Naturally, I’d be remiss if I did not comment on the biggest story in L.A. Thursday morning: Frank McCourt, the parking attendant from Boston who was allowed to buy our beloved Dodgers a half-dozen years ago, plus or minus a few months, was thrown out of his office by the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Bud Selig. Not that I was aware Bud had that kind of power, but apparently he does; i.e., you can pony up the money to buy a team, but if you fail to comply with MLB rules you have to give up your VIP parking space as well as the team. Not that a single Dodgers fan (and I’m not that deep into the team) is at the local wailing wall. In fact, the consensus is more like elation.
And it happens. George Steinbrenner, of course, got his hands slapped royally for one year with what was considered mismanagement, and the notorious Marge Schott, who owned the Cincinnati Reds and a dog and a foul mouth, was compelled to vacate the premises for a full year some time ago. And last year the Texas Rangers were required to knuckle under to “management assistance” for the back half of the season as they lost to the San Francisco Giants in the world series.
So it appears that there’s ownership and then there’s “ownership,” which shouldn’t be that surprising in a game that lives and dies by a sacred rulebook. Indeed, I’ve seen games where the book was literally pulled out to resolve an issue that somehow confounded the umpires.
In any case, the community at large found this good news as they woke Thursday morning. At a time when high muckity-mucks are constantly dodging bullets it is warmly refreshing to see one of them get his ass summarily kicked. You can read all the details in the Los Angeles Times, along with oodles of commentary, some of it, admittedly smug (but funny) — my favorite was from a guy who wrote in to say, “Couldn’t’ happen to a better guy. Good luck, McDork!”
Those who follow the story of husband and wife Frank and Jaimie McCourt — and in this city it is maddeningly impossible to avoid it — have been treated to a soap opera that has almost challenged the imagination. There is the frankly stupid divorce business, with reports from the hearings that make you wonder if there are any adults involved. There are the loans that Frank has sought to keep the team financed, now being pursued on a monthly basis. There are their luxury homes in various parts of the country — cool digs in Bev Hills hardly suffice. And there’s the argument over which McCourt actually owns the team — he says he does, and she says she’s in for 50 percent (of late, Frank canned Jaimie from her role as CEO). So it’s nuts. It really is. Hardly the environment, so the bottom line goes, to foster a pennant winner.
And finally, I think what has bothered most fans is the whole carpetbagger tone that pervades the situation. These are not Californians — but then neither was Walter O’Malley. Worse, they are not baseball people; they are perceived as outsiders who simply wanted to purchase a toy and were more than willing to leverage all that they owned — and then some — to buy a recognized brand. Likewise, the owner of the Detroit Tigers is Mr. Dominos Pizza and the co-founder of Microsoft thought it would be fun to acquire the Seattle Mariners. So it’s a little unclear what kind of credentials one would need to be a moneyed part of the national pastime.
Notwithstanding, the prevailing sentiment in Lotus Land — at least for the moment — is one of jubilation. And given that it’s the Dodgers, we’re already saying “Wait ’til next year!”