The 2011 L.A. Dodgers season has been an unmitigated disaster. As a Giants fan, I’ve loved it. As a baseball fan, even I’m starting to feel sorry for Dodgers fans. Well, almost.
Part of what makes the Giants-Dodgers rivalry so great is that both teams are equally steeped in tradition and baseball lore. It is fun to hate the Dodgers because they are just as important to the history of the game as the Giants.
However, seemingly overnight, Frank McCourt and the Dodgers ownership have managed to overshadow years of baseball history and success. It has been a season filled with follies and drama, and sadly there is no end in sight.
Although it was tough to narrow down, here are the nine most embarrassing moments of the 2011 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And to Dodgers fans, let me apologize in advance for the painful recounting of events that is about to unfold...
All right, so I couldn’t bring myself to research this with too much depth.
But allegedly, Dodgers oufielder Matt Kemp has become the latest athlete to show up unclothed online.
While these pictures may not be as scandalous as say, Brett Favre’s, at this point any additional negative publicity is simply the cherry on the crap sundae that is the 2011 Dodgers season.
Kemp has been inconsistent and often disappointing for his entire career with the Dodgers. His latest appearances on TMZ and PerezHilton are simply the latest example of the ways him garnering publicity of the wrong kind, and show the questionable focus that has frustrated L.A. fans for years.
For most baseball fan, nothing is more embarrassing than mounting losses on the field. Unfortunately, losses are the one thing the Dodgers have had in spades.
For years, Dodgers fans have been waiting for their young core (built around Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Jonathan Broxton) to put it all together and compete for a World Series ring.
Unfortunately, the team's financial struggles have been mirrored on the field. Loney has been the most obvious disappointment, but really the failure of the Dodgers falls on the roster as a whole.
Juan Uribe, Casey Blake, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley and Rafael Furcal have all performed poorly enough to sink a theoretically talented roster.
The Dodgers roster is a mix of bad contracts and even worse performances. For fans, the on-field product may be the most frustrating part of the whole 2011 saga.
Anyone who has even vaguely followed the tribulations of the McCourts and the Dodgers knows a few things: That Frank and Jamie McCourt haven't handled the team's finances properly. That they handed out a number of large, ill-advised contracts to non-impact players. And that, no matter how you look at it, the blame for the decline of the organization lies firmly on the shoulders of the owners.
However, Frank McCourt has responded to Major League Baseball’s intervention in the Dodgers business with his usual combination of defiance and complete lack of self-awareness. He has reacted to Bud Selig’s actions much in the same way that a child reacts when you take away his favorite toy.
Look, I’m no Selig supporter, generally speaking. But he’s correct in trying to right the Dodgers ship. The McCourts have, in seven short years, accomplished what it took Dan Snyder, Marge Schott and Donald Sterling much more time to accomplish—establishing himself as one of the worst owners in sports history.
The involvement of Major League Baseball in the McCourt saga could have been a merciful end to the drama for Dodgers fans. Instead, McCourt has prolonged the pain and embarrassment, calling the commissioner “un-American” and staunchly refusing to relinquish control of the franchise to more capable hands.
“No one handed me the Dodgers, and no one is going to take it away from me,” McCourt has said. Except that he’s wrong. He bought the team on credit, including a $75 million loan from Major League Baseball.
In reality, the people who are taking the team away from him are the ones who gave him the team in the first place.
Ted Lilly is terrible, but his contract is merely a metaphor for the many terrible contract decisions made by the Dodgers in recent years.
While the Ted Lilly contract may have technically been handed out in 2010, Lilly’s 6-10, 4.83 ERA performance has been firmly planted in 2011.
Anyone who follows baseball closely likely had an inkling that giving Lilly $33 million was a horrible decision from the start. I'm a Giants fan and I was overjoyed to hear that Los Angeles had locked down an incredibly hittable pitcher for exorbitant money. That's probably not a good sign.
Lilly is a back-of-the-rotation pitcher with a career record barely over .500 who was given top-of-the-rotation money. Which would be fine if the Dodgers were the Yankees or Red Sox, who basically print their own currency and have TV deals, merchandise sales and competent owners to back up their mistakes.
The Lilly contract is just more one example of the Dodgers' hubris. As if they needed any more. Thinking that it is acceptable to give Lilly $33 million (more than players like Josh Johnson, Matt Cain or Jonathan Broxton) shows a compete lack of financial responsibility.
Look, every team has its share of bad contracts. On its own, the Lilly contract is embarrassing, but not completely shameful. When it is taken into account as part of a larger picture of misguided spending, it only looks worse.
This move was the baseball equivalent of the commissioner sending Frank McCourt to the kid’s table and bringing in an adult to handle a franchise that had been mismanaged to the point of near-complete financial ruin.
The part of this story that is perhaps most embarrassing to baseball fans is how prolonged it has become.
McCourt has never admitted to his mistakes, and has fought Major League Baseball every step of the way, even though it is surely a last resort for the league to take control of a team from any owner.
MLB stepping in and seizing control of a team’s finances was a painful, rarely seen decision that couldn’t have been easy for Bud Selig to make.
The fact that the league office decided that the Dodgers were so poorly run, so far away from fixing their financial problems that they took this extreme step truly speaks to the epic level of mismanagement that the Dodgers have suffered.
How do you get yourself out of a financial disaster caused by high-interest loans and unsecured debt? If you’re Frank McCourt, you simply acquire more high-interest loans and unsecured debt!
In early April, unable to make payroll for his team, McCourt took an additional $30 million loan from FOX. The loan was given to McCourt personally instead of the Dodgers as an organization, and was therefore was not subject to approval by Major League baseball.
Although taking further loans to pay off other loans may not seem like a great way to dig oneself out of debt, the relationship between Fox and Frank McCourt does not stop there.
McCourt had also planned to dig himself out of debt (or further into it, depending on how you look at it) with an estimated $3 billion TV deal with Fox, which included a $358 million loan that would have helped him rid himself out of at least some unsecured debt.
This deal was subject to MLB approval, and the league, wary of giving McCourt even more money on loan, quickly rejected it.
Of course, this whole melodrama was played out in public, further embarrassing the Dodgers franchise. I mean really, how irresponsible do you have to be for Bud Selig to reject a $3 billion TV deal?
Talk about embarrassing. It’s one thing to see a team’s ownership slowly lose control of their business due to increasing financial pressure.
It’s another to see that said financial pressure was the result of said owner using their team as a personal bank account to fund a lavish, opulent lifestyle for himself and his family.
It takes a lot to sully the name of one of baseball’s great franchises. Frank McCourt made it look easy. He took money out of the team to fund everything from vacation homes for himself to faith healers, who were paid by the team to watch Dodgers games and send positive vibes out LA’s way. Seriously.
From all accounts, Frank McCourt truly did use the Dodgers as his personal credit card. He purchased the team almost entirely on credit, and then proceeded to withdraw cash from the business like he was robbing the place. Looking back, he basically was.
Here are just a few highlights of livin' it up McCourt style:
- As the Dodgers’ financial woes were becoming clearer to those outside the team, McCourt insisted that he was doing his part to cut spending by living in a one-bedroom apartment. He didn’t mention that the one bedroom was located in a $30,000/per month luxury hotel.
- After purchasing the team, McCourt purchased four houses in and around the L.A. area for a combined cost of roughly $89 million. Jamie McCourt now uses one of the houses “exclusively for swimming." One is used to store furniture.
- Jamie McCourt reportedly spent over $100,000 in an 18-month period. On flowers. Which she charged to the Dodgers.
- The ostensible reason for the divorce of Jamie and Frank McCourt is Jamie’s alleged affair with one of her drivers. Which included a two and a half week tryst in France. Financed by the Dodgers.
There’s more. Oh, there’s so much more. There’s so much more that it defies all logic and explanation. The McCourt family’s ridiculous spending is embarrassing. The fact that they did it completely on the team’s dime, and were so brazen about it, just takes things to another level.
Nearly every embarrassing moment on this list was simply a prelude leading up the inevitable Dodgers bankruptcy declaration.
Every bad contract, every vacation home purchased with company money and every high-interest loan the McCourts have taken out have led to the Dodgers being declared bankrupt.
Reading through the Dodgers list of unsecured “creditors” shows a team in desperate need of new management. The team still owes (among others) Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, Marquis Grissom, Jon Garland and Hiroki Kuroda over $73 million, which they are unable to pay.
Combine this unpaid debt with the millions owed to other creditors, and the Dodgers financial statements read like a greatest hits of terrible baseball decisions.
The brutal beating of Brian Stow wasn’t just the Dodgers most embarrassing moment in 2011, it was a black eye on the game.
There’s no need to rehash the (literally) gory details of the Stow beating. They have been widely reported and publicized in various media outlets.
For the purposes of this list, however, the attack is significant because of what it has managed to overshadow—the complete, total financial collapse of one of baseball’s signature franchises.
In any other year, the McCourt ownership debacle would be far and away the biggest story involving the Dodgers. And in many ways it has been.
But in terms of pure embarrassment, in terms of shame brought upon the game and the fans, nothing is greater than a rival fan being beaten nearly to death on Opening Day in LA for wearing the wrong colors.
Baseball is a game of great rivalries. The rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers is one of the best. But part of what separates baseball from sports like football and soccer is the undercurrent of mutual respect between rival fan bases.
Yankees and Red Sox fans may not like each other, but their attacks on one another are for the most part limited to verbal barbs and maybe a tossed beer or two.
In reality, there is an element of both sides being in on the same joke. They are united, as well as divided by their rivalry, which keeps things from escalating to an inappropriate level.
It is a sort of social contract that fans in great rivalries generally agree to. Yes, the other team may be the enemy, but in the end they are our enemy.
The Dodgers fans who attacked Brian Stow on Opening Day shattered this social contract, and truly tarnished a great game in the process.