Monday, October 26, 2009

So This Is What It's Become This Off-Season

In lieu of real sports coverage, the kind that you'd find covered on sites like ESPN.com, Dodger off-season news has sunk to lows like McCourt divorce coverage on sites like TMZ.com:

We got these pictures of Jamie yesterday, lunching in Malibu with Jeff Fuller -- the new guy in her life. Now, in the awkward department, until recently Jeff was the Director of Protocol for the Dodgers.

We're told Jamie and Fuller began seeing each other after she split with Frank. Fuller was fired from the Dodgers in mid-October.

BTW, Fuller's late mom was an heir to the Pillsbury fortune ... translation, he's loaded.

Look, divorce is an ugly business. And it's uglier when it involves public figures and nosy paparazzi and rampant speculation. And that's where we are right now: speculation. I mean, we know Frank McCourt has fired Jamie McCourt from her position as CEO of the Dodgers; all traces of Jamie have been erased from the Dodgers' front office page.

And we know--and when I say "know", I mean read on TMZ.com,--that Frank mailed his termination notice to his wife, citing inappropriate behavior with a direct report as one of the reasons for the sudden dismissal:

"Because your employment is held at-will, the Organization is not required to have cause to terminate your employment and may do so for any reason or no reason at all.

However, your actions, including, but not limited to, your insubordination, non-responsiveness, failure to follow procedures, and inappropriate behavior with regard to a direct subordinate, have made this decision necessary."

But really, what do we know? What's written in this note and leaked to the press is clearly Frank McCourt's attempt to manage the spin cycle and get out ahead of Jamie. Is it interesting that she appears to be lunching with Fuller, a former Dodger employee? Perhaps. Or, it could be just coincidental; after all, rumors are swirling that Jamie is lining up investors to buy out Frank's share of the Dodgers, which Jamie claims she co-owns. Commenters have already insinuated infidelities on Jamie's behalf, connecting the dots and drawing conclusions where facts are not clear. But to rush to judgment on Jamie based on one side's trumpeted press releases seems really premature.

Meanwhile, is there reciprocal impropriety on Frank's behalf? Who the heck knows? Firing your wife of thirty years and the mother of your four children, while the team you (either the singular "you" or collective "you") own doesn't seem to be the most sound and thoughtful business decision, to be sure. But it still remains to be seen whether Frank's problems are just poorly-timed, potentially rash operational decisions. There aren't any TMZ documents leaning in the direction of infidelity, to date. But still, all we know is that Frank seems to be ahead of the press so far, but if annual Smashbox Lipstick stadium giveaways are any indication, Jamie McCourt will drive and advance the things she wants to get done. We know that have retained expensive and prominent legal counsel for representation. So this will continue to get ugly, and it will continue to get confusing, and it will continue to be more and more difficult to separate truth from fiction.

And as an indication, witness Ned Colletti's comments Friday about how team operations will not suffer. Yeah, right. How do we know what monies will be available to spend on the glut of contracts on which we need resolution this off-season, when we can't tell who owns the pursestrings? Does Colletti have to drive back and forth to Frank and Jamie's estates to get financial approval? (And does that scenario sound almost as ridiculous as when you were six years old and tried to play your parents off of each other when trying to get approval to go over to your friend's house after school?)

I feel bad for the McCourts, ending thirty years of marriage by spending time fueling their individual campaigns for public approval and courtroom victory. But I feel orders of magnitude worse for the Dodger team, though, and Dodger fans in extension, both of whom are going to have to watch this slow-motion train wreck unfold all summer long as other teams spend their time and resources on more pressing business and operational matters, such as signing another starting pitcher or second baseman (Dodger fans of Chin-Lung Hu, on the other hand, are probably rejoicing).

We're going to be a mess this off-season.

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Late in the 2009 season, I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine in the backyard, mentioning how I hadn't quite warmed to McCourt ownership despite the fact that the Dodgers were having a banner season and looked like they were playoff-bound for the third time in the last four years.

"Why wouldn't you like McCourt," my friend replied. "He's done everything you've asked: you've signed Manny Ramirez, you've got Joe Torre, you're headed back to the playoffs, and you've got cushy new concessions down on the field level. What else do you want?"

Au contraire, I replied, since I (along with other ticket purchasers) had personally paid dearly for all of those achievements, suffering ransom-like season ticket price increases from $35/seat to $85/seat in two years, as well as parking fee increases from $8 to $15 over the same period. I funded all of those improvements; Frank McCourt, after all, was highly leveraged in acquiring the Dodgers, paying nothing to take the team off of Fox's hands (a point which aligned most fans against him back in 2004).

In my mind, if Frank McCourt was going to be the non-invested figurehead of this organization, the least he could do would be to quit hogging the spotlight whenever he could, figuratively and literally, particularly when he disappeared like Keyzer Soze when negative news arose. Stay in the background, invest in the team, and opinions would come around, I thought. But from my perspective, it appeared that Frank McCourt always thought he was the story, rather than the Dodgers.

Well, now Frank McCourt is out there again, hogging the spotlight once again, and once again at cost to the franchise, which is thrown back into financial purgatory akin to the time when we passed on Vladimir Guerrero. And it sucks.

Just like any divorce, it's the children who are going to suffer. And we Dodger fans are the children, make no mistake.

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The Dodgers got further than 26 other MLB teams this 2009 season, and by almost all accounts it would be hard to think of this season as unsuccessful. Sure, the loss to the Phillies in the NLCS was difficult to stomach; and, it would have been nice to have won at least one more post-season game than the prior year. But that's baseball, and sometimes one Jimmy Rollins swing is the difference between success and failure. And I for one am not going to let that one swing dampen my appreciation for a pretty awesome season where the team continued to overcome adversity after adversity, often in the most dramatic of fashions, all the way until the final stretch.

2009 should be another block upon which to build a foundation of success for the future: a stabilized core of youth showing huge leaps in realized potential; a resilient and cohesive team which has had its mettle tested and emerged with a stronger backbone; and a more exciting, safe, and anjoyable home game experience for all who can stomach the otherworldly prices, sometimes insipid and unworthy first-pitch throwers, and (thankfully) relatively infrequent aural bombardments.

This should be a time when we look at the rest of the NL West and leave their fluky second-half surges and imbalanced rosters in the dust. It should be a time when the Rockies and Giants are receding in our rearview mirrors and are actually farther behind than they really appear (like the Diamondbacks and Padres). It should be an offseason where the Dodgers continue to chart our trajectory toward the ultimate success.

Except it won't be, not with the front office in shambles and the McCourt divorce circus sure to dominate the press and distract the team and shackle the finances and test even the most avid Dodger fans. No, this doesn't promise to resolve any time quickly, not with either party having the finances to buy the other out, and both parties hoarding up acorns for a long winter of discontent. Frankie's stuck with Jamie, Jamie's stuck with Frankie, and we're stuck with both of them. On the sidelines.

I know there's some funny takes on this story. After all, we know funny, and we know biting sarcasm, and we can be just as jester-like mocking others at a funeral as we can at a wedding. And as the press tornado picks up momentum, and we all become anesthetized to the reindeer games that will inevitably transpire, I know I'll be sniping sarcastic comments with the rest of the Sons.

But for now, I'm just sad for the Dodgers, and really sad for Dodger fans. The distaste in my mouth is like the hangover after a long night of scotch drinking and cigar smoking, when everything you eat or drink tastes like an ashtray at a bowling alley. And whatever momentum we had in getting back to the head of the class of the NL West, if not the NL in total, will likely be gone by Opening Day 2010. And this offseason, I'm not looking forward to reading more about us on TMZ than I should be on ESPN.

45 comments:

rbnlaw said...

1. I can confirm that the man pictured in the red shirt is not neeebs.

2. On the bright side, I can celebrate the Yankees 40th AL pennant with commemorative T-shirts, hoodies, and hats.

This is going to be the off-season of our discontent. I feel it in my bones.

Dusty Baker said...

I can confirm that I am, and am likely to remain in the foreseeable future, discontented.


Translated for Fred's Brim:

Dusty still sad.

Dusty Baker said...

Just received a "Thank You Dodgers Fans" email. Accompanying video likely to make me too sad to watch at work. Will save it for later tonight after I'm curled up in a thick robe, a pint of ice cream at the ready, and some tissue by my side (thank you, Tito!).

rbnlaw said...

Thank god it's a thin free agent market this winter.

Steve Sax said...

rbnlaw, are you calling John Lackey thin?

Eric said...

That means any free agent class with a Broxton, Sabathia or Fielder is immediately not a thin market

Neeebs said...

Lackey's going to go for a $100 million contract. Not quite sure that the Dodgers are going to be playing ball with that one.

Steve Sax said...

Neeebs: that's only $50M each for Frank and Jamie, though.

Andrew said...

I can't wait for pictures of Frank McCourt and Brooke Hundley to surface! Photoshop anyone?

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

This offseason is also NBA regular season, so there's that. Plus college football is winding down, then there's college basketball, and the NFL.

Paul said...

I am in the city of angels now.

On the look out for Frank with the camera phone.

Never liked Frank he is a dutch bag. But he does have an interest in winning. He looks much better than our former abusive parents. God they sucked.

Dusty Baker said...

Right-o, Neeeeeeeeebs. Dodgers aren't (and shouldn't, and probably can't) lay out $100,000,000 for Lackey.

Question is, what teams actually can these days? Even Yank-mes, presumably, can't splash that after this year's CC/AJ/Tex signings.

berkowit28 said...

A "dutch bag"?

Maybe a "Netherlandish sack"? An "Amish purse"? A "Holland briefcase"?

Dusty Baker said...

A "dutch bag" is made of wood, like dutch shoes, right?

Or maybe it means we share the cost of the bag?

rbnlaw said...

@Sax,
Lackey is looking svelte, no?

$100m? Don't know if this economy can support that kind of contract. Lord knows Arte doesn't have enough billboards to pay that.
Word is they'll let Figgins walk and Guerrero is toast (I originally spelled that taost, which if I added an i would change his religion).
As soon as this insufferable world series is over, we can all watch the free agents fly by the Dodgers and their dysfunctional parents.

Paul said...

DB

a Dutch bag can be a bag of mutual discontent. An over verbose angry dodger fan or Frank McCourt.

I haven't picked up my shot of frank for TMZ yet. I thought I saw neeebs but it was only Leonard Nimoy.

Dusty Baker said...

Paul-

Let us speculate on what the best places might be to catch Frank around LA.

Paul said...

Checking the bars and figuring Matt Holliday is buying him a round saying he knows physically exactly how frank feels metaphorically.

Paul said...

Then I checked the parking lot since I am paying 15 bucks a night just like at Chavez. At least I get reimbursed for this charge.

Dusty Baker said...

Check out the federal buildings or consulates. I hear he's looking for a new Director of Protocol.

Nic j said...

Less than 24 hours till basketball season starts.

Just sayin'...

Steve Sax said...

Edited the post a bit as of 10:45p this evening, adding a bit more. That's one of the tough things about blogging; in the rush to publish quickly, sometimes one doesn't capture all the things one wants to say.

Sorry for the changes, but I think the piece is a bit better (albeit longer) now.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

http://bit.ly/mQcXK

Abuse, perhaps?

Nic j said...

I think it was all a misunderstanding. Frank was just angry Jamie hadn't paid the 15 dollars to park in his driveway.

Dusty Baker said...

From the TMZ article:

Per McCourt's atty:

"The events described by TMZ occurred when the McCourts had already separated.

Mr. McCourt was living alone at the residence in West Los Angeles and his wife was residing in Malibu. That morning, Mr. McCourt left the house and went jogging. When he returned home to the West Hollywood residence, he found his wife swimming in the pool and her personal "security assistant" Jeff Fuller, was also at the residence.

The news of a 911 call came as a surprise to Mr. McCourt. He had no knowledge of any 911 call at the time; or of any visit by any police officers and any law enforcement has had no contact with him. As previously reported by TMZ, Mrs. McCourt and Mr. Fuller have been linked romantically.

Any 911 call makes no sense at all unless there was an ulterior motive which you can be assured will be fully explored."

If there was abuse, it was Jamie abusing her guest swimming privileges, possibly with her Director of Protocol.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

The whole situation is murky at best, and things are getting more convoluted. Abuse is not outside the realm of possibilities.

Nic j said...

Did Jamie lose her membership card to the YWCA? Do they seriously only have one pool between their four mansions?

I guess I can kind of see how frank might be upset seeing his soon to be ex wife swimming in his pool. A man can only take so much before he cracks like Blake Griffins patella.

Nic j said...

I'm starting to think Harvey Levin is a Giants fan.

Mr. LA Sports Fan said...

It does sound more like it's Jamie's fault, though she's trying to spin it to sound like it's abuse.

Dusty Baker said...

Sax (and other SF-knowledgeable folks):

Headed back to SF on biz for a few days and staying here:

http://www.serranohotel.com/

Hopefully there will be six bars within three feet of the place as I will be in need of a joint to watch WS and get rowdy.

Nic j said...

All and all, I'll take this bullshit over FOX ownership.

Still holding out hope that the Buss family is no longer content with basketball domination and decides to buy a baseball team.

Dusty Baker said...

Agree. The Bussessess need to crank up their war machine like Germany between world wars, and bum rush the MLB so old man Steinbrenner doesn't know what hit him.

Nic j said...

if anything i do like the family owned aspect that the McCourts brought us. Kind of bit us in the ass now, but hey still better than FOX.

Daniela said...

"Just like any divorce, it's the children who are going to suffer. And we Dodger fans are the children, make no mistake." Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I have a strong sense of foreboding of which I am unable to shake myself loose from. What'll happen to us? Not to mention the team? I can't help but break down in my sorrow and pray for a swift death....

JBJ-1138 said...

very gonzo of you saxy

Steve Sax said...

Gonzo? If anything, I thought this was a little bit of a plea for rational discourse.

Steve Sax said...

@Dusty, re: Serrano Hotel:

I don't know how Taylor and O'Farrell qualifies as "the heart of Union Square". You're basically five blocks due east of another famous SF establishment, at the corner of O'Farrell and Polk.

The Wicked Suite (click on "rooms") has me a little creeped out.

But hey, it looks clean and safe enough. If you're into boutique hotels near (Union)^2, I would recommend Campton Place Hotel, which is literally on Union Square (at the corner of Post and Stockton).

Dusty Baker said...

It will have to be straight from the airport to the bar so as to catch the opening ceremony of the WS.

BTW, who is everyone picking in this? Not who you're backing, but who you're picking to win? More and more I actually think the Phiwwies' bats put them in a position to be competitive, if not give Spank-mes a run for it.

Dusty Baker said...

@ Sax-

I definitely read your post as a plea for rational discourse, and I accept that challenge.

Will be hard to lay off the Jamie and [fill in the blank player/front office/bench coach] getting it on jokes, though.

Steve Sax said...

@Dusty: I hear you. I have a bad feeling I'll succumb to those Jamie + PTBNL jokes as well. But to be balanced, I'll make sure to engage in Frank + PTBNL jokes on the flipside.

Steve Sax said...

@Dusty, btw did you figure out what's five short blocks west of you?

Dusty Baker said...

Uhhh...New Look Discount Beauty Supply?

http://tinyurl.com/yzccano

rbnlaw said...

Finally got the location joke.

Hey, the Edinburgh Castle and Whiskey Thieves both within short walking distance.

Sorry, but my favs are over on Market and on the Haight.

Steve Sax said...

@Dusty: Yeah, you go ahead and pick up some hair gel. I'm going to wait across the street at this place that says "40th anniversary--and still going strong" (as per google maps). Let me know when you're done shopping.

Oh, and can you bring me some ones?

Dusty Baker said...

Ah, so....and we were just speaking of gonzo journalism, thus the good Dr. Thompson.