I generally don’t go out of my way to pick up a USA Today unless I’m traveling. But while at Whole Foods after work today I grabbed today’s copy; lo and behold, Bob Nightengale has a more-access piece on Frank McCourt splashed across the front of the Sports Section. Keep in mind, this is the preeminent national newspaper in the United States – the Dodgers owner’s divorce is front page news nationally. Harumph.
Besides touting the reliable and in-depth www.dodgerdivorce.com, Nightengale uncovers such gems as this from Hall of Fame Dodgers broadcaster Jamie Jarrin: “Frank has been a very good owner, but people in the community worry his personal problems can affect the team.”
McCourt, predictably, defends his position thusly: “This is not San Diego.” As in, the Padres, who had their own in-house divorce mess that has left the Padres bereft of talent (outside of Adrian Gonzalez), fans and cachet. On the other hand, he admitted to personal struggles:
“It’s tough. I’m not going to lie to you,” he says. “It’s a very, very sad thing. Nobody wants to go through this privately, never mind publicly.\”But in L.A., so much of it is about drama. L.A. is so much about personalities. It’s just how the city functions. This is a juicy story for people until it’s not juicy anymore. Then, they move on to somebody else’s story.”
and here’s where it gets utterly bizarre:
“Tiger Woods was fantastic for me.”
Fantastic that he wiped you off the front page? It’s logical, even respectable on a subersive level but did McCourt really need to go public with that? Interesting that he has adopted the Los Angeles persona enough already that Image really his paramount in his world.
Regardless, the numbers are alarming, and I quote from Nightengale: If the divorce indeed has no bearing on the club’s operations, critics suggest, how to explain the Dodgers’ shrinking payroll? It was $118 million in 2008. This year, without deferred payments, it will be about $83 million — about $12 million less than the rival San Francisco Giants. According to Forbes, the Dodgers’ annual revenue are about $241 million, compared with the Giants’ $196 million. The decreasing payroll is starting to resurrect fan concerns from when McCourt bought the team from Fox. The McCourts originally tried to buy the Boston Red Sox. When they bought the Dodgers, the perception was that they were underfinanced.
Sidenote from YKI: The Count & I split season tickets with our friend Jim C., great location in the Loge, right behind the visiting dugout – fifth row up; the price has increased each year under the McCourt regime to last year’s outlandish $50/game price, enough for me to seriously consider not re-upping. When I went to pick up this year’s selection from my Dad, I was aghast – the printed ticket price is $70/ticket. Yes, SEVENTY DOLLARS FOR A DODGER GAME, and I’m not even on the field level. A 10% increase I can understand, but this is 40%. And McCourt leaves the payroll the same? Unbelievable.
McCourt’s constant defense mechanism continues to be his defense of the young talent, as if retaining guys that are not full-on free agents yet is a big achievement. The trio of two-year contracts he gave out to the homegrown studs wasn’t nearly comparable to the Rays or Rockies long-term outlook. The best part, and the scariest for Dodger fans is his Polyannish conclusion (and kudos again to Nightengale for just excellent framing of the story):
“Our mission is to win the world championship, too. And we’re 100% committed to doing that.
“I know how people like drama, but ironically, there’s just not a lot of drama with this team. Everything is very stable and quiet here.
“Really, it couldn’t be better.”