|Thoughts on McCourt||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on April 26, 2011
Baseball fans have watched bad owners run teams for so long that none of us were expecting the Spanish Inquis...um...Bud Selig's seizing of operational control of the Los Angeles Dodgers last week.
While it might seem like there is a double standard which allows teams like the Pirates to wallow in mediocrity (far too generous a term in reality) for two decades without a change being forced, the underlying truth is that baseball can't transform Pittsburgh into a large market, and the Dodgers are one of the marquee franchises in the game, playing in one of the biggest markets possible. And when the top franchises are being run badly, everyone can get hurt.
The wrecking of the Dodgers seemed an inevitable outcome given McCourt's seemingly endless fight never to compromise on anything and to suck every last dime he could from his businesses, soon to be ex-wife and fans alike. And in a small market, he probably would have been allowed to do that. After all if he alienated his fans enough then, he'd be forced to either sell or put his own money back into the club, and the impact on the game as a whole wouldn't be a big one.
But in a major market, with a premier franchise -- one which ranks only with the Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs, what McCourt did, and what he seemed poised to do, looked capable of damaging the whole game.
This after all wasn't about the fans, or poor franchise management, but about the deal that McCourt was trying to make with Fox, selling long term television rights to a company that had just made him a personal loan of $30 million (which he needed to cover payroll for the Dodgers), at a discount in order to raise money quickly.
The deal might have made sense and might even have been allowed through if the owner had been someone who had shown a strong commitment to the game and who almost certainly would have plowed the money back into rebuilding the franchise. But having that kind of faith in McCourt would probably be shortsighted.
Baseball couldn't afford to let McCourt be like the corporate raiders of the 80's, stripping away the assets, and leaving just a corpse with little value save the team name and the stadium in Chavez Ravine. Allowing it, would have destroyed the franchise leaving a shell that would have taken decades to recover, dropped baseball's attendance throughout the game, and taken money out of the pockets of other owners -- especially when it came to their ability to negotiate television contracts elsewhere. After all if a premium market commanded so little in revenue from broadcast rights, what would a medium or small market team be able to get?With those things in mind, Bud Selig with the backing of other owners seized financial control of the Dodgers. It was about protecting baseball and protecting the assets of an organization that is synonymous with the game. If McCourt had been less greedy, he might have stuck it out. Instead he, and likely his ex-wife (who certainly seems cut from the same cloth) are likely to be forced out instead.