Frank McCourt Selling LA Dodgers: Ranking the 10 Worst MLB Owners of All Time
Ownership in professional sports certainly comes with its own set of unique situations—and oftentimes a boatload of profits as well. In Major League Baseball, owners of late have enjoyed the best of both worlds—peace among all parties and a pretty sizable bottom-line figure.
However, many owners have done quite a bit to bring shame to America’s oldest professional sport, in ways that were both comical and downright sinister. In some cases, their own ineptitude caused the downfall of their particular franchise.
From belittling players to paying outrageous salaries to undeserving players to conducting selloffs of rosters, MLB owners throughout history have done some fairly stupid things to bring down their franchises—in some cases their actions led to many years of mediocrity.
Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will certainly go down in history of one of those hated owners. His stewardship of the Dodgers from 2004 to the present has not been what anyone would consider quality ownership.
The decision by McCourt to allow the sale of the Dodgers franchise via an auction in bankruptcy court was a surprising turnaround, given that he seemed to be gearing for a long and protracted fight to keep the storied franchise in his hands.
So, where exactly does McCourt fit among the worst MLB owners of all time?
Let’s take a look…
Dishonorable Mention: Tom Yawkey: Boston Red Sox (1933-1976)
When Tom Yawkey bought the Boston Red Sox for $1.2 million in 1933, he was just 30 years old. Yawkey became the longest sole owner of a baseball franchise, owning the team for 44 years until his death in 1976.
During Yawkey’s tenure however, the Red Sox never won a World Series, only making it to the Fall Classic three times (1946, 1967, 1975). While Yawkey devoted his time to trying to develop winning teams, he always fell short of the mark.
Yawkey was also known to be a racist. In fact, the Red Sox were the last franchise in Major League Baseball to finally integrate, signing Pumpsie Green in 1959, a full 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
It’s also believed that Yawkey continued his racist ways well after MLB was integrated, as he was accused of orchestrating the trade of Reggie Smith in 1973 because of his racist views.
Smith was a switch-hitting, power-hitting All-Star Gold Glove outfielder with speed who was coming off a stellar year for the Red Sox when the trade was approved by Yawkey, and at the time, there was no good reason to even pull off the trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Yawkey may be known an all-around good owner who has a street named after him, but his racist views clearly led the Red Sox to bypass an awful lot of good talent through the years.
10. Gerry Nugent: Philadelphia Phillies (1931-1942)
Back in the first half of the 20th century, the Philadelphia Phillies were often cellar-dwellers in the National League, and by 1931, its new owner, Gerry Nugent, didn’t help matters much.
Nugent literally slept his way into ownership. His wife, the longtime secretary of the Phillies, was given half of the team when owner William Baker died in 1930 and bequeathed half of the team to her. The other half of the team was given to Baker’s wife, and Nugent became president of the team. Baker’s wife died a year later, making Nugent the sole owner of the franchise.
However, Nugent had absolutely no money to make any deals whatsoever, and during his tenure, he sold off any player of value that he could just to keep the team afloat. In 1942, Nugent was forced to borrow money from the National League just to send the team to spring training. The National League finally took the franchise away from Nugent later that same year, and the Phillies went another 38 years before finally winning their first World Series championship.
9. Peter Angelos: Baltimore Orioles (1993-Present)
The Baltimore Orioles were a once-proud franchise, having won seven American League pennants and three World Series championships. That is, until Peter Angelos took over.
During his tenure, the Orioles have now experienced 14 straight losing seasons, fan attendance at Camden Yards is down 25 percent since the ballpark opened in 1992 and a string of bad signings has dogged the team for year.
Angelos started out swimmingly, inheriting a team that had just moved into Camden Yards and had one of baseball’s biggest stars, Cal Ripken Jr. Angelos signed Roberto Alomar, BJ Surhoff and David Wells, and the Orioles were contenders for the AL pennant in 1996 and 1997.
However, manager Davey Johnson left after a spat with Angelos, GM Pat Gillick was not retained as general manager and several key players signed free-agent contracts with other teams.
A whole lot of bad signings and other bad moves have kept the Orioles mired in mediocrity since 1998.
8. David Glass: Kansas City Royals (1993-Present)
While Peter Angelos has been busy authorizing horrible free agents in Baltimore, Kansas City Royals owner David Glass has been busy constantly slashing payroll and pocketing profits year after year.
In 2010 alone, the Royals had a salary of $72 million to start the season, yet still lost 95 games, while the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays, both with much lower payrolls, both made the playoffs. In 2011, Glass cut team payroll in half, yet the team is valued at well over 10 times as much.
The Royals have had only three winning seasons under Glass’ tenure, and even then, barely finished over .500.
7. George Argyros: Seattle Mariners (1981-1989)
George Argyros was the steward of the Seattle Mariners between 1981 and 1989, and if you ask any loyal Mariners fan, they will be happy to tell you how much Argyros is absolutely loathed in Seattle.
During his time as owner, Argyros was a known tightwad who constantly threatened to move the team out of the Seattle area.
Argyros, with his penchant for not spending money, orchestrated the departures of budding stars Mark Langston, Danny Tartabull, Floyd Bannister, Ivan Calderon and Bill Caudill and tried to talk his scouts into drafting Mike Harkey instead of Ken Griffey Jr.
6. Marge Schott: Cincinnati Reds (1984-1999)
Marge Schott wasn’t necessarily a bad owner in terms of success—the Cincinnati Reds did win the 1990 World Series during Schott’s stewardship—it was her behavior and loose lips that put her on this list.
During Schott’s time owning the Reds, she was accused of uttering racial slurs towards African Americans, homosexuals, Jews and Japanese citizens and was barred from baseball for two years for voicing her support of former German Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler.
And that stupid dog that Schott carried around with her—no player should have to deal with that.
5. The Tribune Company: Chicago Cubs (1981-2009)
The Tribune Company may have done a great job managing radio stations, newspapers and television stations, but they sure did a lousy job running a baseball franchise.
For 28 years, the Tribune Company owned the Chicago Cubs, and during their tenure, the Cubs made the playoffs six times, making it to the NLCS three times, but never quite making it to the World Series.
A slew of bad signings doomed the Tribune Company, including Todd Hundley, Milton Bradley, LaTroy Hawkins, Dave Smith and Alfonso Soriano.
The Trib also let Greg Maddux get away in 1992, winning four Cy Young Awards and a World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves.
4. Bob Short: Texas Rangers (1968-1974)
When the Texas Rangers were known as the Washington Senators, the team was purchased by Bob Short, who had originally owned the NBA’s Minneapolis Lakers and orchestrated their move to Los Angeles before selling the team to Jack Kent Cooke.
Short is most infamously known for rushing heralded first-round draft pick David Clyde to the majors out of high school in 1973, just for the sake of selling a few extra tickets. Clyde ended up blowing out his arm just a few years later and never pitched successfully in the majors.
Short sold the team to Bob Corbett in 1974, who wasn’t much better of an owner than Short.
3. Frank McCourt: Los Angeles Dodgers (2004-Present)
When Frank McCourt bought the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, he bought it with land owned in South Boston and a big fat loan from Fox Sports/NewsCorp—the previous owner of the Dodgers. Since that time, McCourt has continued to leverage himself and the team.
McCourt’s divorce announcement in 2009 wasn’t just the start of his downfall with Dodgers—fans and local media types alike had been railing against McCourt and his stewardship of the team for years.
However what followed after that—the savage beating of Bryan Stow on Opening Day 2011, the ugly divorce proceedings, the bankruptcy filing and MLB’s monitoring of day-to-day operations—it all finally came to a crashing halt for McCourt on Tuesday, with his announcement that he would sell the team through an auction monitored by the bankruptcy court.
For Dodgers fans, they’ve been waiting for the day practically since the day McCourt took over the Dodgers.
2. Charles Comiskey: Chicago White Sox (1900-1931)
Charles Comiskey, the original owner of the Chicago White Sox, won three American League championships and two World Series championships, however, Comiskey will forever be known for owning the team that attempted to throw a World Series, and Comiskey, although he had no knowledge of the crime, was largely responsible for it.
Comiskey was widely known throughout baseball at the time to be extremely cheap with his players. He was extremely unpopular with his own players, and they largely decided to throw the 1919 World Series simply because Comiskey paid them so poorly.
One of the worst scandals in baseball history may never have happened if Comiskey had just opened up his considerable wallet even just a little bit.
1. Harry Frazee: Boston Red Sox (1916-1923)
For the first 18 years in the American League, the Boston Red Sox were the recognized leaders in the league, winning the first World Series ever played in 1903 and winning four more after that.
In 1916, Harry Frazee bought the Red Sox for approximately $500,000, and while the team won two World Series championships in Frazee’s first three years, he was constantly in debt, and looking for money to finance his theatrical productions.
After winning the World Series in 1918, Frazee started selling off Red Sox players, with most of them going to his friend Ban Johnson, owner of the New York Yankees. The Yankees even gave Frazee a $300,000 loan, in which he used Fenway Park as collateral, so technically, the Yankees owned Fenway Park at the time.
Frazee’s most obvious and egregious error was selling team star Babe Ruth to the Yankees in December 1919 for $125,000. By the time Frazee was done selling off the team, his legacy as one of the worst owners in the history of baseball was sealed, and the Red Sox would see a season above .500 again until 1934.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.