When the McCourts bought the Dodgers in 2004, I sensed trouble and cursed the other owners for approving the sale. These interlopers were just a little too eager to please. They had the smiles of infomercial endorsers who were trying to get you to trust their expertise, even though they had nothing on their resume except a parking lot in Boston. Worse, they were like late-night cable charlatans who longed for their own reality show; in other words, they weren’t just in it for the money, but for the overexposure. The only problem they probably had with that guy, his kid and the runaway balloon is that they didn’t think of it sooner.
The McCourts now have their own reality show, sort of. Dodger Nation is the unwilling cast and crew, and the franchise might suffer for years as a result. Frank and Jamie are embroiled in the kind of rancorous divorce proceedings that raise Jon and Kate-like sparks in dirty gossip rags. Except Jon and Kate operated in a realm where seedy voyeurism is encouraged. The McCourts have chosen to brawl in Chavez Ravine, a baseball cathedral that isn’t accustomed to hosting ultimate spouse fighting.
Just about every day in Los Angeles there is a new mortar shell of malevolence fired from one side to the other. Already this week, Jamie filed a motion asking a court to remove the Dodgers as part of the divorce, which might be hard, since the Dodgers represent most of the couple’s net worth. Jamie wants back in after Frank fired her for insubordination. Frank said Jamie cheated on him with her driver. Jamie wants $487,634 in monthly support. The McCourts could have gone after each other with broken whiskey bottles on the pitcher’s mound and they wouldn’t have created a sorrier spectacle.
The Dodgers are a baseball team in need of repair. But little can be done until McCourt v. McCourt works its way through the courts. The stadium improvements will have to wait. Ditto for any free agent acquisitions. And because Frank and Jamie can’t coexist, but also are unable to buy the other out, new owners eventually will have to come in. What free agent of any note would want to come to the Dodgers when he could go to a toxic-free environment whose ownership is more certain?
Joe Torre is under contract for only one more season. Outfielder Manny Ramirez has one season remaining on his deal. What about the players who are free agents, from Jason Schmidt to Randy Wolf to Orlando Hudson?
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Jon Weisman is a longtime Dodger-watcher who blogs for the Los Angeles Times, and he believes the club is still in a solid competitive position.
“Because the team is mostly made up of young talent and retains a huge fan base,” he said, “the Dodgers shouldn’t have trouble competing for the National League West title going forward, even if the player payroll were frozen or reduced to make the franchise more attractive to potential buyers. It’s not as if the other NL West teams are suddenly going to start crushing the Dodgers in spending.”
But, of course, if the goal were simply the division title every season, then Frank and Jamie could eviscerate each other live on TMZ.com and it wouldn’t matter. But Dodgers fans haven’t enjoyed a World Series victory since 1988, and they’re antsy. This divorce certainly will prevent the team from moving to the next level.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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