Six words Dodger fans thought they wouldn't hear for a long time--”Frank McCourt is selling the Dodgers!” It's music to the ears of Angelenos, and those outside Los Angeles who bleed blue. McCourt and his soon-to-be ex-wife Jamie leveraged their way into buying the Dodgers, then filtered money away from the team to live a lavish lifestyle, leaving the club in bankruptcy. So, now that we're getting it, is this a case of 'Be careful what we wish for?'
Dodger fans have learned, though, that change, at least when it comes to team ownership, is not necessarily a good thing. When Peter O'Malley sold the club to Rupert Murdoch in 1998, fans knew it was the end of an era, and a golden one at that. Forbes, Fortune, and many business magazines always ranked the Dodgers as one of the top workplaces in the country, not just in sports. When O'Malley sold, though, the team hadn't won a playoff game in ten years, and O'Malley came to the conclusion that major sports ownership was no longer affordable as a family enterprise.
So O'Malley sold to Murdoch and the Fox group. Murdoch was more interested in televising Dodger games than winning them. The team did not make the playoffs, and Murdoch also traded the very popular Mike Piazza, even without discussing it with General Manager Tommy Lasorda. It was also immediately rumored when Murdoch bought the team that he would sell the Dodgers' spring training base in Vero Beach. They actually tried, but it didn't happen until the McCourts came along.
The McCourts came along in 2004. Fox had the television rights locked up long term, and decided to get out of the ownership business. So in come Frank and Jamie from Boston, and even at the time, it was rumored that the McCourts had to borrow almost all the money they spent (about 400 million) in the Dodger purchase.
Everything probably would have been fine if Frank and Jamie had stayed together. The Dodgers won a playoff game in 2004, made it to the National League Championship Series in 2008, and again in 2009. They brought in a high-profile manager in Joe Torre, and slugger Manny Ramirez (I don't think you can blame Ramirez' subsequent suspensions for steroid use on the McCourts). They had elaborate plans of renovating Dodger Stadium, and actually did redo all of the seats, not just the high-priced ones down below. They could have lived a pretty high lifestyle as it was, but they got carried away. Then, when the marriage fell apart, so did everything else.
So now of course, the big questions are who and what is next, and what will the new owners do? We'll most likely find out the answers in the next few months—Baseball has said it would like to have a new ownership group in place by Opening Day. That could be a little optimistic, but I think fans would be willing to accept one more mediocre year in exchange for the McCourts being out of their lives for good.
But things couldn't possibly get worse, could they? Well, what if the new owner wants to gut Dodger Stadium? Maybe they'd even want the public to pay for a new one. What if they want to rebuild the ball club by trading current stars Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw? What if they want to charge $20 for parking instead of the outrageous $15 by McCourt? It makes me shudder to think about it. If only I could get a million of my closest friends to pony up a thousand dollars each, then I'd be able to afford the expected billion-dollar asking price. Sigh.
This may be the first time in sports history that fans directly impacted the outcome. There have been strikes, lockouts, price hikes, and other things fans didn't like, but they kept coming to games. This time, fans stopped coming to Dodger games, and McCourt saw the writing on the wall. Frank's leaving and Jamie's gone. I'd like to be the one to drive them back to Boston, but I'd still be keeping one eye in the rear-view mirror.
LSU-Alabama: The field goal fest was a gripping game, but I'm not sure it lived up to its “Game of the Century” hype. It's odd though when the top-ranked team wins and it's considered an upset. LSU won 9-6 in overtime at Alabama in case you missed it.
Add College Football: Speaking of missing it, while the LSU-'Bama game was going on, UCLA beat Arizona State 29-28. How are the Bruins now in first place in the Pac-12 South? Isn't this the same team that gave Arizona its first win in like two years?
Raiders: The Raiders success this season is bad for my football watching. The Raiders hadn't been selling out, which meant home games were blacked out in an area that includes Sacramento. Where I live, we get Sacramento and Chico channels, so if the Raiders were blacked out in Sacramento, we got another game, or I could watch the Raider game on the Chico station.
NBA Lockout: I must admit that I missed what would have been Opening Week for the NBA. Between TNT and ESPN, there would have been two games on each night between Tuesday and Friday. There aren't many regular shows that I watch, so it was kind of an empty week. I'll get over it soon though with college basketball coming, and more NFL and college football., with a little hockey sprinkled in there as well.
Magic:Today (November 7) is the 20th anniversary of Earvin “Magic” Johnson's announcement that he is HIV positive. AIDS and HIV were a huge scare then, and a friend of mine actually called me to see if I was okay, knowing that Magic was my favorite player. I think a lot of us at the time thought he'd be dead in a matter of months.