Regardless of his motivation, Frank McCourt got one right with the Zach Lee signing. . .
Whether or not the kid pans out, it was a gutsy PR move for a woebegone franchise in the midst of its worst tenure since the pre-Fox era. Furthermore, McCourt gives a HUGE middle finger to Bill Shaikin in the process. . .incidentally, Dodger fans should give Shaikin a HUGE thank you, as his column may have been the Tipping Point for the signing. . .
I mean honestly, the Dodgers are paying a shell company (eg, themselves) $14 MILLION per year in rent for the right to play on land they already own? Wow. . .
Thank you Bill Shaikin at the L.A. Times, excerpts from the article on the Dodgers (McCourt Ownership) hiring a 71-year old Russian psychic from Boston to HELP OBSERVE AND EVALUATE THE DODGERS AND OPPOSING TEAMS. WOW.
Frank and Jamie McCourt quietly hired a Russian emigre who calls himself a scientist and healer to ‘think blue’ and channel his thoughts toward the team’s success as he watched them play on TV.
The most curious figure to emerge in the Dodgers’ drama answers the door with a kindly smile and a hearty handshake. He motions toward the living room, where his wife has put out a spread of chocolate and fruit, coffee and tea.
Vladimir Shpunt, 71, lived most of his life in Russia. He has three degrees in physics and a letter of reference from a Nobel Prize winner.
He knows next to nothing about baseball.
Yet the Dodgers hired him to, well, think blue.
Frank and Jamie McCourt paid him to help the team win by sending positive energy over great distances.
In the five years he worked for the Dodgers, he attended just one game. Instead, he watched them on television in his home more than 3,000 miles from Dodger Stadium, channeling his thoughts toward the team’s success.
Shpunt’s work was one of the best-kept secrets of the McCourt era. The couple kept it hidden even from the team’s top executives. But from e-mails and interviews, a picture emerges of how the emigre physicist tried to use his long-distance energy to give the Dodgers an edge.
Shpunt could not transform a bad team into a good one, Cohen said, but his energy could increase the chance of winning by 10% to 15%.
But Bert Fields, an attorney for Jamie, said the Dodgers paid Shpunt a stipend, plus a bonus of “certainly six figures and even higher” depending on whether the Dodgers won the National League West title and how far the team advanced in the playoffs.
On Sept. 26, 2008 — one day after the Dodgers clinched the National League West championship and their third playoff berth in five years of McCourt ownership — Frank was jubilant.
“Congratulations and thanks to you and vlad,” Frank e-mailed Cohen. “Also, pls pass along a special ‘thank you’ to vlad for all of his hard work…. This organization and this community will benefit a long time from our continued success. Thanks again.”
At one point, Shpunt also tried to heal a player. In 2005, Jamie referred outfielder Jayson Werth to him for treatment of a wrist injury, after Werth had told her of his interest in alternative medicine, according to Cohen and representatives for Frank and Jamie.
More recently, Werth appeared startled when asked whether he had worked with a healer named Vladimir while with the Dodgers.
“Where’d you hear about that?” Werth said. He declined to talk about it.
On Oct. 2, 2004, Steve Finley capped the first season of McCourt ownership by hitting a walk-off grand slam, clinching the Dodgers’ first playoff spot in eight years.
“The miracle finish … was the result of V energy,” Cohen wrote in an e-mail to Jamie. “Frank was privileged to actually feel the energy.”
Cohen also wrote that Shpunt had “diagnosed the disconnects” among Manager Jim Tracy, General Manager Paul DePodesta and the team’s pitchers and catchers.
“Your general manager destroyed last year’s team,” the e-mail read, “and put together a group of players that could not be a team and could not win.”
Cohen further conveyed Shpunt’s critical assessments of outfielders Milton Bradley and J.D. Drew and said Shpunt had identified Tracy as the “final reason for failure.”
Grossman said Shpunt had been “introduced to the Dodger organization as someone who had the ability to observe the team, observe opposing teams and provide evaluations of performance of areas and strength and weakness.”
McCourt fired DePodesta after the season, three weeks after publicly backing him when Tracy and the Dodgers parted ways. Grossman said Shpunt’s evaluations did not persuade McCourt to fire DePodesta or to cut ties with Tracy or any player.
The relationship between Shpunt and the Dodgers lasted through the ’08 season, after which Jamie asked him for help with matters separate from the team, Cohen said.
For the full story, please read Bill Shaikin at the L.A. Times.
YKI’s Sunday morning tradition (prior to Dogs games) is to wake up, walk the dog and relax in the backyard with fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh-brewed coffee. . .and the L.A. Times – print edition.
Always enjoyable – and the last bastion of real sportswriting out here on the West Coast – the Times’ top columnists are featured; the incisive, biting & oft-misunderstood T.J. Simers, all-world futbol journalist Grahame L. Jones, the cloyingly sentimental (and award-winning) Bill Plaschke as well as Hall of Famer Mark Heisler & veteran, workmanlike baseball writer Bill Shaikin.
Today’s paper was particularly enjoyable as:
a) Heisler, as usual, untangles the cluttered English language long enough to artfully lay out concise prose with an objective loyalist’s insight, writing about his own missteps in predicting the Celtics’ demise, and my personal favorite, labeling Bill Simmons “an essayist as opposed to a journalist,” a tag that YKI can accept, as opposed to those that label Simmons a ‘sportswriter,’ which he clearly is not.
b) Shaikin reporting on the Dodgers possible pursuit of Roy Oswalt, culminating (in his opinion) in a World Series appearance. Will it happen? The proverbial ‘jury is still out,’ as the McCourt divorce, Manny’s deferred salary, and the $104-million payroll projections for 2012, none of which would appear to allow for absorption of Oswalt’s jumbo salary.
c) Grahame L. Jones continuing his spectacular lead-in to the World Cup, this time listing the top ten coaches in World Cup history, but more importantly exposing the Netherlands’ string of failures on the big stage. Whether or not Americas really become converts to the World’s game is one thing, but Times readers have no choice but to become converts to Jones’s work as each column exploits his mastery of words.
d) Plaschke being Plaschke, though not in his weekly tear-jerking sense; this time writing about the enjoyment (and relevance?) of the Kiss Cam. That said, kudos today specifically for taking a jab at Simers, as it is often a one-sided in-house rivalry at the Times between the two sportwriting behemoths: “Real fans, real moments and real, heartfelt, tearful, forever gratitude to the Lakers for never focusing the Kiss Cam on my spot on the third row of the end-zone press table. I sit next to T.J. Simers.”
e) Simers out-Plaschke-ing Plaschke, proving again what an evocative journalist can really do, shedding light on Bill Walton’s recent health crises, his health failing to the point of suicide contemplation, and heroically optimistic path back to the land of Bill-mania.
*This has been a YKI Public Service Announcement for the Preservation of Newspapers, so log off, grab a copy of the Times and enjoy your Sunday.*
Bill Shaikin reports that, ahem, Jamie McCourt had aspirations of eventually utilizing her platform as Dodgers CEO/Figurehead to become President of the United States.
first Mayor, then Governor, then POTUS. Seriously.