When Frank McCourt agreed to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team's fans were ecstatic.
Prospective buyers are in the process of preparing bids for the team, and fans are still ecstatic.
The free agent season is in full swing, fans are again ecstatic.
Fans should in fact not be ecstatic, they should be fuming mad. Frank McCourt is not only getting the last laugh, he's ruining the Dodgers' 2012 season.
The Dodgers finished 11.5 games out of first place last year and went 7-3 in their last 10 games. Closing the gap on the first-place Diamondbacks would have been helped to some degree by better pitching, but the greatest effect would have come from a power hitter to protect Matt Kemp, or he them.
First base is the most glaring example of where the Dodgers could use a power hitter. Nothing against James Loney, but Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder he ain't. Loney's .288 batting average, 12 home runs, and 65 RBI are not the production a winning team requires of its five-hole hitter.
Well, the Dodgers' opportunity to sign a power-hitting free agent is upon us and the Dodgers are not only sitting on the sidelines not signing free agents, their own players are signing with other teams.
Fans should not be surprised to learn that it is quite likely the exact scenario Frank McCourt had in mind and how he planned it all along.
When MLB took over management of the Dodgers in April and again when the team entered bankruptcy in June, fans and MLB were hopeful that a new owner would be found quickly.
Is Frank McCourt ruining the Dodgers' 2012 season on purpose?
That didn't happen.
Not because MLB didn't want it to happen, but because Frank McCourt didn't want it to happen.
As we enter the free agent season, Dodger players are signing with other teams.
To date, Rod Barajas has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jamey Carroll is close to signing a deal with the Minnesota Twins. The Dodgers, who should be active in the free agent market, seem to be standing pat.
Why, you ask? Because signing free agents, even your own, costs money.
The Dodgers seem likely to be sold in the next few months for somewhere between $800 million and $1.2 billion dollars. Subtract the Dodgers' bills from 2011, the expenses for the 2012 season and what McCourt owes his wife in the divorce settlement, and you have Frank McCourt's walk away money.
Signing a free agent—any free agent—in the offseason would diminish that fund. If you think McCourt is willing to do that then you are sorely misinformed.
It all comes down to money.
McCourt knows that the team will be sold. He survived the 2011 season under MLB management and is now in a position to walk away from the sale of the team, after expenses, with likely double what he originally paid for them.
Oh, and it will all be in cash. Not the leveraged debt he used to buy the team.
By agreeing to sell the team when he did McCourt maximized the money he would earn from that sale. If a new owner buys the team in August or September, they would likely decrease what they are willing to pay by the amount they will have to spend on the free agent market.
By holding on as long as he did, McCourt almost ensures that the Dodger talent on the free agent market is signed by other teams, allows talent the Dodgers should have signed is also signed by other teams, and hopes Dodger talent doesn't win any post season awards. In the end that all that adds up to more money for McCourt.
As sad as it seems, Frank McCourt is going to walk away from the sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers wealthier than when he arrived.
His actions also almost ensure that the Dodgers will struggle in the 2012 season by playing minor league talent they rush to the big leagues, or players they've acquired by trades that end up depleting their minor league system.
Fans have long suspected that McCourt's primary motive is money.
What we never expected was that he was going to be laughing all the way to the bank while Dodger fans suffer through another lackluster season.