Frank McCourt and the Worst MLB Owners of All Time

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2020

Frank McCourt and the Worst MLB Owners of All Time

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    Nick Ut/Associated Press

    Almost exactly eight years ago, Frank McCourt mercifully sold the Los Angeles Dodgers after a tumultuous tenure at the helm of one of baseball's biggest-market teams.

    We'll dive deeper on McCourt shortly, but first let's examine nine of the other worst owners in MLB history. This is a subjective exercise. Every fan who roots for a losing team thinks his or her owner stinks.

    But there's no denying these men (and, in two cases, media companies) were royally unfit to run a major league franchise, based on poor decision-making, bad relationships and crummy results.

Peter Angelos, Baltimore Orioles, 1993-Present

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    JAMES A. FINLEY/Associated Press

    When Peter Angelos took over the Baltimore Orioles in 1993, they had a shiny new ballpark and an unassailable face of the franchise in Cal Ripken Jr., and they were coming off an 89-win season. The future was bright.

    Or not.

    Yes, the O's made it to the American League Championship Series in back-to-back seasons in 1996 and 1997. But they've never advanced to the World Series on Angelos' watch and have a 2,015-2,289 record since '93.

    Last year, they lost 108 games after losing 115 in 2018.

    Angelos is 90 years old and appears to have ceded control to his sons, John and Louis. Either way, Baltimore fans are losing every bit as much as their team.

CBS, New York Yankees, 1964-'73

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    Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    In 1964, CBS purchased the New York Yankees. The next decade was not the greatest or the most entertaining in the Yanks' storied history, to say the least.

    New York finished with a losing record for the first time in 40 years in 1965. By '66, they'd sunk to last place in the 10-team American League.

    In 1966, broadcaster Red Barber pointed out that there were only 413 fans in the seats at Yankee Stadium. He was soon fired.

    CBS sold the team to a group led by George Steinbrenner in 1973 for $8.7 million. By '76, the Yankees were back in the World Series.

Tribune Company, Chicago Cubs, 1981-2009

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    M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

    The Tribune Company owned the Chicago Cubs for 29 seasons. During that time, the Cubbies fully owned their already-established cursed loser label. 

    Chicago went 2,217-2,347 during that span and never reached the World Series. 

    The Tribune Co., meanwhile, made out just fine. After purchasing the Cubs for $20.5 million in '81, it sold all but a 5 percent share of the club to the Ricketts family for $845 million.

    While a billy goat and Steve Bartman arguably received more blame from fans for the Cubs' championship drought (which they finally busted in 2016), the Tribune Co. deserved plenty of ire.

George Argyros, Seattle Mariners, 1981-'89

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    DAN LEVINE/Getty Images

    Southern California real estate developer George Argyros was a notorious penny-pincher and poor decision-maker during his decade at the helm of the Seattle Mariners, and the results showed on the field.

    Argyros' lack of baseball acumen can best be summed up by the 1987 amateur draft, during which he pressed for Seattle to select right-hander Mike Harkey over a prep outfielder named Ken Griffey Jr.

    The Mariners went the other way, but the franchise didn't really turn around until after Argyros departed. In fact, they never posted a winning record on his watch.

    Griffey, meanwhile, enjoyed the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career in Seattle. And by 2000, the Kingdome was imploded to make way for a new ballpark—a fitting metaphor for Argyros' ill-fated reign.

Tom Werner, San Diego Padres, 1990-'94

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    Joan Fahrenthold/Associated Press

    The low point of Tom Werner's time as San Diego Padres owner was probably 1993 when he traded a number of high-profile players, including first baseman Fred McGriff and outfielder Gary Sheffield, and angry Friars fans turned against him en masse.

    But things went sour three years earlier when Werner allowed actress and comedian Roseanne Barr to "sing" the national anthem before a home game. Werner was a TV executive who was involved with Roseanne's sitcom. 

    Werner's stint in San Diego was as disastrous and tone-deaf as Barr's infamous performance, and he left nothing but bitterness (and still-ringing ears) in his wake.

William Cox, Philadelphia Phillies, 1943

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    Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

    Just to be clear, that picture is of legendary MLB Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis throwing out the first pitch at the 1943 World Series. What does that have to do with then-Philadelphia Phillies owner William Cox?

    Cox's Phils finished seventh in the eight-team National League that year, 41 games out of first place. They certainly weren't in the Fall Classic.

    That same year, however, Cox was banned from baseball for life by Landis for betting on Phillies games. Cox initially lied to Landis about the issue then claimed he'd only bet on the Phillies to win.

    Considering Philadelphia went 64-90 that season, that would make Cox as bad a gambler as he was an owner.

Bob Short, Washington Senators/Texas Rangers, 1969-'74

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    Anonymous/Associated Press

    Bob Short made multiple unsuccessful runs for public office during his life, including a failed bid for the United States Senate in 1978. For a man who began his inauspicious run as an MLB owner with the Washington Senators, that's fitting.

    Two years after taking control of the Senators, Short moved the franchise to Arlington, Texas, where it was renamed the Rangers.

    During the team's final game in D.C., upset fans charged the field, and the Senators, who were leading the Yankees 7-5 at the time, had to forfeit.

    His time in Texas didn't go much better. The Rangers struggled, and Short infamously insisted the team rush promising 18-year-old pitcher David Clyde to the big leagues to boost attendance. By age 26, Clyde's career ended due to injuries.

    Mercifully, Short's rule over the Rangers ended even sooner.

Jeffrey Loria, Montreal Expos/Miami Marlins, 1999-2017

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Jeffrey Loria took over the Montreal Expos in 1999. He helped run the teetering franchise into the ground before selling it to MLB for $120 million and bolting to South Beach to assume ownership of the then-Florida Marlins.

    His tenure in Miami was no better than his time north of the border. Yes, the Marlins won a World Series in 2003, but Loria promptly tore the roster down and stripped payroll.

    He then managed to get a gaudy new ballpark built, mostly on the public's dime. The Marlins finished 69-93 in their first season at Marlins Park in 2012. Loria again tore apart the roster.

    By 2017, Loria sold the team to a group fronted by Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter for $1.2 billion, or about $1 billion more than he paid for it.

    To recap: Winner, Jeffrey Loria. Loser, Expos fans, Marlins fans and basically everyone else.

Harry Frazee, Boston Red Sox, 1916-'23

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    Associated Press

    If there is a symbol for boneheaded big league ownership, it's Harry Frazee.

    The Boston Red Sox had won three World Series titles in five years when Frazee bought them in 1916. But Frazee was a Broadway producer before he was a baseball man, and he soon began selling off the Sox's assets to fund his productions.

    That included the sale of Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 in 1918. It's easily the most-cited and most-egregious blunder in MLB history. 

    It preceded decades of suffering for Boston fans, who wouldn't shed the Curse of the Bambino until 2004. And it cemented Frazee's legacy in the worst way.

Frank McCourt, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1998-2012

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    BORIS HORVAT/Getty Images

    McCourt never did anything on par with Frazee's sale of the Babe, but his ownership of the Dodgers was marked by turmoil, financial problems and tabloid-style personal controversy.

    McCourt took over for the well-liked O'Malley family, under whom the Dodgers won a pair of championships in 1981 and '88.

    Los Angeles would never make it back to the World Series on McCourt's watch, and he ultimately drove the team into bankruptcy during an acrimonious and very public divorce.

    As the Los Angeles Times' Bill Shaikin reported, "The Dodgers' bankruptcy filing came on the heels of a bruising two-year divorce battle that revealed how the McCourts used team revenue to further a lifestyle that included side-by-side estates in Holmby Hills and Malibu, private jet travel around the world, even house calls from hairdressers and makeup artists."

    Needless to say, Dodgers fans heaved a sigh of relief when McCourt ceded control to MLB—and ultimately to a group led by L.A. Lakers legend Magic Johnson. And while they still haven't won a World Series, the Dodgers are a perpetual contender with Johnson and Co. calling the shots and McCourt squarely on the sidelines.