Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inching Closer to Freedom - The Los Angeles Dodgers are (to be) liberated from Frank McCourt

As we've detailed exhaustively for months there on MAMBINO, the tyranny that has beholden the once mighty Los Angeles Dodgers has seemingly and miraculously undone nearly a century of history in just 7 short years. The ramifications of the McCourts' ownership might be felt for decades to come, not just with the team itself, but also as the team loses what was once a death grip as the baseball sweetheart of Southern California.

Late this evening a joint statement from once (and most likely future) adversaries Major League Baseball and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt stated that they will work in conjunction to sell the team. I was flabbergasted. Even in all of my most optimistic fantasies, I feel like a resolution has come so quickly relative to what I thought would be an excruciatingly long process of excising Frank McCourt. Somehow, one of the worst owners in all of professional sports had not only managed to gain ownership of the team in the first place, but to keep his power despite such a stronger local and national outcry for his expulsion.

Everything I've felt and read about for the past two years seems completely antithetical to the events of today. McCourt has done everything he can to hold onto the Dodgers short of tying himself to the scoreboard in right field and strapping himself with a vest full of Dodger Dogs and dynamite. Every bit of maneuvering from Bud Selig to rid Chavez Ravine of the McCourts seemed to have come with a sadistically brilliant countermove from Frank and his legal team. Even as Selig figured to have pinned down McCourt and the sale of team seemed imminent, McCourt threw a Clayton Kershaw curve ball to Major League Baseball by filing for bankruptcy with the court of the United States, hoping that a federal judges' power could trump the usually all-encompassing power of the Commissioner of Baseball. Selig fired back quickly, decreeing that even if the federal court allowed McCourt to keep the team after settling his creditors' debts, that MLB would suspend the Dodgers from the league, leaving McCourt with nothing but 300 acres of land in a decrepit part of Los Angeles and a bunch of greencard carrying ex-athletes with multi-millions owed to them. Despite being faced with insurmountable odds, including a pending divorce showdown with his ex-wife Jamie, whispers surfaced that if Frank were to be forced to sell the team, that he perhaps could keep ownership of the cathedral known as Dodger Stadium and it's surrounding parking lots, which would effectively extort any future owner of the team for hundreds of millions.

Every time that baseball thought they had an avenue to escort McCourt from their exclusive fraternity of owners, he'd find some way to wrangle himself a bit more time. To be quite honest, I thought that McCourt would fight Selig and MLB to the very end, tying up this case in the US federal court for years with injunctions, appeals and lawsuits. To this day, nothing to me suggests that Frank McCourt respects the authority of Bud Selig, the heritage of the franchise or the fans of the team. Another decade of disgrace and besmirching of the team sounded like a lock to me. Why would that change any time soon?

So imagine my surprise today to find out that like the rest of us, McCourt saw that this is a battle he could not win. He realized that even after every single trick he could pull behind the army of lawyers he's assembled, no amount of paperwork could keep his prized possession within his hands for much longer. All he'd be left with would be a mountain of legal bills, zero in net profits from the sale of the team and an unworn Dodgers NLCS shirt from 2009. Somehow, Frank came to the conclusion that so many of us thought would be inevitable, but he clearly once saw as unacceptable. His turnaround seems all-too sudden surprising to me.

But then again, I think back to how long the fans of the Dodgers have been calling for Frank's dismissal. For years there were somewhat unsubstantiated rumors that he was constantly siphoning money from the team, rather than using the money for the Dodgers' benefit. We all knew that he borrowed a great deal of money to buy the team in the first place, but he kept promising that his procurement of the team would in no way affect the Dodgers financially, on and off the field. But yet somehow we were being left out of every discussion for the best offseason free agents winter after winter - an inaction that made a lot of people overlook the fact that a similar lack of movement was being made on promises to renovated a 50 year-old Dodger Stadium. It was soon readily apparent that McCourt needed to go. And as time wore on, it turned out that everything that we heard and felt was true.

We've been waiting for this day since 2004, when we somehow didn't make a bid on a 25 year-old Adrian Beltre's services after a 2nd-place MVP campaign. We've been waiting for this day as 2005, 2006, 2007 and so forth passed without any section above the field being changed beyond a facade that's lasted since 1961. We've been waiting for this day since the head of security was dimissed at the end of the 2010 season and since Bryan Stow's life was subsequently changed forever 9 months ago.

We've known for so long that this day needed to come. So as much as I want to believe that this has come sooner than I imagined, it has come long after I should have even had to think that. I want to believe that McCourt did this to preserve what is left of the team's dignity and reputation, but I know that's not true. Just as much as I know I've been waiting for this day a long time. And I'm pretty damn happy about it.

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