won five World Series titles in Los Angeles under the ownership of the O”Malleys; they’ve only managed four pretty weak post-season showings since…at least McCourt kept some traditions alive.

One great Dodger tradition that continues is only ever have three guys who can hit.  Better yet, for some reason, one of these guys must be a first baseman who is a “great Dodger hitter,” meaning he might hit .300, but he’s not going to hit 20 homers or drive in 100 runs. Enter James Loney. So, watching the Dodgers means watching six guys trying to get a walk, get hit, get anything that gets you on base without actually having to swing the bat.  Naturally, this is just stalling, hoping to bring one of the aforementioned three to the plate.

So, under McCourt, the quality of the product on the field has declined, but at least they made up for that by improving the fan experience at the ball park, right? After all, when McCourt bought the team from Fox in 2004, he promised a title and a better fan experience. Uh, I’m not feeling it, Frank.

Now you may ask, why bother with a team that can only manage to beat the hapless NL West, then crumple the minute it faces a real playoff team? Because, they are the Dodgers, which means they should have scorn and derision heaped upon them at every opportunity. Specifically, they do exceptionally cheap-assholish Dodger-type things, like charging you $10 for a watered-down beer, $5.50 for a questionably sanitary Dodger Dog, and $3 when one of those two has it’s predicted effect.

Since the dawn of Dodger Stadium, Dodger fans have been known to have wait in long lines to make a Dodger Dookie.  Of course, this is the result of a classic Dodger cost-cutting move, building a 56,000-seat stadium with enough bathroom for about half that many. Seriously, the traffic going into and out of the men’s room can rival the Santa Monica Freeway. While the Dodgers can’t do much about individual bladder control (otherwise they would have done something about Tommy Lasorda years ago), they did come up with a Dodger-type plan.

Since building a couple of bathrooms would have been far too sensible, the Dodgers invented the BAT…that stands for Bathroom Attendant Team. Let that soak in for a moment.

The beauty of this is the fact that to keep the bathroom attendants, the Dodgers got rid of the parking lot attendants, because there was really no need to have any sort of security outside of the stadium, right? Bryan Stow would disagree, if he weren’t in a fucking coma. The sad part is that what happened to Stow is the end result of an owner who treated the franchise as little more than a cash machine; McCourt at the same time looked to squeeze every nickel he could out of his investment while blowing through the Dodgers’ money for his own personal gain; the guy sells ad space on the beer cups, charges you $3 to pee, doubled the fees for parking while eliminating security, and would be selling as much cheap beer as he could if the Stow incident hadn’t happened, and is still anywhere between $500 and $800 million in deb.

Then, there is the fact he destroyed a cornerstone franchise. This isn’t some expansion team in a crap stadium which couldn’t draw fans if you gave it a fully-automated, nuclear-powered fan-attracting machine. This is one of the original old-school franchises in the history of the game. McCourt took such a franchise in the second-largest city in America; a franchise which would be easily worth north of $800 million dollars if it didn’t have a now-distressed owner, and essentially turned it into the Kansas City Royals.

A popular opinion is that Brian Stow incident was for Commissioner Bud Selig “the straw that broke the camel’s back;” but truth be told, this catastrophe has been years in the making.The seeds were sown when this team was sold to McCourt, who was a smooth talking real estate developer from Boston who didn’t have the scratch up front to purchase the team. Then he made his wife the CEO of the team, insuring the team would be community property regardless of any pre-nuptial agreement they may have had. Then he fired her when the marriage hit the skids, guaranteeing their would not only be a fight for control, but during that fight there would be a complete lack of leadership.  Then the divorce proceedings and McCourt’s refusal to sell the team introduced the economic paralysis which prompted the intervention by the Commissioner.

It was clear something had to change last year when Dodger GM Ned Colletti (who still wears his NL Championship Ring he got while with the Dodgers main rival San Francisco in 2002) literally had to shop the “scratch and dent” rack for help in the 2010 pennant race. Of course, this failed, and it had to stick wrong in sensitive parts of Dodger fans’ collective anatomy to watch that hated rival go on to win the World Series after adding Pat Burrell and Cody Ross. The worst part for Dodger fans has to be the realization that so many of them hailed McCourt as a savior from the evil Fox Empire which had bought the team from Peter O’Malley in 1998; much like the Russian peasants feted the invading Germans as their saviors from Stalin in 1941.

Frankly, citizens of Dodgertown, it is time to go from “Think Blue” to “Think New” – it is time to use this low point in Dodger history as an opportunity for a rebirth. Honestly, I hope you all can make that work, because it really is no fun hating a team which is now so incredibly pathetic.

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What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

11 comments on “Teams That Grind My Gears – The Real Tragedy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

  1. Chris Humpherys
    April 22, 2011

    I read that if/when the Dodgers are sold, they’ll still garner a record amount of cash for a franchise.

    Impressive.

    I guess Major League Baseball as an institution is torn between allowing their franchises to manage themselves on one hand, and intervening when they’re run into the ground on the other.

    I’m not sure how fine that line actually is.

    Will Selig be commended for finally stepping in or did he do so too late?

    Like

    • JW
      April 22, 2011

      If you look at the comments I’ve made recently over at Doin’ Work’s blog
      ( http://doin-work.com/2011/04/20/changing-of-the-eras-in-the-nba/ ), the discussion became about the value of franchises. The Dodgers are perfect example of what happens to value when a franchise owns something tangible. The Dodgers own Dodger Stadium, which means they control all the revenue streams that go with it – the parking, the concessions, the ad space, etc…plus, there is just the value of the real estate.

      As far as the timing of Selig’s intervention is concerned, my question is this: Why did MLB allow McCourt to buy the Dodgers in the first place? He tried to buy the Red Sox before that and was rejected, but just a few months later he was cleared to purchase the Dodgers. McCourt didn’t fix any of the concerns which caused the sale to him of the Red Sox to be derailed (namely, he didn’t have the cash up front), so what was the factor that made baseball let this guy in?

      Like

  2. tophatal
    April 22, 2011

    JW

    The league has a rule in place where teams cannot borrow in excess of ten times their operating profit in order to safe guard their financial stability . But somehow McCourt since his assuming control of the Dodgers has used the team as his own personal ATM . He’s used the Dodgers as collateral on several occasions to obtain short terms loans and as recently as last month he was looking to once again use the team as collateral in order to obtain a $300 million loan from Fox and its parent company News Corp.

    What’s more asinine is that while this has been happening Selig and the league hierarchy stood pat watching this fiasco manifest itself into a damn nightmare. Now McCourt is saying that the league hierarchy has documents in their possession that suggest they knew of McCourt’s dealings and in particular a document that suggest that he’d come to an agreement with the local Fox affiliate and News Corp for a $3 billion 20 yr televised deal . You tell me how f_cked up this situation is as of now ? Bear in mind that the fallout from the Mets own fiasco could make what’s happening with the Dodgers seem like a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon .

    If at all interested see the link below and let me know what you think ?

    http://tophatal.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/finally-an-act-of-rationale-by-mlb-and-in-particular-bud-selig-who-shows-that-he-might-indeed-have-a-backbone/

    tophatal ………………

    Like

    • JW
      April 22, 2011

      I couldn’t agree more with your points – if you want to know why Selig let this get as far our of hand as he did, ask yourself a question: Have you ever had a boss who clearly made a mistake hiring a wrong person and keeps trying to deny there’s a problem. That’s the Selig-McCourt relationship in a nutshell. McCourt was rejected once for ownership by MLB, but he got in anyway when it was clear there were some issues which needed to be at least investigated.

      As the Dodger situation continued to crumble, Selig was forced to admit he screwed up, and he’s not the sort of guy who does that easily. The trouble is now that Selig finally made a move, this buys time for the Mets, because Selig doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who can handle two train-wrecks at once.

      Like

      • tophatal
        April 22, 2011

        JW

        I use to be an ardent and fervent fan of the Marlins ( [lived in S Florida at the time ] now crossed over in support of the Braves ) . I’ve been lucky enough to have witnessed their triumphs , the lulls and the lows of the organization. But what finally got to me was the fact that Loria as owner of the team has been culpable of one massive fraud perpetrated on the fans and the local municipalities of Miami Dade county and the city of Miami who went out on a limb for the guy. He now has his stadium (ready for the 2012 season possibly) at taxpayers’ expense but what he’d egregiously had done was to lie about the team’s finances , all the while the team and in particular the front office executives have pocketed in excess of $ 65 million over the past few years . Money under the this asinine tax sharing revenue scheme that’s meant for the organization to bolster its roster . Tell me how many of the small market teams do you actually believe have actually done that over the years since this so called rule has been in place ?

        Have you seen any improvement in the likes of the Royals , Pirates , D’backs or any of these so called small market teams meant to be the beneficiary of the league’s largesse ?

        Bud Selig is an a_s of the highest order !

        tophatal …………………..

        Like

  3. chappy81
    April 25, 2011

    I know you mentioned that this was a long time coming, and I agree with you, but the thing I can’t get over is how quickly the MLB threw the hammer down. I mean, my A’s have been trying to get a ruling from the MLB on whether they can build a stadium in San Jose for seven years! The MLB took probably 10 years to institute some instant replay, and boom, they take over the Dodgers after only a year of crappy media killing them for the divorce… I guess it shows you how bad it really was for them to act fast…

    Like

    • JW
      April 25, 2011

      Again, I have to believe the two things that made the decision to act quickly were the Bryan Stow incident with its resultant McCourt looking like a complete dickbag, and the fact that McCourt was a major league owner largely because of Selig.

      Like

  4. tophatal
    April 26, 2011

    JW

    You mentioned in my piece that the Dodgers had tangible assets ? What might that be ? Dodger Stadium can’t be considered prime real estate and with the way prices are now they can’t get anything for it . Bankrupcty filing in the Federal Courts could be the only way out if the league hierarchy can’t reach an agreement with the team’s creditors .

    As I’d stated you’ve only got to look at what happened to the Cubs and Rangers that effectively forced those organizations into filing for bankruptcy before they eventually found new owners .

    And let me say this what the hell have Colletti and LaSorda been doing in all of this ? Surely they’re not as dumb as they now appear be ?

    tophatal ………………

    Like

  5. JW
    April 26, 2011

    First of all, bankruptcy and and folding are miles apart on the spectrum. If bankruptcy meant the death of an entity, we’d only have one airline in this country. Every major airline except Southwest has been in bankruptcy at some point in the past 20 years.

    Secondly, your argument about the Cubs and Rangers supposes that a chucklehead like Bud Selig a) understands the value of an asset and b) knows how to sell it at max value. Good luck getting me to buy either of those points, especially since Selig had a chance to sell the Cubs for far too much money to Mark Cuban.

    Finally, do not underestimate the power of real estate even in a deflated market. Granted the housing market in California is flatter than a stove lid (trust me, I know about this first-hand), but the same cannot be said for the commercial market. Sure, that market has taken a hit as well, but it is no where nearly as sick as the housing market is. Having said that, your argument assumes the sale of the real estate for cash value. In actuality, the value is as an investment, you will find it difficult convince me there is not a speculator out there unwilling to take a shot at an investment in the Dodgers knowing full well that the value of the real estate likely can’t get any lower. It’s a “buy low, sell high” deal.

    Like

    • tophatal
      April 26, 2011

      They weren’t that far apart and in the case of both the Cubs and Rangers the parties in question had to be force the creditors’ situation to take cents on the dollar . As to value of the real estate it’s a misnomer to think it’s great to be sitting on a commercial property or any type of real estate that’s not garnering a return . What’s the land worth that Dodgers’ Stadium sits on at present ?
      You’re kidding yourself if you think that the Dodgers is worth even 20 to thirty times their earnings if that .

      And it has to tell you something if someone like billionaire philanthropist shows no interest in the Dodgers whatsoever . Real estate prices have been depreciating and they’re not about to jump back to the pre 2005 levels anytime soon. Have you seen what’s happening with prices for REIT’s ?

      And don’t forget the debt that McCourt has laden the club with so do you really feel that someone will overpay and absorb that debt as well ?

      Try telling Trump that now with the as he’s seen the value of his portfolios and developments decline . His property development in Palo Verdes is undergoing some real problems . He places a book value on it of $1.5 billion but in reality it’s not even worth half that amount as of now . Of the 75 mansions built he’s only sold three and through creative accounting he’ll write down the losses .

      tophatal ………………

      Like

  6. tophatal
    April 26, 2011

    The financial instruments will ultimately also rain down on the commercial market ….. Mortgage Backed Securities were also being used there as well and the fallout is about to arrive there . Look at the situation with the Glazers who own both the Bucs (NFL) and Man Utd (EPL) ? Their commercial property company is hemorrhaging red ink because their entities are less than 70 % occupied .

    tophatal ……………..

    Like

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This entry was posted on April 21, 2011 by in Baseball and tagged , , , , .

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