Los Angeles Dodgers: Why Frank McCourt Needs To Walk Away Now

Bryan Kalbrosky@@BryanKalbroskyCorrespondent IJuly 7, 2011

The old saying, "If a tree falls in the forest, but no one’s around to hear it, does it still make a sound?" is starting to sound all too familiar to what used to be a lively baseball team here in Los Angeles.

The same theory applies to a now relatively deserted Chavez Ravine—home of the Los Angeles Dodgers—and the unfortunate collection of individuals that inhabit the lifeless ballpark.

Last night, my father and I were one of the few (if there were more than 20,000 people there last night, I’d be shocked) that made the journey to watch a team in debt take the field against the New York Mets, who beat them for the third-straight night.

If Eugenio Velez hit his first home run of the season last night, but no one was around to see it, does it still count as a home run?  

My answer: Probably only to the select few who actually came down to Game 3 of the four-game series last night.

The park was littered with a handful—and yes, I pick my words carefully—of fans scattered about the ballpark.

Hipster bros (a term my friend coined to describe guys that listen to “Empire of the Sun” and go to Coachella, but also follow the policies of “sun's out, guns out” and throw some dirty dub step into their lineup of music) in too-tight plaid shirts wander passed closed concession stands. Girls in pink Dodgers hats hold two $10 draft beers—even they seem upset to get drunk in this atmosphere.

Last night, Dodgers Stadium sustained absolutely no buzz.

Behind me sat an Australian family that had never been to a baseball game before. They brought along their nephew—a 12-year-old with a raspy voice and blanket cursory understanding of the game—to help explain certain rules and nuances. They used cricket analogies to help explain certain rhythms of baseball, and my father helped them remember the name of the slugger for the Giants that they never got to watch: Barry Bonds.

It’s a damn shame that this—a stadium being rocked by blasting rock ‘n’ roll to uninterested fans on their Blackberries—was their introduction to the sport.   

Between innings, the scoreboard flashed highlights of Tommy Lasorda’s coaching career. After the first inning, they zoomed in on Tommy—who sat in the front row, in the vacated seats of the McCourts. He received cheers far quieter than I had expected. They did this three times. Did the fans even know who Tommy Lasorda was? Maybe the gimmick was useless.

One of my favorite vendors at Dodgers Stadium, the aging and energetic peanut guy, had to walk the change over to us because there weren’t enough people in our row for him to have pass it down to us. We sat on the field level, in seats that were originally going for $127 face value, but now were having trouble selling for $25. In the third inning, we were the only people in our row.

The scoreboard flashed that seats to tomorrow’s game, in which their ace, Clayton Kershaw, would be taking the mound, were on sale for five dollars.

What world do we live in?

I miss someone reminding me that the Mets suck. I miss the rush of testosterone that the casual comeback, like “The Dodgers suck!” or “Remember the 2006 NLDS?” would bring me. I miss when people at the stadium cared.

Due to obvious circumstances, Dodgers fans have to be on their best behavior, but it doesn’t feel like Dodgers Stadium. It just sort of feels like a building where a baseball game happened to have been played.

What happened to my childhood?

When Lucas Duda drove in the first run of the game, a Mets fan got a loud enough cheer going that the entire ballpark heard the enthusiasm. This was the opposing team. They live 2,500 miles away. Usually boos are able to drown out the other team’s fans. Tonight, they got away with it.

Earlier that day, Albert Pujols came back a month ahead of schedule from a broken hand to return to the division-leading Cardinals. If Matt Kemp had gotten hurt, would he have any motivation to come back to such a dying stadium?

Sure, the Dodgers are bankrupt. It’s the fault of the ownership, not the players.

And sure, you have to wonder how a team with advertisements covering every legal inch (except for center field, which would interfere with the batters eyesight) of the outfield wall—including some rather ironic advertisements for a bankrupt team, like CreditReport.com, Bank of America and San Manuel Indian Casino—could be in such an awful financial situation.

But, the Dodgers are playing in one of the biggest markets in the world. How does this team lose money?

A couple of weeks ago, my dad had an extra ticket to the Dodgers game. He e-mailed his baseball loving friends, inviting any of them to go. None of them said yes. Many cited a protest on Frank McCourt as their main reason for declining.

I’ve met Frank McCourt. He was a good guy and he was very personable, and I believe that he once had the best interests in mind when he owned this baseball team. I remember going to the park, even under his reign, and feeling the electricity of Mannywood or a playoff hunt. I’m not saying that Frank McCourt was never suited to own a baseball team.

I’m saying that right now, Frank McCourt has absolutely no business owning the Los Angeles Dodgers.

At the forefront of a controversy and the worst divorce in Los Angeles history, one of the most beloved franchises is tanking in front of his very eyes and as fans we have to deal with watching it unfold.

The team is in shambles. They have no money (they even owe Manny Ramirez $28 million from when they essentially gave him to the White Sox) and they are currently looking to finish in last place in one of the worst divisions in baseball.   

It is graceless. It is tasteless. It is crashing. It is burning.

It needs to stop.

In April of this year, commissioner Bud Selig appointed an MLB representative to take over day-to-day operations for the team due to “deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers,” following news that he had received a $30 million loan from Fox, as reported by CBS Los Angeles.

McCourt has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The league has cited divorce-court papers that prove that the McCourt family had taken out over $100 million of team revenue for personal expenses, as reported by Fox Business.

Frank McCourt thinks that he’s got it figured out. He thinks that MLB can only take away his baseball team.

He still owns the parking lot, the concession stands, the field and the stadium grounds—while confidential information, MLB recently leaked this in one of their reports. They have also stated that they disagree with McCourt—they view the Dodgers as one entity and not multiple businesses. If this goes to the courts, this will be the basis of the lawsuit.

Considering that McCourt bought the Dodgers as one asset in 2004, it seems more likely that both the bankruptcy court and the legal courts will side with MLB.

This afternoon, McCourt lost yet another battle. According to the Associated Press, following requests for documents from MLB in order to prove that the Dodgers had been singled out, the bankruptcy court judge sided with Major League Baseball.

Things are not pretty following the night that the Dodgers have lost their fifth game in a row. Each fight seems more pathetic than the last. People are beginning to lose hope, and McCourt is bringing his name and the team down with him. ESPN writer David Schoenfield recently ranked him the second-worst owner in MLB history.

The only way out is for MLB to strike some sort of a godfather deal—for the team as well as the assets—for the club and shoo McCourt out before the team reaches the point of no return.

In an ideal world, the hero (and now owner of the NBA championship team) Mark Cuban would come in and save the team, following his defeat of LeBron James’ most hated team in the NBA. Still, that might just be a pipe dream.

Either McCourt goes or my new Australian friends will have to learn what baseball is by watching a bankrupt team—which is already out of the race in July—play meaningless game after meaningless game, while lifelong Dodgers fans grumble to themselves at home.           


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