In the last few years, Fred Wilpon, co-owner of the New York Mets, has gone from being the Santa Claus of professional sports to playing the part of baseball’s Grinch. The transformation was necessitated by Bernie Madoff’s failed Ponzi scheme and Wilpon’s own fiscal incompetence.
But suddenly this season, Wilpon’s role as the major league’s most evil villain has been plucked away by Frank McCourt, owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Trying to survive a well-publicized divorce, McCourt is clinging to the Dodgers like a kidnapper holds onto a hostage. His most recent move was to force the team into bankruptcy rather than play ball with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The Commissioner, meanwhile, is planning to seize the Dodgers to protect the integrity of the team.
What can Fred Wilpon learn from all this? Following is a brief lesson plan:
Don’t try to solve your personal financial problems by treating your team as if it were an ATM.
That means no skimming from television contracts, as Frank McCourt attempted to do. And no fire sales of your star players, as Fred Wilpon is thinking of doing.
This just in from ESPN Los Angeles: “Through June 1, home attendance at Dodger Stadium is down a total of 221,984 from last season, an average 7,161 fewer fans per game. This represents a 16.7 percent overall drop, which is by far the worst in baseball this season.”
Frank McCourt is starting to pay at the gate for destroying the loyalty of the Dodgers fan base.
Fred Wilpon should take heed. Once you burn the team’s fans, your goose is cooked.
Frank McCourt has discovered that a divorce tends to bring out the worst in people.
When was the last time you brought home flowers for Judy, Fred?
What is the pleasure of owning a baseball team, if such ownership brands you daily as incompetent, a scoundrel and a fool?
Both Frank McCourt and Fred Wilpon should ask themselves this question, preferably in a room devoid of firearms and sharp objects.
You two are the least-loved, most-lonely guys on the planet. Maybe you could get together sometime to cheer each other up.
But you’d better run this by your lawyers first. It might be considered collusion.