Another Day More Drama off the Field for Dodgers

Thanks to Gary Finkler at the 7th Inning Sketch for today’s cartoon. The long awaited face-off between Frank McCourt and MLB happened today when the beleaguered owner declared for bankruptcy. I am by no means an expert on the subject, but since it’s a national story there are plenty of sources out there to explain what’s likely to occur. Most of them have the outcome being McCourt selling the Dodgers.

One disturbing  trend in McCourt’s efforts to maintain his hold on the Dodgers is he took on an additional $150 million in debt in the form of a loan, pending bankruptcy court approval. If your keeping score at home that brings the debt load total to roughly 775 million dollars. But wait it get’s better, the loan has a staggering interest rate of %10, which is 3 to 4 points higher than the average rates for bankruptcy loans, and also includes a $4.5 million commitment fee to Highbridge Principal Strategies, a J.P. Morgan owned entity.

It’s somewhat ironic that the name of the group loaning McCourt the funds is Highbridge, cause that may very well be exactly what he falls off if he loses the upcoming court battle. So once again the Dodgers on-field exploits are completely overlooked by their off-field mess. Does Frank realize that he is going to have to come up with close to a BILLION dollars worth of revenue to pay off all of his debts?Yes Dodger fans I’ll stop before I go off on a tangent but let’s have a quick look at what national and LA baseball writers alike are saying about today’s developments. Jayson Stark at ESPN summarized McCourt’s gesture today:

So Frank McCourt may have thought that going Chapter 11 was his ticket to a rich new TV deal that Bud Selig wouldn’t approve. But in truth, there’s an excellent chance it will merely be his ticket to many more billable hours.

No matter who prevails, the Dodgers are still going to be embroiled in legal limbo for many, many months. McCourt did an excellent job of guaranteeing that Monday. Too bad it’s the only aspect of his job as this team’s owner that anyone will ever describe as “excellent.”

ESPN David Schoenfield in an article titled The 10 Worst Owners in Baseball History:

Frank McCourt is a 21st century version of the charlatans in the 1800s who sold Brown’s Magic Elixir as a cure for all ails. Except Dodgers fans have caught on to his ruse and attendance is down more than 8,500 fans per game from 2010. McCourt has wrapped up all the bad things about an owner into one sad situation: He’s turned off the fans, hasn’t won, doesn’t really have the money to own a team and has become a public embarrassment and a disgrace.

He ranks McCourt as the second worst owner ever and says he has a really good chance to take the top spot. Next up is a must read from Steve Dilbeck of the LA Times titled Frank McCourt the most despised man in the history of Los Angeles:

McCourt hasn’t done anything wrong. His heart is with his beloved team, a.k.a. his personal cash cow. If only Selig had just approved that Fox TV deal, the one where McCourt was supposed to get $385 million upfront (Invest it ALL in the Dodgers) Instead he immediately diverted $173.5 million of it for his personal use.

What about Buster Olney of ESPN, the respected columnist who is overly professional and manages to stay neutral and unlike us blogger hacks who are fans keep his personal feelings out of his columns. His take:

The Dodgers file for bankruptcy, a moment that ranks among the most embarrassing in the history of Major League Baseball

And saving the best for last, my personal favorite from Craig Calcaterra from NBC Sports Hardball talk last week after MLB rejected the proposed FOX TV contract that literally was Frank McCourt’s lifeline and Frank’s lawyers promised “Acrimonious and extreme litigation,” this is what’s called a serious rant:

“Acrimonious and extreme litigation.”  It’s a phrase so ridiculous, oblivious, irresponsible and frankly obnoxious in this context that I don’t even have the stomach to make the easy jokes at Mr. Sacks’ expense. As a lawyer I’m disgusted by this kind of threat. It casts what, on some level, I still consider my profession in the worst light. It justifies the low esteem in which so many people hold the practice of law.

As a baseball fan I’m disgusted by Frank McCourt’s entire operation and everything he’s done to this point, and my disgust grows by the day. Here’s a man who bought this once proud franchise on the back of $500 million of debt and managed to turn it into something even less than the funny paper he threw at it.  He carved it up, mortgaged it to the gills, looted whatever he could loot and shifted around whatever he couldn’t.  He lived a billionaire’s lifestyle on millionaire money that wasn’t even his to begin with and since it became abundantly clear that such a state of affairs was unsustainable, he has borrowed more and cast about madly to salvage whatever he can. At least as long as he hasn’t had to make any sacrifices himself, anyway.

And now, when he is finally being called to task over his irresponsible spendthrift ways, he has the audacity to threaten to scorch the earth with “acrimonious and extreme litigation,” all the while continuing to hold the Dodgers hostage, be it to some sort of injunction that keeps the team his for the time being (my guess) or via a gussied up extortion scheme in which he holds his control over the parking lots, the ballpark and whatever other ancillary assets to which he lays claim over the head of Major League Baseball and whoever it may get to run the Dodgers once McCourt’s slimy fingers are pried away from the controls.

Of course, Frank McCourt is a free actor with free will and such a course of action is his right. It is a course of action that was even enabled to a degree by Major League Baseball, who neglected to properly assess the risks of allowing such a leveraged transaction to such a questionable figure. And while I believe McCourt will ultimately lose, there is nothing to stop him from choosing to fight this fight with every weapon at his disposal, and I don’t doubt Mr. Sacks when he says such a fight will be “acrimonious and extreme.”

But just because one can pursue a course of action doesn’t mean one should.  Frank McCourt could, if he so chooses, stand down, admit that he has reached an untenable position as the Dodgers’ owner, allow Major League Baseball to take the team over and then collect his profits — of which there likely will still be a considerable amount — when the team is ultimately sold.  By doing so he will be paying a price for his incompetence and avarice, but it will be a relatively small one given the sheer scope of his incompetence and avarice.  And of course there would be a psychic benefit too, as by doing so he would limit the the pain felt by millions of Dodgers fans who have had to live through the nightmare he has created these past few years.

But I highly doubt McCourt will do any of that. He won’t because he lives in a world of zero responsibility, zero accountability and he has absolutely no shame. He is no idiot. He knows what he has done to this franchise. He knows that, at this point, saving himself and saving the Los Angeles Dodgers are two different things entirely.  He just doesn’t care. He doesn’t care and he doesn’t — as is clearly evidenced by his actions to date and the stated intentions of his attorney — have any intention of pursuing a course that places the best interests of the Dodgers and the interests of Dodgers fans anywhere on the priority list.

So bring your acrimonious and extreme litigation, Frank. Do your absolute worst. No sense in trying to do something decent for once in your reign as Dodgers’ owner. At this point, why should you change? And how could you do it anyway, given how little capacity for prudence, reflection and contrition you’ve exhibited thus far?

Well said Craig. With all of this going around it still baffles me that McCourt would want to stick around and maintain ownership of the Dodgers. He should have put the team up for sale when he had the chance to get the most money possible, but perhaps the most ridiculous thing lost in all of this is the Dodgers somehow owe Marquis Grissom 2.7 million dollars. Huh? If my math is correct Grissom hasn’t worn a Dodgers uniform since 2005, yet another great example that is the genius of Frank McCourt.

Again not like anyone cares but the Dodgers actually travel to Minnesota to play in a beautiful new park against the team with the second fewest wins in MLB, considering they recently lost 2 of 3 at home to the worst team in MLB a win tonight behind the suddenly struggling Chad Billingsley may be too much to ask.

Tags: Chad Billingsley Frank McCourt Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball

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