LA Dodgers: Frank McCourt's 5 Most Infuriating Moves as Dodgers Owner
It's no secret that Frank McCourt's tenure as Dodgers owner has been marked by more misses than hits. Yet as the Dodgers continue to fall further back in the standings, one can't help but direct a lot of anger at what McCourt has done over the last two years to get to this point.
When I attended a Dodgers game last month, I was disappointed at not just the low crowd but the lack of energy. The fans who were there tried in vain to create a great atmosphere but it was disappointing as a fan to see empty seats that symbolized how fans abandoned the Dodgers.
You can blame the team's poor record, but that blame falls also at the feet of McCourt. The only thing McCourt hasn't seem to do is dismantle the Dodgers and sell players to cut costs. Waving goodbye to Rafael Furcal was almost a surprise but thankfully it was only major move compared to the rumors most expected.
This is just one Dodger fan's opinion of his five worst moments as owner. I tried to keep this on--the-field related but it was hard considering he's made a lot of missteps off the field. I also admit this list made me reconsider Rupert Murdoch as perhaps the second worst owner in team history behind McCourt.
Honorable Mention: Hiring Vladimir Shpunt
Chalk this up as silly more than infuriating From 2005-2010, the McCourts hired the mysterious Shpunt not as a doctor or consultant but to send positive energy from nearly 3,000 miles away on a television screen. Really? One of the most storied franchises in baseball with one of the most loyal fan bases around is paying for extra vibes?
Here’s where that’s a problem. 1) The Russian-born Shpunt admitted to the LA Times he knew “next to nothing” about baseball,2) Shpunt only attended one game during his five year tenure, 3) This is the Dodgers. Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully are all the good energy the team needs and they’re in the stadium nearly every night.
It added one more stepping stone to the team being a laughingstock and it was a slap in the face to the rich tradition being all the good energy the team needed. It was also one more unnecessary expense the McCourts could’ve used to benefit the team in better ways.
5. Not Going After a Big Name Pitcher
This is a move of doing nothing or putting his team in a position to do nothing. One look at the current MLB contenders and the Dodgers can only wonder what if the front office pulled a trigger instead of hesitating.
The team had a chance to go after CC Sabathia in free agency and could’ve made trades for Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay. Thanks to the divorce proceedings and unwillingness to trade prospects, the Dodgers stood pat and watched as those three players led their squads deep into the last two postseasons.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers rotation has pretty much become a mixture of watching Clayton Kershaw develop into an ace, Chad Billingsley waver from great to good to bad and Hiroki Kuroda being a model of consistency despite little support. Imagine another big name who might have helped the franchise win a few more games last year or this year.
While the Dodgers had been burned on big name signings before, there was no excuse not to bring in Sabathia or make the moves for Lee or Halladay. Now that we know how much McCourt was struggling for money, chalk this up as another sign he cared more about saving pennies than improving his team.
4. Filing for Bankruptcy Protection
Instead of doing the right thing and trying to sell the Dodgers, McCourt went to bankruptcy court to try and protect his most valuable asset from Major League Baseball.
This made every loyal Dodger fan cringe because while the focus should have been the stellar play of Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, McCourt selfishly opened a legal battle with MLB. It was a battle he lost but the fact that he did it once again showed he doesn't care about the team's best interests.
This was one more nail in the coffin of him burying the Dodgers’ classy reputation by engaging in a bitter public fight over how the team would be funded. He refuses to give the team up and would rather force MLB to rip it from him.
Meanwhile fans have responded by refusing to attend games and the team could lose at least $27 million this season.
3. Filing for Divorce During 2009 NLCS
It’s hard to hate a man’s personal decision but as a businessman, Frank McCourt had to know it wasn’t in his team’s best interests to announce his separation from wife Jamie before Game 1 of the 2009 NLCS.
It started a nearly two-year process that not only dominated the headlines but served as a terrible distraction for the team which has yet to recover. Instead of being excited about a young team coming into its own and adding more parts to help it sustain, McCourt was too busy fighting his ex-wife and engaging in a who-can-embarrass-whom, drag-down fight for the control of the franchise.
The Dodgers not only lost the 2009 NLCS in five games, they haven't been close to the playoffs since. As history has shown, McCourt was often oblivious to what was happening with his team and this might be one of the worst cases of that.
2. Response to Bryan Stow Incident
Besides the McCourt’s divorce, Nothing cast a bigger shadow over this season than Giants fan Bryan Stow being attacked at the Dodgers season opener. That’s why it was upsetting to hear Frank McCourt offer up a half-hearted statement as his first response to the incident.
“First of all, let me just say it’s tragic. It’s very, very unfair to take what was otherwise a fantastic day — everything from the weather to the result of the game to just the overall experience — and to have a few individuals mar that. It’s a terrible thing.”
He further added to his detachment by saying, “You could have 2,000 policemen there, and it’s just not going to change that random act of violence.” That’s the owner of a team sounding perturbed that someone would ruin his day instead of being concerned of the greater good affecting many more.
It took the Giants and the city of Los Angeles making the first reward offers before the Dodgers did anything. McCourt almost had to be forced into the spotlight due to increasing pressure from media and fans as well as others stepping in to help. Yet he’s supposed to be the face of the franchise.
Give him kudos for increasing the public presence but not for the late response in handling it. It’s a far cry from the Dodger way of being community first.
1. Using Team Money for Personal Expenses
Few things are worse than an owner using team money to fund pet projects. Well, good old Frank and his ex-wife Jamie did just that and did it way too often.
According to court documents, the McCourts borrowed $108 million from Dodger-related businesses to fund the following items: The purchase and ensuing mortgage of their homes in Malibu and Hollywood, use of a private jet, designer clothing and much more.
The McCourts also had two sons on the payroll to the tune of $600,000. Let’s call this what it is. Betrayal. Stealing at its worst. Something every Dodger fan should be outraged and embarrassed by this. Instead of paying themselves, they could pay the list of their creditors back and them some.
Oh, and they didn’t pay taxes on those millions either. So add stealing from the government in addition to stealing from fans.