Nov 04

Friday tidings

As we enjoy more recovery progress from Bryan Stow

  • Juan Rivera’s new Dodger contract is official, and it guarantees him at least $4.5 million including a $500,000 buyout if the Dodgers don’t pick up a $4 million 2013 option. (That’s right — same base salary both years, because apparently the Dodgers were worried they might not be able to overpay Rivera two years in a row.) There are also $500,000 in potential incentives each year. The contract is getting pilloried on the Internet, with Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk bringing a particularly hard pillory.
  • There’s $131 million changing hands in the binding divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt, according to The Associated Press, but the more interesting detail might be that Jamie ended up with three Southern California homes and Frank none. He might not just be getting out of the Dodgers — he might be getting out of Dodge.
  • I did a radio interview with A Martinez of ESPN AM 710 on Thursday that made the same point as Ken Rosenthal makes in this column for Fox Sports: I get intellectually why it might be too complicated during this transition period to sign a player like Prince Fielder, but it’s still not clear to me how it would lower the value of the Dodgers when you think of the appeal he would have for so many. If it’s a good contract after ownership changes hands, it’s a good contract before.
  • My brother’s childhood glove was a Matty Alou glove, so we exchanged sad e-mails over his passing Thursday.
  • Another passing to lament: Cardinals pitcher Bob Forsch.
May 19

Will judge heed Jamie McCourt’s request for rapid Dodger sale?

Jamie McCourt is expected to ask Los Angeles Superior Court to order the Dodgers to be sold as soon as possible, Bill Shaikin of the Times reported Wednesday.

Affirmation of this request would remove MLB from the delicate equation of how to extricate the Dodgers from the McCourt family.

The first question that came to mind: Why would Judge Scott Gordon say yes?

… Sources close to Jamie McCourt told ESPN The Magazine’s Molly Knight that Jamie has been alarmed by the prospect of her ex-husband draining equity out of the Dodgers as he digs in to fight MLB from taking over the club. California community property law states that the designated control person of a shared asset has a duty to the non-controlling party to protect the asset from diminishing substantially in value. Jamie’s lawyers are expected to argue that Frank’s ownership is seriously harming the value of the Dodgers — and with it, Jamie’s potential take when the team is sold. …

All that is expected to happen today is that Judge Gordon would set a date for a hearing on Jamie’s formal request. And another legal cycle begins …

Update: ESPNLosAngeles.com has an update on Jamie’s filing, in which she states (for the first time, I believe) that the Dodgers would be better off without McCourt ownership. More from Shaikin:

… “As I’ve said all along, my goal is to resolve this situation for my family in a way that also advances the best interests of the Dodgers fans, players and franchise,” she said. “This motion will hopefully provide some momentum in the right direction.”

Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for Frank McCourt, had no comment Wednesday night, and neither did Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball. In her filing, Jamie McCourt urges Judge Scott Gordon to act before Major League Baseball can seize the Dodgers, arguing the highest sale price could be achieved if couple sells the team, not the league.

“MLB is under no obligation to maximize the proceeds of such a sale,” the filing says. Jamie McCourt specifically asks for a sale of “the Dodger assets,” including the team and its media rights, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. Under McCourt management, the team, the stadium and the parking lots are separate entities, and Frank McCourt has not ruled out the possibility of selling the team but keeping the stadium and/or the land. …

If Gordon does not order the team sold, Jamie McCourt asks that the judge remove Frank McCourt as the spouse in control of the Dodgers and install her in that position. …

Update 2: Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy had a funny exchange with former Dodger pitcher Dave Stewart, the agent for Matt Kemp.

Baly: “Hey Dave, when is Matt Kemp signing that big contract?”

Stewart: “Soon as you get real owners.”

Update 3: Judge Gordon set the hearing for June 22, a date that might come too late to prevent MLB from taking control of the Dodgers.

Mar 02

The tiger blood of Frank McCourt (#winning)


Getty ImagesFrank McCourt, Charlie Sheen

I haven’t written about the McCourts in a while, not that I sense many of you are complaining. Anyway, here’s a link to some news Tuesday, from Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine:

Lawyers for Jamie McCourt filed a motion Tuesday in superior court seeking greater financial transparency from her estranged ex-husband, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, calling his recent attempt to secure loans to ease his cash-flow problems without their client’s knowledge “outrageous.” …

The filing comes on the heels of last week’s report by the Los Angeles Times (by Bill Shaikin) that Frank tried, and failed, to secure a $200 million loan from Fox Television against the team’s cable TV rights. Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig rejected that deal, “a clear sign that Frank’s actions were deemed to be not in the best interests of the franchise,” Jamie McCourt’s court filing stated. …

Frank McCourt’s attorney, Ryan Kirkpatrick, said his client “has fully complied, and will continue to comply, with his obligations to Jamie.” He added that the two sides have already scheduled a meeting to talk about the “parties’ requests for information from one another, and the mechanics of exchanging that information.” …

It has been nearly 1 1/2 years since the McCourts’ marital problems went public, throwing the franchise into its current turmoil. It has come to feel like a fog to me. We drive forward, determined to reach our destination but without clear vision. And the brighter we shine the lights, the more opaque it becomes.

As some of you know, I’ve spent a good deal of time in my day job over the past few days on the Charlie Sheen beat. It’s given me a small taste of what it’s been like for the Shaikins, Knights and Josh Fishers of the world, although I have to think some of them would trade a McCourt for a Sheen in an erratic heartbeat. The sensation that was Vladimir Shpunt has been coming out of Sheen’s mouth every five minutes or so since Thursday – what they might have given to hear Frank say, “It’s been a media tsunami, and I’ve been riding a mercury surfboard.”

People like Sheen and the McCourts become stories, long past anyone’s desire or patience to hear more about them, because like them or not, they have high-stakes fates. The fate of one of baseball’s most valuable and historic franchises rests on the McCourts … and yet the value of that franchise pales in comparison to what “Two and a Half Men,” the CBS sitcom Sheen stars in, has been worth to the network and producing studio Warner Bros. Before production was suspended on the series, Sheen was making approximately $1.8 million per episode. In calendar 2010, Sheen appeared in 23 episodes, meaning a base salary of more than $41 million before you even begin discussing his ancillary income from syndication and other sources.  Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt – these guys are paupers compared to Sheen.

I would dare say I’ve written almost as little as my jobs have allowed about Sheen and the McCourts, but ignoring them completely has been impossible. It’s hard to deny that there are real stories there. They could use some editing, but they are stories. And that’s without even getting into the life-and-death stakes for some in the Hollywood tale.

I’m not going to try to stretch out too many parallels between Charlie Sheen and Frank McCourt, but I can’t help thinking there’s at least one. Sheen has made it clear that he is living by his own rules. He believes those rules are fair and righteous, and the fact that society, fans of his show, the people he (at least previously) answered to or even blood relatives might not share that view does not matter. Setbacks are hurdles to be bulldozed. “Defeat is not an option,” Sheen says over and over again.

One of Sheen’s most memorable lines came when he was railing against Alcoholics Anonymous, saying that it is for “people that are not special, people who do not have tiger blood and Adonis DNA.” Charlie Sheen believes he has tiger blood. And though he would never say it like this, I suspect that in his own way, Frank McCourt believes he has tiger blood too.

Over the past 15 months, McCourt has seemed unshakable in his belief that what he’s doing is right. That what he’s doing is best for his children. That anything one might call a mistake or selfishness is, at worst, a means to an end. That the people who question him simply don’t understand. That he will be vindicated. That because he’s been a winner in the past, he’ll be a winner in the future. Even when he’s ridden on the edge of the cliff.

I imagine that tiger blood is a trait shared by a number of people who become successful, but there comes a point when it goes beyond empowering and becomes a pollutant. I have no expectations that this tiger is going to change his stripes. I don’t believe he’s going to give up the Dodgers without clawing or scratching through the last fight. But tiger blood makes people selfish to the extreme, and even allowing for the eccentricities and entitlements of ownership, circumstances have long since stopped any reasonable defense of his fight.

Yes, McCourt has rights. But he also has duties.

For all his romping and stomping, Sheen realizes that there is life after “Two and a Half Men.” It’s time that the McCourts embark upon life after the Dodgers. It’s time they find a new passion. Quit this pretense that you’re the best thing for this franchise, quit this pretense that your children deserve to inherit leadership of the team, and let go.

Dec 07

Breaking news: Jamie McCourt wins ownership trial

Judge Scott Gordon of the Los Angeles Superior Court has ruled in favor of Jamie McCourt in her dispute with Frank McCourt over ownership of the Dodgers, throwing out the couple’s marital property agreement. This grants shared custody of the team to both parties, though Frank McCourt will no doubt appeal.

From Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine:

The judge presiding over the bitter battle for the Los Angeles Dodgers has granted Jamie McCourt’s request to throw out the marital property agreement that gives her ex-husband sole ownership of the team. In a 100-page decision given to attorneys for both parties, Judge Scott Gordon found that the contract at the heart of the fight over the team was not valid or enforceable and that it must be set aside. …

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 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.
Sep 02

The 2010 Dodgers and the reinvention of lying

White lies, little and giant, have always been part of baseball — even the creation of the game is rooted in myth. But I can’t remember a year since I’ve been following the Dodgers that seems as defined by misinformation as 2010.

The tone was set last fall by Frank and Jamie McCourt as they prepared to do battle for ownership of the franchise, with the he said/she said battle positions flowering during numerous public revelations this year, leaving us with the bouquet of stinkweed at the trial that began this week. I’m not saying that someone’s been trying to pull a lot of wool over someone’s eyes, but lambs across the country are shivering in 90-degree heat.

It hasn’t only been the McCourts. Matt Kemp is held out of the starting lineup for days at a time, and the explanations richochet like bumper cars. He’s tired, he needs to get his head together, he’s in a battle with a coach, he needs to go talk to Joe Torre, Joe Torre needs to talk to him.

Manny Ramirez is finally ready to play after a painfully long absence, and yet he’s not playing. It’s matchups against the pitcher, it’s the square footage of the opposing outfield, it’s Torre playing a hunch, it’s to protect Ramirez for his waiver sendoff to the American League, it’s Ramirez’s own pigheadedness.

And then there are the media columnists who will bend and even break the truth to suit the stories they are determined to write, heedless of the facts.

This all comes on top of the game’s typical lies, such as a player hiding an injury (often to the detriment of the team), that are so familiar and yet so tedious.

It has bred a cynicism so rampant in many of us that even when a Dodger executive of unimpugned integrity like Logan White said in June with complete honesty that he drafted Zach Lee with the full intention of trying to sign him, few believed him – and most of the few who did simply believed he was lying to himself.

Baseball in general, and the Dodgers in particular, don’t necessarily owe us the truth, and I understand little white lies will always be part of the game. Baseball is a business, a culture and a family, and in all three fib to protect themselves. But this year, the cumulative effect of the lying has had a punishing effect. Last week, when Ramirez missed his final four chances to start after reaching base in his final four plate appearances as a starter, I rolled my eyes so much that they bowled a 270. It would be a bit much to pull the “have you no decency” card, but surely there doesn’t need to be such contempt for the truth to operate a baseball team in Los Angeles.

The grievances of Dodger fans are many, perhaps too many and perhaps sometimes too petty. But the feeling is almost unshakable that the Dodger organization has gone too far in insulting the intelligence of the fans. If our expectations are sometimes too high, that doesn’t mean the Dodger players, coaches, manager, executives and ownership don’t need to aim higher. In the end, winning is all that matters, but integrity goes a long way toward soothing the spirit when you’re losing.

Let’s put it this way: If you as an organization choose to espouse the heart and hustle and grit and gristle of players like Scott Podsednik and Jamey Carroll, then maybe you need to apply those values to your own, you know, values. Character in a baseball team is defined by more than how fast you run down the line. You’re telling me character matters, yet you’re not acting like it.

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.

Mar 16

Absence without malice: Cory Wade now sidelined by surgery


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Cory Wade’s 2009 season still looked bright when he bailed Hiroki Kuroda out of a bases loaded jam in his first appearance of the year April 6, but things began going south soon after.

It says something about the disappearance of Cory Wade from the radar that I didn’t rush to blog about his impending shoulder surgery. Okay, it also says something about my crazy schedule, but you get the idea.

Initial estimates are that Wade will be out for three months, though it’s too soon to say whether that’s too long or too short a guess.  In any case, we’re talking about a guy who’s still only 26 years old. Hopefully they can solve whatever’s bothering him and get him back closer to the form that made him such a critical part of the Dodger bullpen in 2008.

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POTUS potables: Great reaction piece by Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce to Jamie McCourt’s Oval Office ambitions.

… My first instinct on this is that it’s being blown out of proportion. This is probably just the daydream of a very wealthy woman. We all get carried away. It’s just that most of us don’t have the power to make people indulge us and create action plans for carrying out our whims. And, it’s quite safe to say, our delusions of grandeur rarely reach as far as attaining the highest office in the world.

What bothers me more about the current situation is Jamie’s attempt to spin all the negative publicity into a the-world-is-against-me stance. She’s repeatedly talked about how she doesn’t want the litigation playing out in the public arena. …

… So, if you’re following along at home: Jamie actively and intentionally put herself in the public eye as an owner of the Dodgers. You’ll remember that among the perks she’s seeking compensation for are professional makeup and table sponsorship funds for her many community and charity appearances. When the attention was positive and served her own ends–altruistic or otherwise–she sought the public eye.

Now that the attention is not so kind, she portrays her plight as the unfortunate acquisition of “unwanted celebrity.” This is either naive or outright manipulative. Jamie has a habit of wanting things both ways; she wanted to be protected from creditors’ claims in case the businesses failed, but now seeks half the businesses’ worth. She desired attention–was paid to draw attention–when coverage was positive, but claims to be the victim of “unwanted celebrity” now that coverage isn’t so rosy. …


Feb 21

So, you were wondering about the Dodgers’ 2018 payroll?

Bill Shaikin of the Times has another batch of revelations from last week’s Jamie McCourt legal filings indicating that, while player payroll has remained steady through last year, the Dodgers planned on keeping it below 2009 levels for most of the next decade despite projected increases in revenue.

For my part, I don’t happen to think the Dodgers are capable of predicting what their team payroll will be eight years from now, as the documents suggest. As Vin Scully might say, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your 2018 budget.”

Furthermore, as Shaikin writes, the projected payroll (relative to projected revenue) in these documents is so low that even MLB commissioner Bud Selig (or, in all probability, his successor) would object.

… The Dodgers spent 46% of revenue on player compensation in 2007 and 42% in 2008, according to the documents. The projections call for that percentage to fall to 25% by 2013 and remain at about 25% through 2018.

Commissioner Bud Selig encourages teams to spend about one-half their revenue on player compensation, according to two high-ranking major league executives contacted by The Times.

“That’s Bud’s rule of thumb,” one of the sources said. …

In other words, while this seems juicy, I wouldn’t overreact. The documents, Shaikin writes, were “prepared by the McCourt management team in May to solicit Chinese investors for a partnership that could have included the Dodgers, a soccer club in Beijing and another in the English Premier League.”  They’re designed to make the Dodgers’ profiteering, if you will, look as glowing as possible. It doesn’t seem to me that the scenario they describe is any more realistic than one that suggests the Dodgers have cheap ticket prices and top-of-the-line payroll. The truth is somewhere in between.

There’s something about having this article come out while I was watching the latest episode of the chaos that is the fourth season of HBO’s “Big Love” that somehow seems all too appropriate. These families have all these ambitions, but the domestic conflicts threaten to destroy them all.

Feb 19

Jamie McCourt court filing shines spotlight on Dodgers’ three-ring circus

First, the links:

“Jamie McCourt doubles request for monthly support,” by Bill Shaikin of the Times.

“In Divorce Suit, Wife Disputes Dodgers’ Owner’s Wealth,” by John R. Emshwiller of the Wall Street Journal.

“Filings Running Wild,” by Joshua Fisher of Dodger Divorce.

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Jamie McCourt’s various requests for monthly support from Frank McCourt are, in many ways, a sideshow in contrast to the springtime courtroom event that will determine whether one owns the Dodgers or both do. So I’ll just point to the most interesting tent attractions: Continue reading