It’s no secret that this blog has not been friendly to Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt. We’ve been the home to the Frank McCourt Death Watch, during which we have compared him to a parasite, insinuated that he may be one of the worst human beings in history, and had noted sports manager Joe McGrath author a definitive take on the sliminess he personifies. Now that McCourt has announced he is putting the Dodgers up for sale, it is time for us to take what may be a final look at the final days of the McCourt regime.
1) Remember When You Could Shoot Looters?
Here’s the story from last week that had absolutely no “shock” value, other than the use of the word “loot.” That’s a pretty strong verb considering how lawyered-up this whole mess has been. “Looters” conjures images of people scavenging the bones of disaster victims; people who get shot by the National Guard. But the real hilarity comes when you break the story down.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt looted nearly $190 million from the Los Angeles team, using the money for non-baseball use in violation of Major League Baseball rules, according to Delaware bankruptcy court documents filed on Monday.
It’s the first time the league has specified an amount, according to a report in a Los Angeles newspaper.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig wants to oust McCourt.
First of all, no kidding Selig wants McCourt out. That sentence qualifies this story for the “Thank you, Captain Obvious” award. But the key is that verb “looted.” Just look at the thesaurus entries for “loot” as a verb.
- Main Entry: despoil
- Part of Speech: verb
- Definition: ravage, destroy
- Synonyms: denude, depopulate, depredate, deprive, desecrate, desolate, devastate, devour, dispossess, divest, loot, maraud, pillage, plunder, raid, rifle, rob, sack, spoil, spoliate, strip, vandalize, waste, wreak havoc, wreck
- Main Entry: embezzle
- Part of Speech: verb
- Definition: steal money, often from employer
- Synonyms: abstract, appropriate, defalcate, filch, forge, loot, misapply, misappropriate, misuse, peculate, pilfer, purloin, put hand in cookie jar, put hand in till, skim, thieve
- Main Entry: gut
- Part of Speech: verb
- Definition: clean out, strip
- Synonyms: bowel, decimate, despoil, dilapidate, disembowel, draw, dress, empty, eviscerate, exenterate, loot, pillage, plunder, ransack, ravage, rifle, sack
- Main Entry: knock off
- Part of Speech: verb
- Definition: steal
- Synonyms: filch, knock over, loot, pilfer, pinch, plunder, purloin, ransack, relieve, rifle, rip off, rob, thieve
- Main Entry: maraud
- Part of Speech: verb
- Definition: pillage and plunder
- Synonyms: despoil, forage, foray, harass, harry, loot, raid, ransack, ravage, sack
So, let’s look at what brought such a strongly loaded term. Major League Baseball asserts that McCourt broke at least one of the baseball “Ten Commandments” when he diverted team revenue to a non-baseball use.
Allegedly, McCourt misappropriated the following figures:
- $73 million in parking revenue through Blue Land Co., a non-team related entity
- $61 million in team revenue to pay off personal debts
- $55 million from team revenue for personal use
“The Dodgers are in bankruptcy because McCourt has taken almost $190 million out of the club and has completely alienated the Dodgers’ fan base,” the league said.
Major League Baseball asserts this violation is grounds for termination of McCourt’s franchise. Do you think it is a coincidence this story broke last week and a scant few business days later the Dodgers are literally on the auction block?
2) The Last Great Act of Douche-Baggery
Anybody who has been following the McCourt saga knows there have been several layers of lawyers involved in this mess. One of those layers revolves around the Bryan Stow situation.
In case you’ve forgotten, Stow is a San Francisco Giants fan who, for the cardinal sin of having a few beers during a Dodgers-Giants game on opening day in March, was beaten nearly to death in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. Stow hasn’t seen the outside of a hospital or rehabilitation center, which obviously has run up some seriously hefty medical bills.
In order to pay these medical bills (which Stow’s lawyer Thomas Girardi has said could head north of $50 million), a civil suit was filed against McCourt; the contention being “security at the stadium was inadequate and lighting in the parking lot was insufficient, and that the organization did not promote responsible alcohol consumption.”
Naturally, that sort of liability has to factor into any sort of bankruptcy proceeding, which of course McCourt is embroiled in. This means Stow’s representatives are on the official committee of creditors, which means you can tack on Stow’s medical bills and various damages to McCourt’s, which makes Stow a “wild card” in McCourt’s upcoming critical bankruptcy court hearing.
So what does McCourt do in advance of this hearing? Blame the guy who got his brain spilled all over the Dodgers’ parking lot.
Another controversy around beleaguered Dodgers owner Frank McCourt erupted last week when an attorney defending him against a lawsuit brought by the family of Bryan Stow raised the possibility that Stow might be held partly responsible for the beating that left him brain damaged.
“In 23 years, I have yet to see anything at Dodger Stadium involving any form of altercation that didn’t involve at least two willing combatants,” Jerome Jackson, the attorney, said on an ESPN radio talk show. He cited a report in Sports Illustrated that Stow’s blood alcohol level when he arrived at the hospital was 0.176%, more than twice the legal limit in California for driving. (Not that Stow was driving when he was attacked.)
This is exactly why people hate lawyers. Jackson’s logic is akin to a drunk driver saying to the mother of child he just ran over “You should have kept your damn kid off the road in the first place.” But the douche-baggery gets even worse.
“I find it flabbergasting,” Jackson said, “that there’s this groundswell of animosity if not hatred toward McCourt and the Dodgers, but there doesn’t seem to be any public anger against the guys who did the beating.” To the contrary, what is flabbergasting is that Jackson doesn’t understand the depth of fan anger at McCourt in general. As Jackson points out, the McCourts did not beat up Bryan Stow. But certainly Dodgers fans feel bruised by McCourt’s woeful stewardship of the ballclub.
That’s a pretty big slice of sophistry if ever I saw one. Not only is that argument intended to make you believe none of this was McCourt’s responsibility, but it is also setting up the ugly, yet all too real legal strategy behind this obfuscation of the facts.
It’s hard to believe Jackson wasn’t posturing when he said he doesn’t understand why the alleged assailants have not been named in the civil suit. The Stow family attorney, Thomas Girardi, says naming them would only delay the suit because their testimony would probably not be available until after their criminal trial. Meanwhile, a civil jury can assign a percentage of responsibility to the assailants, even if they are not named in the suit.
McCourt’s lawyers will surely come out swinging at trial, but they should respect the injured plaintiff. One of McCourt’s problems has been his consistent cluelessness about the public relations effects of his decisions. Neither he nor Dodgers fans need to see his lawyers making a similar blunder.
It’s that last sentence that holds the key. McCourt simply doesn’t get that he continues to make himself look like a complete asshole, and that the court of public opinion has a lot of power.
But, the real question is exactly what kind of douche is Frank McCourt?
3) Finally, A Sale
At long last, baseball’s long national nightmare is over.
Embattled Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball reached an agreement late Tuesday to sell one of the sport’s most storied franchises, ending a seven-year run that included four trips to the postseason before recently becoming mired in legal troubles capped by a filing for bankruptcy protection.
A joint statement said there will be a “court-supervised process” to sell the team and its media rights to maximize value for the Dodgers and McCourt. The Blackstone Group LP will manage the sale, which could include Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots.
The announcement came as the Dodgers and MLB were headed toward a showdown in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware at the end of the month as mediation between both sides was ongoing.
No matter what happens, there’s two things that need to come from this sale.
First, I want to never hear the name “McCourt” ever again. If there were a way to have both Frank and that rat-faced ex-wife of his deported to some sort of leper colony, we need to get that done. Throw in anybody named “Kardashian” on that list as well (but that’s another story.)
Second, and most important, we must never let Bud Selig off the hook for this fiasco. We must never forget it was Selig who created this mess, and we must ensure he is held accountable for that; a trip to that same leper colony would work for me.