MLB: Frank McCourt and the Worst Owners in Baseball
Frank McCourt keeps finding ways to get in the news for all the wrong reasons.
His latest indignity occurred when MLB turned down a proposed deal between the Dodgers and Fox News when they discovered that money from the deal would benefit McCourt more than the team.
It places McCourt one step closer to a fight with MLB over ownership of the Dodgers as fans wonder just how far rock bottom is for the troubled owner.
There's no question that McCourt is one of the worst owners in baseball, but where does he rank on the list?
This article features one writer's opinion regarding the eight worst owners in baseball, and as bad as McCourt is, he has company among these names.
(A special mention goes to Dave Zirin's exceptional book Bad Sports, which delves further into bad owners in all sports and served as a valuable research tool for this list. I encourage readers to check it out and learn more about the folks who run franchises.)
8. Bob Nutting (Pittsburgh Pirates)
The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992. Their team value has been the lowest in the majors in each of the last two seasons. So why has the team made a profit despite fielding an average team? Revenue sharing.
As an owner of the team since 1996, Nutting has held All-Stars Brian Giles and Jason Kendall, but has nothing to show for it. The Pirates have made $34.8 million in profits between 2007 and 2010, and remarkably have been one of the worst teams in baseball over that stretch.
Unlike most of the owners on this list, Nutting is arguably one of the less egregious offenders in baseball. Plus, throw in the fact that the Pirates are near .500 in June this season and Nutting may find his way off this list faster than his compatriots.
Then again, losing is a contagious drug, especially when you can receive millions for doing so.
7. Ken Kendrick (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Kendrick is lucky that Frank McCourt is in his division; otherwise, he’d be the worst owner in the NL West.
Granted, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a promising young team, a sharp general manager in Kevin Towers and a great manager in Kirk Gibson. But what makes Kendrick a bad owner is how he’s mixed in politics with his publicly-funded stadium.
Kendrick held fundraisers at Chase Field for Arizona politicians who supported Senate Bill 1070, the harsh immigration law that sparked nationwide protest. Whether you support the law or not, it’s a bit problematic that Kendrick would use a publicly-funded stadium to support a private cause for senators supporting a bill that could alienate Diamondbacks fans.
Kendrick has publicly opposed the bill, but his actions tell a different story. He may not be a terrible owner, but considering that people like to say sports and politics shouldn’t mix, it’s a bit disturbing to see this kind of hypocrisy.
6. Ted Lerner (Washington Nationals)
As the five-year owner of the recently relocated Washington Nationals franchise, Lerner hasn’t had much to show for his efforts.
Despite the initial wave of euphoria for baseball's return to the nation's capital, attendance is down and it doesn’t look to rise much until the return of Stephen Strasburg and the call-up of Bryce Harper.
Lerner is another owner guilty of relying on public funds to build his stadium in spite of being named baseball’s richest owner this past season. It's hard to think that five years ago he didn't have enough money to build his own stadium, while he secured over a billion taxpayer dollars from one of the poorest cities in the country.
Being the richest owner in the big leagues also hasn’t stopped Lerner from compiling one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. If not for Strasburg and Harper, there would be almost zero buzz for a franchise that deserves more.
It all comes back to the 83-year-old owner who, like his fans, will have to wait until 2012 to see if his fortunes change.
5. Jeffrey Loria (Florida Marlins)
To put it bluntly, Loria took apart a promising Florida Marlins squad fresh off a World Series in 2003 and hasn’t shown much interest in invigorating his fan base despite a great crop of young talent.
But then again, this is the same guy who sold the Montreal Expos to Major League Baseball and paved the way for them to be shipped off to Washington D.C.
Loria has also lied about his team’s profits in claiming that the Marlins barely break even and that he can barely afford to pay for a new stadium. However, according to several reports, the Marlins made $48.9 million in profits. The team should have more than enough money to help fund 25 percent of a new stadium rather than rely on public funding for $400 million of it.
Letting top players like Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Mike Lowell and others go to shed payroll, plus lying about his funds in order to gain public funding for a new stadium, is enough to make Marlins fans cringe—the few that exist, anyway.
4. Frank McCourt (LA Dodgers)
Ah, good old Frank finally slides in at No. 4. Where to begin? How about in 2009 when the Dodgers saw their NLCS trip overshadowed by the news of his divorce with his wife Jamie?
That opened up Pandora’s box of trouble. First, it was shown that the McCourts bought the team in 2004 thanks to a loan from previous owners Fox News Corporation. Second, the McCourts used more than $100 million from revenue to fund their personal expenses. Third, the divorce became the face of the 2010 season, one that saw the Dodgers free-fall to being an average ballclub.
Then came this season. A lackluster response to the brutal beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow. Attendance numbers dropping to their lowest points in years. Questions if the team could even pay its players. All of this adds to Major League Baseball taking over the financial operations of the team and questioning whether Frank McCourt is capable of running it any longer.
All of this is on Frank McCourt’s watch, and with MLB rejecting a deal with Fox Sports Net that would’ve paid his pockets as well as the team’s, Dodgers fans are praying for the day McCourt is done ruining the name of one of baseball’s proudest franchises.
It’s a shame that McCourt has managed to become a far worse owner than his predecessor, Rupert Murdoch.
3. Fred Wilpon (New York Mets)
If there’s one owner who is having a worse year than Frank McCourt, it's Wilpon with his verbal venom towards the team he’s owned since 1980.
He’s publicly ripped several players, including Jose Reyes and David Wright, while his team has floundered in the standings. Not that it’s a bad thing considering that former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner did it all the time, though at a time when he’s got bad PR around him, it’s not the smartest decision.
And what’s that bad PR, you say? Wilpon is facing a lawsuit for allegedly profiting from Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme that could cost him up to a billion dollars. He has had to borrow money simply to stay afloat. In the same New Yorker feature in which he ripped his star players, he mentioned that the Mets may lose $70 million this year.
It appears the longest-tenured owner in baseball is headed for an inglorious end, and he’s not making matters any better trying to endear himself to his fans or his players.
2. Peter Angelos (Baltimore Orioles)
It was a great story in the mid-1990s. Angelos was an Orioles fan who became one of the top lawyers in the country working on behalf of the little guy and purchased his beloved franchise at a time when they routinely contended in the American League.
Now it’s become a nightmare. The Orioles haven’t reached the playoffs since 1997 and fan attendance has dropped dramatically. Fans several years ago staged a protest by walking out of an Orioles game, something that would’ve been unheard of in the 1980s and 1990s.
At the helm of this disaster is Angelos, who has a reputation for being controlling and an impatient meddler. He’s gone through several baseball executives, made terrible signings (Albert Belle, Sammy Sosa) and fired beloved radio announcer Jon Miller.
Angelos was named the worst owner in baseball in a Sports Illustrated poll in 2009. He hasn’t done much to change that title, as much as others have done worse. As much as Orioles fans would like to blame Jeffrey Maier for their downfall, they should really direct their anger towards one of their own who betrayed their loyalty and made the team a disappointment.
1. David Glass (Kansas City Royals)
As bad as Angelos is with Orioles, Glass is far worse, as he’s overseen the latter part of a nearly three-decade playoff drought in Kansas City since purchasing the team in 1993.
With only one winning season since 2000 and no postseason trips since 1985, Glass has cried that the Royals have suffered from being a small-market team. But rather than invest more money to make the team better, he’s pocketed money from the luxury tax and slashed payroll by cutting loose promising stars.
Fact: The Royals made a profit of $10 million last year despite an Opening Day payroll of $72 million that exceeded that of the Tampa Bay Rays and just barely exceeded that of the Cincinnati Reds, both of whom made the playoffs. This year’s payroll is a paltry $36 million despite the franchise being valued nearly 10 times higher.
Fact: These are some of the former Royals the Glass regime has let slip through their grasp: David Cone, Brian McRae, Jermaine Dye, Mike Sweeney, Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran and recently Zack Greinke.
You can’t expect any less from a man who was the former president and CEO of Wal-Mart, a company that many have accused of taking shortcuts in costs on the road to riches. As a baseball owner, Glass is a terrible combination of Peter Angelos and Jeffrey Loria and makes Frank McCourt look like Angels owner Arte Moreno.