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. . .
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.”
*incidentally, the oft-interesting USA Today ‘Snapshot’ in the bottom left corner featured the question: “What is America’s Favorite Sport?” For the record, 35% NFL, 16% MLB, 12% College Football, 9% Auto Racing, 5% NBA. The results would be definitively different – if not completely reversed – here in Los Angeles, as everything Laker-oriented is golden, and the lack of a professional football team phases nobody.
The Frank McCourt-owned 25th Los Angeles Marathon went off with nary a hitch today, with beautiful weather accompanying a talented field and an absolutely picturesque new course. With the (un)offical theme being Stadium to the Sea, competitors that braved rush-hour traffic (at 5am on a Sunday morning!) were treated to a dazzling array of sights and cultures in the well-planned course.
The times were rather slow, considering the conditions were beautiful and the course was in aggregate, downhill. That said, McCourt pulled off a doozy (wonder if Jamie was watching). These are the results as posted on the www.lamarathon.com site, though I just finished watching on television and Wesley Korir repeated with a time of 2 hours, 9 minutes, 20 seconds. Though Korir is a repeat winner, his time was actually a minute off of last year’s pace, on a much more grueling course in less-than-ideal weather conditions. Women’s winner Edna Kiplagat bettered her career best by more than 10 minutes and won the $100,000 grand prize for winning the Overall Gender Challenge, as women were granted an 18-minute handicap in competing for the prize.
Also, congratulations to Gabriela Contreras and Howard Simpson for competing in and completing this accomplishment.
Russell Martin returns to camp “like a linebacker,” weighing 235 pounds, bulking up in the offseason by following – you ready for this, MItchell Report acolytes? – Eric Gagne’s training regimen, in attempt to hit for more power. Hopefully this is more Mike Piazza than Andruw Jones.
Don’t fret, Halos fans, YKI WILL be covering the Angels this year as well, as are the hordes of Japanese media swarming over Hideki Matsui‘s cross-coast move to Anaheim.
As if UCLA hoops fans haven’t had it difficult enough this year with realization of the utter failure of last year’s recruiting class and the mediocre play in the less-than-mediocre Pac-10, stud frosh Reeves Nelson is now debilitated with yet another eye injury.
Ho Hum. Kobe’s back. Another game winning 3-pointer, leading the Lakers to a one-point win over the Grizzlies.
A little Waves action from Vincent Bonsignore at the Daily News for uncovering Pepperdine star Keion Bell, who dazzled at Kobe Bryant’s ballcamp last year with this dunk over five people (go to the 40 second mark and enjoy):
And lastly, for my L.A. heads, this is the album of the day (though technically two separate albums, released four years apart):
Much like Gilbert Arenas, Murs began as a wildhorse; an L.A. native, massively talented & energetic, with charisma & personality almost overshadowing his ability. After a few brushes with superstardom, the work in the studio/gym led to a collaboration that enabled success (9th Wonder for Murs, Eddie Jordan for Gilbert) with a more adult outlook, though hints of immaturity (blog tirades/frat rap about sex) were still evident. For Arenas, a few questionable decisions led to potential jailtime & a league suspension, while Murs is clean. . .for now. Peep the albums before he pulls heat.
Manny Ramirez predicts this will be his last year with the Dodgers.
“I know I’m not going to be here next year,” Ramirez said. So you don’t think you will re-sign with Dodgers? “I doubt it, I don’t know,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. I’m going to try to enjoy myself.”
Asked what made him think he wouldn’t be in Los Angeles in 2011, Ramirez replied, “I don’t know. I just know that I’m not going to be here.”
Meanwhile, Bulldoggin’ Bill Shaikin uncovers a ghastly forecast within the McCourt/Dodgers finances. In short, “The Dodgers could seek to keep their player payroll below last year’s level through 2018 while the average ticket price and club revenue could nearly double, according to confidential financial documents included in a court filing last week.”
Though I’m not a HUGE Will Leitch/Deadspin fan (jealousy?), he knocks it out of the park today with his “1977 Dodgers” analogies, and some very nice insight (truth) on this wonderfully putrid city: It’s a fantasy land, a ballpark complex in the middle of a downtown that isn’t a downtown, a distraction but one tucked away, a film set off a freeway exit. It gives them that unique artificial quality we demand from Los Angeles: The Dodgers are fake, but comfortably fake, an illusion that’s constant, and therefore not an illusion anymore at all. Squint, and all those young guys, your Kemp, your Ethier, your Kershaw, they feel like your Garveys and your Ceys and your Lopes. The Dodgers should always be perfect and stupidly beautiful. They should feel like the ideal of their age. They are not showy like the Lakers, not flashy, not dangerous, not quirky. They are Bob Hope. They are not Jack Nicholson.
Lastly, Vicente Padilla is back after a few more grisly details about his self-inflicted shooting wound this offseason.
I am glad to see Mr. Gagne return to the Dodgers (even in minor league capacity), even if it was the performance enhancers that helped him save 84 straight games during an unparalleled three-year stint of greatness as Dodgers closer. Here’s the before vs. after photos, just FYI:
Second note from Bill Shaikin in today’s L.A. Times highlights Jamie doubling her request for support payments, but more important (encouraging?) for Dodgers fans, her attorneys outline the fiscal success of the McCourt ownership, alluding to their children’s salaries ($600k combined, even though one is still in school) and Frank’s “lifestyle.” The attorneys for Jamie state that Frank has more than enough money, and in theory the Dodgers may NOT be in as bad of financial state as previously thought.
Lastly, our family friend David E., points out this analysis from Fangraphs about who should be the Dodgers fifth starter. James McDonald appears to the the leading candidate, though knuckleballer Charlie Haeger was always fun to watch (Tom Candiotti, anyone?). That said, having a knuckler in the rotation is always daunting – “just float and watch and hope.”
T.J. Simers yet agaim drops a bombshell about the McCourts, in a sit-down with Jamie in which the former Mrs. McCourt was rather forthcoming and (seemingly) honest.
Jamie seems genuinely hurt by the Frank McCourt mud-slinging, and claims to “take the high road” in not airing the couple’s dirty laundry. She denies the alleged affair, is protective of the kids (four sons, whom perhaps she may be craftily ‘using’ to gain public leverage), and also very elaborative on her role within the organization, claiming Frank actually told her to “Go be the face of the Dodgers, go be the external brand [in the community].”
More of the Jamie insights extracted from T.J. include:
On the Children: “Boys tend to want to defend their mother, but they’re caught between a rock and hard place,” she says. “They don’t want to see anything said about either parent. It’s an unpleasant situation and it would not have been my choice to ever have anything put out there. . .To read everything that’s been said is devastating, and my kids are pretty upset about it,” she says. “I want my kids to look back and say she took the high road. It’s hard, but that’s what I’m going to try and do.”
On the Afair with Dodgers Direct of Protocol Jeff Fuller: “Absolutely not,” she says. “I have never been with another man until the marriage broke up. Ever. Ever.”
On her role in the continuous increase in Ticket Prices: “That was a big fight with me and Frank. I haven’t wanted to raise ticket prices for several years. It was a big debate. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know this isn’t the time to raise ticket prices.”
On her seemingly outrageous ‘support’ demands, including $400k/month: “Let’s remember it’s how we lived and not how I lived,” she says, later a lawyer explaining it’s the woman most often placed in the position of documenting what it will take to live rather than the man having to be so specific. “It’s something that had to be done at the time. I can only listen to my lawyers who do this every day for a living.”
Most importantly, T.J. uncovers this gem: The Times learned the Dodgers hired a corporate strategist four years ago to evaluate the whole organization, including the relationship between Frank and Jamie.
The corporate strategists conclusion? “It was clear that Jamie believed that the success of the relationship is the key to all doors. She believes that the partnership is at risk because Frank ‘doesn’t get it.’
“[Frank] doesn’t value her talents, listens to her only on his terms and shows little respect/acknowledgment for her in public. Jamie says that she can be a bigger asset to them if Frank could get by his need to dominate the public stage and better understand her business value.”
In short, it appears that Jamie’s credibility is enhanced by this robust and in-depth piece of journalism. We don’t know both sides yet, but kudos to T.J. for once again allowing us to see the underdog perspective.