Nov 16

It’s whom you pay, not when you pay them


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIThe problem isn’t that the Dodgers are still paying Jason Schmidt; the problem is that Jason Schmidt couldn’t pitch no matter what date his paychecks arrived.

With a third of Hiroki Kuroda’s new contract coming in the form of a signing bonus to be paid in 2012 and 2013, naturally the subject of the Dodgers deferring salaries has come up again. On that subject, let me make these points:

  1. Though they have certainly turned it into an art form, deferred payments are nothing unique to the Dodgers or the McCourt ownership. They can’t even lay claim to the grand-deferred-daddy of them all, the Mets’ 35-year Bobby Bonilla plan.
  2. Deferred payments aren’t an inherently bad way to operate a business. To oversimplify, if you are making good investments with the capital as you hang onto it, you will come out ahead.
  3. The primary issue with the money the Dodgers owe players who are no longer on the roster isn’t the money — it’s the players. The problem is not that they’re still paying Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre or Andruw Jones — it’s that those contracts were so unfortunate, period.  We could have taken Schmidt to a $47 million lunch at the Palm a few years ago and called it a day — it wouldn’t have made that deal turn out any better.
  4. Remember that some deferred contracts did not start that way. For example, Jones’ deal was restructured to accommodate the 2009 Manny Ramirez signing, so that the Dodgers would have other options besides Jones and Juan Pierre in left field. The ongoing flow of cash to Jones are less about a philosophy of deferring payments than about trying to make lemonade from lemons.
  5. Backloaded contracts that are used on productive players have the potential to be good. Keeping Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda to single-digit millions now, enabling the team to spend more to address other pressing needs, is a viable strategy — especially if you believe that down the road, more TV dollars and a better economy might make the backloaded contracts easier to pay off.
  6. Certainly, there’s an argument that the Dodgers should reign their spending and stop buying players on credit. Heck, I’m one of those rare birds who would watch a homegrown, low-rent squad. But if you do that now, given the chaos in team ownership, you’d have to brace yourself for a 2011 team as leaky as a bad roof.
  7. Yes, the McCourt ownership could sell a house and take care of all this year’s deferred payments in an instant. But I’m not holding my breath for that.

In a nutshell, the timeframe for paying player salaries is fairly low on the issues bedeviling the Dodgers. Achieving a combination of good decisions and good luck regarding the roster is far more important. Even as the McCourt drama plays out, the Dodgers will thrive or dive depending on their personnel choices.

Eventually, the Dodgers will either operate one season on a limited budget, or they’ll find the revenue to bring their finances back to steadier ground.  I’m betting on the latter. In any case, what matters is that they spend their money wisely, whenever they spend it.

Oct 19

October 19 playoff chat: A little Magic?

Phillies at Giants, 1:19 p.m.

Rangers at Yankees, 5:07 p.m.

* * *

Magic Johnson as a Dodgers owner? This I could get behind, though I’m guessing he has bigger (or at least different) fish to fry, and too many unruly ducks would have to fall into place, and … any other cliche I can bastardize to fit.

Meanwhile, Molly Knight updates the McCourt proceedings for ESPNLosAngeles.com, while Bill Shaikin of the Times throws more cold water on the idea of community ownership of the Dodgers.

  • Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has posted the Dodgers’ 2011 promotions schedule. With the Dodgers’ final home game on Thursday,  Sept. 22, Fan Appreciation Day is as early as I can remember: Sept. 18.
  • Fifty years ago today came the news that the Yankees had fired Casey Stengel — and it was a big deal even in Los Angeles, as you can see from this post at the Daily Mirror.
  • Karen Crouse of the New York Times profiles an ailing but stalwart Giants fan by the name of Willie McCovey.
Oct 14

Community ownership of the Dodgers: Bad idea or worst idea?

I give all due credit to Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News for raising the topic of community ownership of the Dodgers and giving it a realistic appraisal. It has generated a lot of online conversation, which you can follow at his blog, Farther Off the Wall.

Having said that, can I tell you just how much I hate this idea?  I don’t just mean that it’s unrealistic, which it is, as pretty much everyone concedes.  I mean it is really, really unappealing to me.

Don’t construe my response as an endorsement of anyone named McCourt as owner – far from it. But fan ownership to me is completely not the answer in my mind. It is the fire that has the potential to make the frying pan look comfy.

Has everyone gotten amnesia about what it’s like when a group of Dodger fans talk about what’s best for the team? Opinions, to eschew a coarser term, are like snowflakes – none are the same. Now imagine millions of them at once. The cacophony of disagreement would be deafening. And yet somehow, a person or persons hired by the fans to run the team would somehow transcend all of this and make everyone happy? I’m not buying that for a second. Yes, they would put the Dodgers’ interests over swimming pools, but the thrill would end there.

The last thing I want to do is make this a political discussion, but as an example, we do gather as a community and choose someone to run something rather near and dear to us – it’s called the city of Los Angeles. And as we can say, some things would get solved, but it’s not like all our problems go away. Given the impatience of most of the fan base in Los Angeles, the instability for the Dodgers in almost every aspect of the organization would probably be like nothing we’ve ever seen before (which is saying something in this era). In my mind, community ownership would essentially turn the Dodgers into a political football – a sport I have no interest seeing the team play.

The best hope for the Dodgers is for a responsible ownership to come in and support a responsible front office. That in itself is much easier said than done, but whatever happens, if we have stuff to complain about, at least we’d be complaining at them, not at each other. On the upside, we could end up with something like the Lakers, whom I think are fine to consider a role model in this respect – not perfect, but much better than what a few million co-owners would achieve.

My vision of community ownership brings to mind the final moments of “The Graduate,” with Ben and Elaine on the bus, having finally gotten together, and saddled with those gloomy “Now what?” expressions on their faces. And even so, I give Ben and Elaine more hope than I’d give the fans who own the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Oct 08

Dodgers make a (not-so?) noteworthy change at the top

Dodgers president Dennis Mannion has ankled the team, with Frank McCourt taking over his duties. (The story was first reported by Dylan Hernandez of the Times.) General manager Ned Colletti, who had been reporting to Mannion, will now be the sort to report to McCourt, unless the tort forces McCourt to abort; he dare not snort or hide in a fort, but must find port or he will be mort.

Sorry … don’t know what happened there.

There’s going to be some hand-wringing about McCourt (re)taking a bigger role in the team, but I don’t know that this makes much of a difference to the Dodgers on the field or in the front office. It’s the same administration either way, especially since Mannion had reported to McCourt anyway. I am curious about how much time Mannion had left on his contract, though.

Mannion’s legacy will include revenue-generating marketing endeavors like Mannywood but also one of the most ill-considered comments by a Dodger executive (Non-McCourt Division) in recent memory when he discussed player acquisition in the same context as acquiring portable concession stands. The tone-deafness of the comment was more noteworthy than the substance, but it was indicative of something that I’m not sure Dodger fans will miss.

For fun, here’s an Associated Press story from March 2009 about the promotions of Mannion and Jamie McCourt.

… “Jamie has done an outstanding job of assembling a talented management team, fostering a positive culture, and building a first-class business operation,” Frank McCourt said.

As CEO, Jamie McCourt will oversee the strategic direction and decisions of the organization, focusing on the development of relationships throughout the Dodgers community and Major League Baseball, and with corporate partners and public officials.

“It allows me to promote a strategic mind-set and build long-term relationships that strengthen our brand,” Jamie McCourt said. “The most important of those relationships is with our fans. So I will invest even more heavily in how we connect with them in every imaginable way.” …

* * *

  • Rafael Furcal makes too much money and gets hurt too often to be a viable trade candidate, but nonetheless, it is worth noting that he now must approve any trade the Dodgers might attempt. Furcal is a five-and-10 player (10 years in the majors, five with the same team), notes Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors, giving him a full no-trade clause.
  • Are you ready for 2011? The Dodgers’ Spring Training schedule is out. Opening Day is February 26 against the Angels, followed by the Camelback Ranch opener the following afternoon.
  • Former Dodger Dave Roberts, recovering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, has been named the Padres’ first-base coach. He had recently been a special assistant in the baseball operations department.
  • As Reds manager Dusty Baker watched Brandon Phillips make the final out in Roy Halladay’s no-hitter Wednesday, he could recall making the final out himself in Nolan Ryan’s record-setting fifth no-hitter in 1981, writes Kevin Baxter of the Times.
  • One of my pet peeves in reading and talking about baseball is how little agreement there is about what a No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5 starter means. Bryan Smith of Fangraphs delves into the topic.
  • No worries, Roberto.
Sep 22

Resolution or desolation in the McCourt trial?

Mediation aimed at a settlement in the McCourt civil case have been scheduled for Friday, according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and The Associated Press.

Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce on Tuesday’s Mccourtroom events:

… My gut feeling, the basics of which are shared by several close watchers, is that Frank and Jamie absolutely meant to execute the Massachusetts MPA–the one now extraordinarily favorable to Frank. Remember, it was not always so imbalanced. I believe that Frank wanted the upside and Jamie the stability. But, several years later, as the value of the team skyrocketed and the value of high-end real estate plummeted, Jamie’s late discovery of the document switch might have given her legal team all it needs.

Their argument is simple: if you have two sets of documents which are completely opposite on a material term, how can you enforce either? Jamie isn’t asking Judge Gordon to bless the California MPA. She wants the whole thing tossed, which would put into motion a series of events nearly certain to lead to the sale of the Dodgers.

Frank’s counter is pretty simple itself. Jamie admits to not reading either version of the MPA–she had no knowledge of the California Agreement until this year. If she meant to sign the Massachusetts MPA, the argument goes, and she never knew of the discrepancy at the time of execution, shouldn’t the court enforce the Agreement she meant to sign? Frank supports this case by trotting out witnesses who can testify to Jamie’s knowledge of marital property law and intent to insulate herself from the risks associated with the Dodgers acquisition.

At the end of the day, the lasting question is this: What do you do when two parties signed a document they never read containing Exhibits conflicting as to the most important item in the document? If you believe they meant one thing, is that enough? Or do you have to throw it all out on its face?

Those questions aren’t easy to answer, and each party risks a ton by leaving the issues up to Judge Gordon. That’s why the parties will meet Friday morning at 9:30 in front of Judge Peter Lichtman in confidential, non-binding mediation. Both sides are expected to present Judge Lichtman with a brief summary of exactly what they would want and need in a settlement. If, to use a term of art introduced to this litigation in Silverstein’s testimony yesterday, there is a nexus between the parties’ needs and wants, I believe it’s entirely possible this thing is resolved shortly. …

* * *

  • The state of Casey Blake, from Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness:
  • … There’s only been seventeen seasons since 1961 in which a third baseman 37 or older (since Blake will be 37 most of next year) has managed to even play enough to qualify for the batting title. Looking at that list, most of them are Hall of Famers (Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Jr.), or about to be (Chipper Jones) – and even then there’s quite a few dreadful seasons on that list. Do we really expect that Casey Blake is the one who bucks that trend?

  • In 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays are winning with a lower payroll than the Dodgers. In 2011, the Rays will be trying to do so with an even lower payroll, according to Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times (via Hardball Talk).
  • Former Arizona manager A.J. Hinch has been hired as vice president of professional scouting by San Diego.
  • My little girl is eight today. Eight!  Goodness …  happy birthday, sweetie.
Sep 21

Pivotal moment could turn trial against Frank McCourt

Doubt intensified about the legitimacy of the post-nuptial agreement between Frank and Jamie McCourt after lawyer Larry Silverstein, who drafted the agreement on behalf of both, testified in court today that he altered the agreement after it was signed and didn’t tell Jamie about the change.

If, because of questions concerning the agreement, Frank loses the case or is forced to settle — two events that would lead to joint ownership rights — that could lead to a sale of the Dodgers, pending appeals if there is no settlement.

From ESPN.com:

In a key exchange, Jamie McCourt’s attorney David Boies questioned Silverstein about the change made to the agreement:

“The words that you wrote on the California version of exhibit A mean that Frank’s interest in the Dodgers is not included in his separate property, correct?” Boies asked.

“That’s not what I meant,” Silverstein replied.

Boies: “But it’s how it reads, correct?”

Silverstein: “Just going by the words that’s correct. But it was an error.”

Boies: “Who gets to determine which of the two versions is in error? Is that up to you, unilaterally?”

Silverstein: “No.”

Sep 16

Moral of the story: You shouldn’t


Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/AP ImagesLouie De Palma

In the first season of “Taxi,” there was an episode, “Bobby’s Big Break,” where the aspiring actor played by Jeff Conaway got the big role he had been waiting for, and with a grand gesture, quit the cab-driving racket.

The job fell through, and it became clear to the conscience of the Sunshine Cab Company, Alex Reeger (Judd Hirsch), that Bobby would be crawling back to ask his dispatcher Louie (Danny De Vito) for his old job.

Louie was beside himself. He reveled in the anticipation of how he would rub his nose in Bobby’s failure. It was a bravura performance by De Vito, one of the highpoints of this classic show. Louie would be going in for the kill.

Alex urged Louie not to do it, to hire back Bobby without doing any more damage. Louie cackled. Why on earth would he ever do such a thing?

“Because,” Alex said, with dead seriousness (and nothing else to offer), “you shouldn’t.”

Louie went nuts. “I shouldn’t?  I shouldn’t?? Oh no, I shouldn’t!”  It went on and on. You’ve never seen such fine mockery of such a preposterous notion.

Bobby entered. The moment was coming.  Louie could barely contain himself, purring like a tiger poised for the pounce.

Bobby asked for his job back.

And Louie said, polite as can be, “Welcome back.”  And turned away, growling.

As far as Dodger fans are concerned, this is all we have. Despite Peter O’Malley, whom Bill Plaschke of the Times correctly describes as the conscience of the Dodger legacy, voicing what so many have been thinking – that the Dodgers don’t belong in the McCourt hands – we are at that family’s mercy, at least until the matter is resolved in the courts. And it could be a long time before that resolution comes.

The McCourts have the Dodgers, and have shown no sign they intend to get rid of them voluntarily. Everyone in that splintering family aims to keep them.

And all we can say to them is: “You shouldn’t.” And ask that they can reach the moral heights in the business world … of Louie De Palma.

Wish us good luck.

* * *

Congratulations to Russ Mitchell on his first major-league hit and home run. Giants 10, Dodgers 2.

Sep 16

Report: O’Malley says McCourt ownership needs to sell

Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley, who has publicly been almost completely silent on the current ownership issues with the team, told Bill Shaikin of the Times that he believes the team should have new ownership.

He said he is not interested in returning to ownership but would be willing to smooth the transition for potential new owners on what he called a “short-term” basis.

“For many years, the Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious institutions in our city and throughout professional sports,” O’Malley said. “Sadly, that is not the case today.”

McCourt responded through a statement from his spokesman, Steve Sugerman.

“Frank has made it abundantly clear he is the long-term owner of the Dodgers,” Sugerman said, “and he looks forward to the day when his four boys own and operate the team.” …

* * *

Dodger coach Bob Schaefer had some weirdly noteworthy comments today in an interview with Jim Bowden on XM radio. Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has details.

One of them was a no-comment on Matt Kemp that was followed by a comment that indicates there is no love lost there. Another reportedly had Schaefer saying that Don Mattingly had turned down “managerial positions” to stay in Los Angeles, but I’m wondering if Schaefer really meant or said “managerial interviews.”

Also, it’s one thing for me to say the Dodgers have issues for next season, but it’s a bit unusual for a coach to say the team “will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat” to contend. Presumably, Schaefer has already plotted his own exit from the organization.

Schaefer said he doesn’t think Joe Torre will manage the Dodgers next season, but that he will stay in the game in some capacity. However, Torre told reporters that

* * *

  • David Brown has a barrel-of-fun interview with Vin Scully at Yahoo! Sports’ Big League Stew.
  • Russ Mitchell is the only Dodger since 1920 to start a game at first, third and the outfield in his first season, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.
  • One of my earliest memories as a baseball fan is reading in Baseball Digest about Rennie Stennett’s 1975 7-for-7 game, in which Pittsburgh shut out Chicago, 22-0. Chris Jaffe recalls the event in The Hardball Times.
  • Howard “Howie” Levine, the longtime Grant High School boys basketball coach whom I first met more than 20 years ago as a Daily News sportswriter, has worked as a Dodger Stadium usher for 38 years. On Tuesday, the night that the Dodgers honor their employees of 25 years or more, Levine will sing the National Anthem.
Sep 08

Russ Mitchell to make major-league debut at first base

In case you’re wondering why Russ Mitchell is getting to make his major-league debut ahead of John Lindsey, this Dodgers.com video of Ned Colletti congratulating Lindsey on his call-up and telling him he would fly his Mississippi-based family to the Dodgers’ upcoming four-gamer in Houston offers a clue.

* * *

Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley figures prominently in this Sports Illustrated feature by Lee Jenkins on the chaos in team ownership.

* * *

Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. looks at just how poor the Dodger outfield has become. Interesting tidbit: Andre Ethier has been striking out more than Matt Kemp, which is saying something.

Sep 02

Potential appeal could keep Dodgers in McCourt hands for years

There’s an angle of the McCourt divorce trial that I think has been underplayed. From The Days and Tweets of Molly Knight:

To sum up (if Frank is losing): either Frank pays Jamie off and keeps team–which would be the sane thing–or Jamie wins and Frank spends 2 years appealing.

And also:

Whoever loses on MPA is likely to appeal. With the logjam in CA courts now, that could take up to 36 months, I’m told. Worst case, obvs.

It could be a while just to get a decision on this trial from Judge Scott Gordon, if there is no settlement.

Judge will have 90 days AFTER trial ends in late September to make his decision on MPA. So we night not know until Christmas. 

After this week, the trial takes a break, not scheduled to resume until Sept. 20.

* * *

Whenever I told people that the divorce wasn’t to blame for the current state of the Dodger finances, I tried to emphasize that it was because the finances would have been what they were even if the McCourts remained happily married. Bill Shaikin’s piece in the Times underscores that point.

The divorce didn’t cause the Dodgers’ financial problems. It’s what brought those problems up to the surface.

* * *

Other links:

  • Breath of fresh air: Hong-Chih Kuo played some catch with fans in the Dodger Stadium bleachers, as you can see in this post from Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Albuquerque had its own bullpen nightmare Wednesday, blowing a 13-6 ninth-inning lead. It was a key loss that could accelerate the end of the Isotopes’ season (and, if you’re looking for silver linings, possibly bring some callups to Los Angeles sooner). Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner has more; Jon Link gave up the final five runs in the shocking (note Jackson’s URL) 15-13 defeat.

    “We had one more (pitcher) but I can’t use everybody,” (manager Tim) Wallach said, adding that anyone left would not have been able to pitch for very long.

“That first night kind of set us up in a bad spot for the doubleheader (Tuesday) and then tonight,” Wallach added, referring to the Isotopes’ 20-9 loss on Monday that saw them use six relievers.

  • Not only have the Dodgers been muffing an opportunity over the past several days to make a surge in the National League wild-card race, they could have made a dramatic run for the NL West title, thanks to San Diego finally hitting a cold streak and losing seven straight games. Putting aside how slim their playoff hopes are, the Dodgers could technically be closer to the NL West lead than the wild card as early as Saturday if the Padres lose to the Rockies and the Phillies keep winning.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness points out some things to keep an eye on in the likely event that the pennant race goes on without the Dodgers. Among them: Whether to ease up on 22-year-old Clayton Kershaw.
  • As you might know, each year that James Loney’s salary increases, it becomes harder to tolerate his below average value as a first baseman — making him one of the decisions the Dodgers must confront in their busy upcoming offseason. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. takes a detailed look at Riddle Me Loney.
Jul 14

Behind the scenes with the McCourts


Carlos Delgado/APJamie and Frank McCourt, Sept. 25, 2008

ESPN The Magazine reporter Molly Knight has devoted a fair part of her year to some investigative reporting on Frank and Jamie McCourt. Here is the published product of her efforts, which I suspect only scratches the surface of what she learned.

Knight was kind enough to take a break from the McCourt whirlwind to talk to Dodger Thoughts about the pair and their legal showdown:

Math quiz: How many hours did you spend reporting this story?

I couldn’t even begin to count. I’m sure I spent at least 60 hours talking with their lawyers alone.

So much of this case hinges on the post-nup agreement to give the real estate to Jamie and the Dodgers to Frank. What can we say for certain about its validity, and what is legitimately unresolved about it?

That it exists is the only certainty. Right now Frank and Jamie are arguing about the schedules on the back after the signature page. Schedule A is Frank’s take; schedule B is Jamie’s haul. Unfortunately for Frank, his lawyer Larry Silverstein sent a draft to Jamie via e-mail about a week before it was executed that said Frank’s take (on schedule A) excluded the Dodgers. Frank’s lawyer Stephen Susman told me that was just a typo and that it was fixed before she signed it. Yikes.

Then on March 30 – the day before they signed the marital property agreement (MPA) in Boston – Silverstein sent an e-mail to Jamie without the schedules attached. You start to get the feeling why she says she was confused.

There are six copies of the marital property agreement for some reason. Jamie signed all six in Boston. Frank signed three in Boston and three two weeks later in L.A. Those documents have been in a vault in a law office for the past six years. They were flown to Long Beach yesterday (via private plane, I’m sure) to be examined by forensic scientists. The copies Frank signed in Boston were determined not to have been tampered with. Meaning they proved that Jamie signed over the Dodgers. The copies Frank signed in L.A., however, did not have the original schedule A that was present when Jamie signed them. What I think may have happened is Silverstein realized the typo’d version not giving Frank the Dodgers had accidentally been stapled to three of them and switched them out. This could come back to kill Frank.

After spending five minutes with Jamie you can’t convince me this is a woman who would knowingly sign away the Dodgers. She wants the spotlight like Dodgers fans want Cliff Lee. Plus she’s a shrewd businesswoman. I don’t see a scenario in which she knowingly gave that up. I also don’t know that I buy Frank tricked her. I think the likeliest scenario (if she did in fact sign the MPA giving away the Dodgers) is that the family had so much to do before going to L.A. – so many papers to sign and things to pack – that she didn’t read it all the way through. I mean, when you have a stack of things on your desk to sign and you are moving cross-country the next day do you take the time to sit down and read every word? I know I wouldn’t. She may not have known she was signing away the team, but if she did sign it she’s pretty much toast. A contract is a contract.

Considering how much the McCourts borrowed, why didn’t it occur to them to maybe rein in personal expenses just a little?

They live in a different world than we do, is the best answer to that. Frank has spent his adult life borrowing Peter to pay Paul. The only thing that changed is he got his hands on some better collateral. I think they were riding the gravy train knowing that when the TV rights came up in 2013 they’d become rich beyond their wildest dreams. I also think they desperately wanted to be part of L.A.’s high society. Trouble is out here you have to be a movie star to be A-List. No one cared until this divorce hit.

Is Frank really running out of money, or is this just a shell game?

It’s not so much that he’s running out of money as it is he has no liquidity. There was a great memo I saw from Frank’s money manager in 2008 describing his “love/hate” relationship with cash. “Love to have it, hate to have it lying around.” I believe he is having a hard time paying her because he doesn’t believe in putting money in his checking account.

Was Jamie’s role with the Dodgers unclear from the start, or did it just turn out that way after she and Frank started having problems?

It was unclear from the start. I talked to a guy who was responsible for writing her bio in the media guide before the 2005 season, and he said they did it 27 or 28 times. They’d send it to her for approval and she’d send it back, etc. She was definitely very involved – probably even more so than Frank – and that might have pissed a lot of people off because they thought she gummed up the works by interjecting herself into the most random things. Another thing I heard from a few people – which didn’t make the story – is that she never bothered to learn the names of stadium employees she interacted with every day, from the security guards to the people who brought her drinks in her luxury box.

The PR department pleaded with her to take care of the people closest to her, because if you don’t do that you’re likely to get sniped. I think that’s what you’re seeing now in the press with both of them. Jamie acted a bit like Marie Antoinette (if these Dodgers employees are to be believed), and Frank created too many enemies by firing longtime Dodgers execs at will. I think that was their biggest mistake more than anything else they’ve done. They’ve created too many enemies to contain this PR nightmare. It wasn’t that hard to get people to talk.

What was her biggest impact on the organization?

I still have no idea. Oh, maybe the hiring of Ned Colletti. I’ve heard stories that she became close friends with Jeff Kent after he volunteered to help domestic violence victims as part of her WIN Initiative. Both she and Frank respected Kent’s willingness to serve the community. Jeff mentioned Ned Colletti to Jamie because he knew they were looking for a GM. Jamie suggested it to Frank. Ned killed in his interview because he didn’t ask how much money he’d have to play with. A few former execs told me all this, so take it with a grain of salt. But it starts to make sense that Kent was responsible for Colletti when you see the contract extension he was rewarded with after Colletti got there.

What was the most surprising thing you learned that you can talk about?

Besides the fact that Jamie Enterprises is 500 feet from where Frank now lives? Gosh. Um. Probably that they don’t hate each other and they’re both sad. They went to the homecoming dance together freshman year at Georgetown. Jamie told me she was ready to be with him forever until she died. That was sad. She is sad. He is sad. I asked her why they can’t just get together over a beer and put this behind them. She told me to ask Frank. Frank wouldn’t talk to me.

How shocked would we be by some of the stuff you can’t talk about?

I don’t think any of you would be shocked by anything anymore. I think your gag reflexes have been stretched.

At this point, do you expect the parties to settle?

Yeah, I do. I think the pressure to settle rises as the trial date gets closer. In addition to this being a PR nightmare, Frank has so much more to lose financially than Jamie at this point. They’re looking at staples and wondering if that MPA should be thrown out. If that happens he will be living a nightmare. I don’t think he can take that risk. If I’m Frank I pay her off with a backloaded deal. She can collect when the TV rights transfer to Frank in 2013.

Why do you think they didn’t settle this sooner, before more damage was done?

You’re asking me why Frank and Jamie are Frank and Jamie. I don’t think their split has anything to do with Jeff Fuller. I think Frank was tired of the figurative (and maybe literal) Project Jamie that was running wild on the Dodgers’ dime. I think he was annoyed that his wife considered herself the face of the Dodgers instead of, say, Andre Ethier. Eventually he’d had enough. But where he screwed up was in treating Jamie like just another adversary. This is a guy who Jamie alleges sued his own father-in-law because he didn’t want to pay him back. The man loves a lawsuit. And it’s worked out quite nicely for him, hasn’t it? He was in litigation for 17 years over a parking lot he parlayed into a baseball team. The trouble is this is the mother of his children. It doesn’t help public perception that he is a nice person.

If this goes all the way through trial, what do you think will be the ruling?

I have no idea, and neither does Frank, which is why he can’t take the risk of it going to trial. There is a chance that even if the MPA is found valid that the judge will rip it up because it’s patently unfair. (He can do that.) Jamie is the underdog, but if I’m Frank I don’t want to take any chances.

Who do you think will own the Dodgers next year? What’s going to happen to this franchise?

Frank McCourt. I think he’ll settle to get Jamie out of his hair. The franchise will probably be OK eventually. If they get back to investing in the draft and in the Latin American market, then they’ll have the prospects to trade for deadline rentals that will complement the team’s already fantastic core. At this point I think the success of the team has more to do with the performance of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw than of Stephen Susman and David Boies. I know Dodgers fans are sick of the McCourts, but there is no guarantee that a new owner would be any better. There is no owner’s manual, and no law that says the Dodgers’ owner must spend $140 million on payroll. It will be interesting to see if Frank ups the ante when more revenue starts rolling in with the TV stuff, though. That has certainly bankrolled the Yankees’ run.

Jul 13

CSI: McCourt – If the staple’s legit, you must submit?

Frank McCourt’s camp claimed a significant victory today in his battle royale with Jamie McCourt, with two sets of forensic scientists stating that a post-nup agreement that purports to give him control of the Dodgers is legitimate, reports Molly Knight of ESPN The Magazine. But surprise – Camp Jamie said, “Not so fast.”

… The agreement was extracted from a vault at the Boston law firm of Bingham McCutchen and examined by scientists from each team in Los Angeles on Tuesday.Jamie McCourt’s lawyers content that there are six different copies of the document, and tests show that three of them — signed at a different time than the other three, the lawyers said — did not include Schedule A when Jamie McCourt signed them. Schedule A lists the assets Frank McCourt claims he is entitled to — including the Dodgers.

Susman said the scientists found the document contained the original staple from 2004. In addition, an imprint of Jamie McCourt’s signature was determined to exist on the page that names Frank as sole owner — a potentially devastating blow to Jamie’s chances of being given half the team in the divorce settlement.

“We’ve got the same staple and her signature on something she claims she never signed,” says (McCourt lawyer Stephen) Susman. “Which proves all along she was not telling the truth.”

Jamie McCourt’s lawyers contend that because Larry Silverstein, the lawyer who drafted the document, has testified that he went over it with Jamie, he may have gone over a different version than the one signed by Frank McCourt. …

Frank McCourt still has other hurdles he must clear to walk away with the team after this goes to trial on Aug. 30, including Judge Scott Gordon’s right to throw the marital property agreement out on the basis of its fairness: The Dodgers are estimated to be worth nearly $800 million, and the team will be worth much more than that when it regains broadcasting rights from Fox in 2013.

If the team is able to establish a television station akin to the Yankees’ YES Network, it could potentially generate billions of dollars in revenue. The homes Jamie McCourt would walk away with would be worth around $100 million. …

Oh by the way — there’s more. Frank McCourt claimed in court today that his personal liquidity is down to $600,000 and that he borrowed money from his brother to make his latest monthly $650,000 spousal support payment to Jamie. (But, of course, we’re told that the Dodgers’ finances are not entwined with those of McCourt.)

Read the full story here.

May 07

Awaiting a roster move …

The Dodgers were due to make a roster move before tonight’s game to make room for Jeff Weaver coming off the disabled list, but it was not available when I was heading off to the magic show at my kids’ school. (The announcement was coming after batting practice.) So you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out who magically disappears from the team.

In the meantime, a couple of comments from Dodger manager Joe Torre to reporters:

On Xavier Paul: “He has a certain attitude about the way he plays the game. He’s pretty cool at the plate, he doesn’t get too excited and had a big two-strike hit last night. He is doing better in the field.”

On Charlie Haeger: “I’d like to see what I saw the other night: He needs to be around the plate with the knuckleball. He said he needs to just go out there and pitch, and has been over complicating things for himself.”

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Frank McCourt has been ordered to pay Jamie McCourt $637,000 per month in spousal support, retroactive to December, reports The Associated Press. The McCourts have also been told to sell their $7 million home in Cabo San Lucas and split the proceeds to help cover their legal fees, according to TMZ. Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce has more:

The biggest damage to Frank coming out of today’s news is that Commissioner Gordon didn’t buy Frank’s neat little attempt to have the court bless the post-nup. Frank, you’ll recall, wanted the court to order Jamie to dispose of some of the couple’s real estate to help pay her bills. Such an order would have implicitly acknowledged the validity of the post-nup, which stipulates that the residential properties are Jamie’s and the Dodgers Frank’s in the case of a divorce.

If it makes you feel any better, it’s not like that money would have gone into the team had the McCourts stuck together.

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Earlier this week, Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News reflected on how Ernie Harwell might have come to Los Angeles with the Dodgers and Vin Scully could have ended up the Giants’ play-by-play man.