Fireworks in L.A. may come a few days early this year. Instead of July 4, ours could begin July 1. That’s when Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is due to come up with a mere $30 million to meet payroll. As the old joke goes, Frank has two chances, slim and none. And Slim left town.
After seven years of using the Dodgers as his personal ATM (buying mansions for Jamie instead of players for the Dodgers) Frank is not exactly Mr. Popularity. In fact the only person in L.A. who hopes that Frank stays is Clippers owner Donald Sterling. It would have seemed impossible, but McCourt makes Sterling look good.
The Dodgers-McCourt saga has changed so much recently (Fox TV contract then MLB Commissioner Bud Selig vetoes it; Frank and Jamie settle, then it’s null and void) that I couldn’t come up with an angle. So I took my daily walk with my buddy Oscar the golden retriever by the beach in search of inspiration. Instead, I got a whiff of stench from the portable toilets. (A $3.8 million construction job at the beach has closed the bathrooms since after Labor Day, 2010.)
The new bathrooms were to open around Memorial Day but won’t be ready until late July. (These are bathrooms, not the pyramids!) Let’s hope that the rowdies that come here to celebrate July 4 don’t take their fireworks into the portable toilets. One inadvertent match could give new meaning to the term … (you finish the sentence or this column might wind up on involuntary hiatus).
Dodgers Stadium has plenty of bathrooms, just not fans. While the Dodgers are edging toward last place, they lead the majors in decreased attendance. This speaks volumes about McCourt’s incompetence in operating the Dodgers, one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. There was a glory time when the Dodgers concentrated on making the World Series. Now the Dodgers concentrate on making payroll.
Back in 2004, somehow Frank bought the Dodgers from Fox like one buys a bottom-of-the-line car, no money down and no payments for a year. All Frank put up for collateral was a parking lot in downtown Boston. (By the way, McCourt defaulted so Fox foreclosed on the parking lot long ago.)
To understand this disaster you practically need a scorecard, but here’s the latest as of presstime. Next Thursday, Frank has to cough up the $30 million or Selig will likely seize the team, pay the players, and put the Dodgers up for sale. (Are you listening, Mark Cuban?)
One irony is that of the $30 million Frank owes, $8.2 million belongs to Manny Ramirez from two years ago. (Talk about one devil dealing with another.) In essence, Frank is trying to borrow money now that he promises he’ll pay back in the future to pay off a loan he couldn’t pay in the past. (To anyone who believes Frank, do I have a bridge for you.)
Intrepid reporter that I am (I’m clearly not but I like the sound of it) I contacted Selig and McCourt to see if I could get a quote. Selig’s office was happy to provide an e-mail address for the Commish so get your pen and paper ready. If you are as angry with Frank as I am, you can e-mail your complaints (perhaps with the subject heading “Send McCourt packing”).
The Dodgers referred me to their PR chief, Howard Sunkin, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear from me. Apparently Mr. Sunkin, as reported in the L.A. Times, was the subject of a State Attorney General’s investigation, which centered on the $400,000 in salary Sunkin received in 2007 from the Dodgers’ Dream Foundation (which was a quarter of the charity’s entire budget). No wonder he didn’t want to talk to me.
Just this week, McCourt indicated he won’t go quietly into the good night. (As is so often the case, good news for lawyers.) Apparently long ago Frank divided the Dodgers into separate corporations and is contending that any new owner would have to pay him for the parking or the concessions. This could mean that a fan could go to a game but he may have to walk. Or, if he wants a Dodger Dog, he might have to buy it from Frank. (I wonder if McCourt will be behind the counter wearing one of those paper hats.)
But perhaps Frank is no different than many CEOs in America who blithely pillage and plunder (alliteration anyone) their companies for personal gain. But that’s for another column which hopefully I won’t bore you with. Meanwhile, I’m just wondering who or what we get rid of first, Frank and Jamie McCourt or the portable toilets at the beach?
To comment on McCourt, e-mail Commissioner Selig at email@example.com. To comment on the bathrooms, call the City Manager’s Office at (310) 458-8301. To finish the sentence, “giving new meaning to the term … ” e-mail Jack at Jnsmdp@aol.com, though he may be busy with an exclusive interview with the recently captured “Whitey” Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, assuming he gets to meet him.