There probably isn’t a soul, from Los Angeles clear across to New York, who wants Frank McCourt to own the Dodgers anymore, with the apparent exception of McCourt himself. Dodgers fans have already spoken with their wallets — a reported drop of 40 percent in season-ticket sales over the past four years.
And on Wednesday, Commissioner Bud Selig spoke on behalf of baseball’s other 29 owners, and really, anyone who believes the Dodgers should be one of the game’s jewel franchises: McCourt needs to go away. Although Selig doesn’t have the authority to yank the Dodgers away from McCourt — and in fact, Selig must accept much of the blame for allowing McCourt to buy the team in the first place, when many were questioning the latter’s financial soundness and local ties — he took the most aggressive step he could, announcing that MLB would be taking over the day-to-day operations of the team.
The biggest question now is whether McCourt, reportedly facing profound financial problems and still in the midst of an ugly divorce, will go quietly. The statement he released Wednesday night — curiously, he waited some seven hours after Selig’s statement to make his response — hardly sounded like a peace offering. “The Dodgers are in compliance” with MLB’s financial guidelines, McCourt said. “On this basis, it is hard to understand the commissioner’s decision.”
That sounds like a man prepared to fight to the end, despite everyone in the world, including his own people — Dodgers fans — seemingly lined up against him.
As sad as it is to see this once-great franchise suddenly treated as if it’s the orphaned Montreal Expos, what’s sadder is the realization this may only be the start of the process of prying the Dodgers out of McCourt’s grip. Selig will send in his trustee to run the team – with former Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten one of the possibilities – but will the humiliation of answering to someone else be enough to make McCourt walk away?
There is every possibility that a year from now we will still be wondering who is ultimately going to own the Dodgers. At this point, divorce proceedings between McCourt and his wife, Jamie, aren’t even completed, which means the courts haven’t even settled the issue of who currently owns the team. At this point, Jamie is claiming 50 percent ownership, having won the first round of the divorce.
Frank McCourt has no money – he reportedly needed a $30 million loan from Fox last week just to make payroll. He has little or no public support, either in Los Angeles or New York. He is likely to end up losing the Dodgers, one way or another. The only question is whether he will give it up quietly, or have it wrested from him at the end of a bloody fight that no one but him really wants.