Dodger Thoughts: Frank McCourt

Moyer better blues

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
8:50
AM PT
This post is dedicated to a real '49er ...
  • Jamie Moyer, who turns 50 on November 18, signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies with an invitation to Spring Training. Not that my expectations would be sky high, but I would have been curious to see Moyer, recovered from Tommy John surgery, in a Dodger uniform in March.
  • Here, The Platoon Advantage needs only four degrees of separation to connect Moyer to Babe Ruth and makes the case for six degrees between Moyer and Cap Anson.
  • Want to know what potential Dodger bidder Mark Cuban is up to this week? Just trying to change the business model of TV distribution.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com spoke to Cuban this week about why he's interested in the Dodgers. "It's an iconic team," Cuban said. "There's only a few franchises like that. And it's always better to buy a team like that when they're down."
  • Bill Shaikin of the Times does the most thorough look of anyone yet at the threat of Frank McCourt keeping possession of the parking-lot-infused land surrounding Dodger Stadium. Because McCourt's agreement with MLB doesn't require him to sell that land, he can use it as a bargaining chip to extract more purchase money, hang on to it and draw millions in lease revenue from it, or do the very thing we imagined he'd do when he first bought the Dodgers eight years ago, develop it.

    As I've said in the past, though there's a risk that some group will buy the Dodgers without the land, no one with the sense of a bullfrog should be willing to take the risk of remaining beholden to McCourt after the sale. Pay the man up front and get him out of Dodge.
  • The Miami Marlins appear to be the choice to succeed the San Francisco Giants as the featured team on Showtime's baseball documentary series, "The Franchise," Jon Weisman of Variety reports.
  • Still more from the TV front: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal explores how long MLB Advanced Media will keep its digital operations separate from TV rights sales. Stakes are high.
  • Renowned baseball historian Robert Creamer gave a lengthy interview with Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present. His biography of Babe Ruth was one of the first serious baseball books I ever read. Here's a small Dodger-related tidbit from the interview:
    ... I first became intensely aware of big league baseball in the summer of 1931, when I was nine. My big brother, who was six years older than I, took me to my first major league game, or games — it was a doubleheader between the old New York Giants and the old Brooklyn Dodgers in the old Polo Grounds on the banks of the Harlem River in New York, below the steep hillside known as Coogan’s Bluff. John McGraw was still managing the Giants and Wilbert Robinson the Dodgers, who were generally known as the Robins. Headlines would sometimes refer to the Robins as “the Flock, as in flock of birds. I’m not sure if team nicknames were technically formal at that time. If not they soon were. Both McGraw and Robinson ended their managerial careers in 1932, and the Robins nickname soon disappeared as “Dodgers” returned. The new manager was Max Carey, whose real name was, I believe, “Canarius.” One sportswriter, Tom Meany, bowing to Max, suggested the team’s new nickname be the Canaries, but it didn’t take. ...
  • "Moneyball" won approval across the pond, nabbing nominations for Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and the screenplay by Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin from the British Academy.
  • Our good friend Bob Timmermann wrote a terrific piece at L.A. Observed's Native Intelligence about "L.A.'s Hall of Fame basketball coach who faded from memory," Alex Hannum.
  • Timmermann also passes along this note: "RIP Patsy Tombaugh, wife of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. ... She was also the great-aunt of one Clayton Kershaw." Tombaugh was 99.
  • Dioner Navarro, who got a guaranteed $1 million from the Dodgers after finishing 2010 with a .528 OPS and an awkward departure from Tampa Bay, will go to Spring Training this year on a minor-league contract with the Reds after finishing 2011 with a .600 OPS and an awkward departure from Los Angeles. (Remembering 2011: Dioner Navarro.)
  • Vagabond former Dodger draft pick Preston Mattingly has hooked a minor-league contract with his dad's former team, the Yankees. Mattingly, 24, reached base 50 times in Single-A last year.
  • Vicente Padilla signed a minor-league contract with Boston. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation but could end up in the bullpen – health permitting, of course. (Remembering 2011: Vicente Padilla.)
  • Diamond Leung, former Dodger beat reporter for the Press-Enterprise, has been blogging on college basketball for ESPN.com but now will cover Michigan State hoops for MLive.com.
Often when you read TV or film criticism, you see the word "manipulative." I've spent a lot of time thinking about what this word means in the two weeks since I saw a screening of "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," which officially opens Christmas Day, because if any film is manipulative, this one is.

What I concluded is that a manipulative film is one crafted to make you feel a certain way in a given moment, with little regard to the film's own internal logic and sometimes any logic at all. A plotline, a character or a scene doesn't have to make sense, because if it generates a strong enough feeling, the audience won't stop and ask questions.

That works except for the audience members who find the whole thing preposterous, as I did with "Extremely Loud." (And I don't appear to be alone.) The way the characters behave in this movie, the way the story unfolds, is so obviously phony that I was gritting my teeth through almost the entire enterprise.

For example — trying to avoid spoilers here — there's a major plot element in the movie that defies belief. And then, in an effort to explain that element, the film introduces an even more insane element. All of this happens so that you can undergo this theoretically cathartic experience, but the minute you question it, the entire film falls apart.

Another word you'll see in TV and film criticism is "forgivable," when a viewer is willing to let some things go because the ride is worth it. Some will feel differently, but for me, what happened in "Extremely Close" was unforgivable. Extremely and incredibly so.

I would say it was calculated, except I don't doubt the filmmakers' sincerity. I don't doubt that it all made sense to director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth, who adapted the novel of the same title. But I think they were suckered by their own emotions. It felt right, so they didn't really examine whether it made sense. They meant well. Not that I don't doubt they want their film to succeed financially, but I'm willing to believe they saw their path to financial success depended chiefly on making the best possible film.

I find myself asking whether the same could be said about Frank McCourt. Did he have the best intentions but severe blind spots, as he now would have you believe? Or was he extremely proud but incredibly lame.

I'm not willing to say that McCourt didn't care at all whether the Dodgers won or lost. His ultimate goal was personal wealth, but that doesn't make him unique — far from it. However, McCourt's priorities did conflict in a harmful, cynical way. He didn't operate as if the Dodgers' success was a path to his own success. The Dodgers were something to exploit. And he's always tried to tell us otherwise.

How phony and manipulative can you get?

If you looked at their past eight seasons as a movie, the McCourt Dodgers are actually worlds better than "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." But as the man behind the camera, the man who has put the franchise at such a disadvantage, Frank McCourt deserves the figurative tomatoes that are thrown his way.

Saturday, out of the park

December, 17, 2011
12/17/11
2:35
PM PT
Catching up today on some news new and old. Many of these items were tweeted by me over the past several days – don't hesitate to follow.
  • Bill Shaikin of the Times explains why Frank McCourt won't renege on selling the Dodgers.
  • Here's a great piece by Chad Moriyama on the lazy comparisons baseball folk have been making between potential big-leaguer Yu Darvish and other pitchers from Asia.
  • Roughly 40 percent of the 2012 Dodger roster will be at least 33 years old next year, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness.
  • Vance Lovelace and Rick Ragazzo will have greater influence in the Dodger front office, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
    ... Lovelace, previously a special assistant to the GM and director of player scouting, is now director of professional personnel. Ragazzo, previously a special assistant to the GM, is now director of pro scouting. ...

    ... Logan White remains assistant GM in charge for amateur (Draft) and international scouting and DeJon Watson remains assistant GM for player development (Minor Leagues). Tony Howell and Ken Bracey remain as special assistants to Colletti. ...
  • More than five years ago, I wrote about the legal action over payment of former Dodger Paul Shuey's 2004 salary. Amazingly, as Shaikin notes at the Times, the battle is still going on.
  • Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Mike Scioscia, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Fernando Valenzuela will all be featured in one way or another among the Dodgers' 2012 bobbleheads.
  • Rubby De La Rosa's injury was costly to the Dodgers in more ways than one, notes Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Edwin Jackson is a better sign than C.J. Wilson, writes Joe Sheehan at SI.com.
  • Dodger hitting guru Dave Hansen is holding a baseball camp for kids ages 7-15 beginning December 19, according to Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • From Steve Dilbeck at the Times' Dodgers Blog: "INK BLUE."
  • Change in the National League West: San Diego traded Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger, while Colorado signed Michael Cuddyer for three years and $30 million. John Sickels has more on the Padres' pickups at Minor League Ball, and there's more reaction compiled at MLB Trade Rumors.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to recoup millions through a buyback of stadium construction bonds, reports Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.
  • Kirk Gibson: The NL's most untraditional manager? Maybe so, says Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Boxscore.
  • USC grad Jason Lane, 35 this month, is returning to his pitching roots to try to keep his baseball career alive.
  • Dwight Evans was one of my favorite non-Dodgers of my younger years. Here's a nice piece on him by David Laurila at Fangraphs.
  • Harrison Ford has been cast as Branch Rickey and newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the film "42," reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • "Moneyball" received four Golden Globe nominations from the decidedly unsporty Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the latest sign of appreciation for the film from a non-baseball audience.
  • A post at Variety's On the Air blog by me extolls the virtues of "Bosom Buddies."

Spending here but not there

November, 18, 2011
11/18/11
8:54
PM PT
Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles hits on the conundrum of why it's okay for the Dodgers to spend big on Matt Kemp but not Prince Fielder and has a theory: that Frank McCourt is using Matt Kemp's lucrative eight-year contract as cover to keep the Dodger payroll low while selling the team.

It all relates to that question we keep coming back to: Does committing big bucks to a major free agent enhance or reduce the value of a franchise?
... Where this really gets interesting is when you listen closely to Kemp, Colletti and Stewart.

Stewart said Friday that Kemp told him he wanted to get this deal done as soon as possible so the team could make a run at the top free agents on the market, most notably Kemp's friend, Prince Fielder. Baseball's winter meetings are Dec. 3-5 in Dallas.

He also explained the Kemp agreed to take less in the first year of the deal to give the team more flexibility this winter.

"The ballclub needed flexiblity, Ned was clear in explaining that," Stewart said. "What was important really was the overall package for Matt.

"He's an unselfish kid. It's been his thought all along that he'd like to get somebody else there that they can put in the lineup that can help him, help the team win."

That all sounds wonderful until you listen again to Colletti, who said Friday that he "didn't know if it was going to be possible" to re-sign pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, and noted earlier in the week that the team wasn't likely to pursue free agents of Fielder's class and price range.

"Unless something changes, I think it looks less realistic," Colletti said. "I think we have to figure out other ways to produce runs."

There's no way Stewart and Kemp could have missed Colletti's previous comments or been unaware of the Dodgers financial issues as they go through this sale process. Remember, Colletti and Kemp are close now. They've repaired their relationship and talk often. Colletti and Stewart go back 30 years.

So you have to wonder whether something else is going on here.

Could Kemp and Stewart be ratcheting up the pressure on McCourt to give Colletti the chance to make a realistic run at Fielder? Or at least not be hamstrung with a budget smaller than last season's? ...

Read the whole piece here.
Bad news, good news: Frank McCourt will have "close to the final say" on who buys the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, but only from a group of candidates approved by Major League Baseball.

McCourt's choice would then have to be approved by the other MLB owners, but since that choice would have been pre-approved by MLB already ... you get the idea. Writes Jackson:
... It also isn't immediately clear whether there is a minimum number of applicants that MLB must approve and submit to McCourt and Blackstone, but one source said it would be a "reasonable" number, meaning MLB couldn't simply handpick the next owner by approving only one applicant. Although several individuals and groups already have gone public with their interest in buying the club, that list of applicants figures to dwindle to no more than a handful -- perhaps five, one source estimated -- who actually file applications because of the tremendous amount of money that must be secured in order to submit a worthy bid. ...

Jackson has more detailing the intricacies of gaining MLB approval in this November 5 background story. Meanwhile, Ramona Shelburne addresses my issue of Dodger-based groups competing against each other in her latest piece, calling for them to work together as much as possible.

And then there's this from Bill Shaikin of the Times, who writes that McCourt will still seek to profit from the Dodgers' post-2013 TV rights, noting this Matthew Futterman report in the Wall Street Journal:
... In the auction, Mr. McCourt and his advisers at Blackstone Group, which is managing the Dodgers sale, will solicit separate bids for the team and its media rights, and then will try to arrange a partnership between the highest bidders for each before a final deal is struck. Ultimately, only the winning bidder for the team would have the right to execute a new media-rights deal.

If they prefer, bidders also will be allowed to submit a combined offer for both the team and its media rights. ...


The Journal also said that McCourt could "maintain a stake in the parking lots at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that are leased to the team for use on game days."

I'm still of the hope that a clean break from McCourt will be a condition of any offer that MLB approves.

* * *
  • The Kansas City Royals are reportedly going to sell the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Will the new Dodger owners risk the wrath of public opinion and do the same?
  • Talk of David Wright coming to the Dodgers should be ignored, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness.
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy found a rare picture of Sandy Koufax in Palm Springs in 1964 with Donna Douglas, Andy Williams, Pat Boone and, would you believe, Don Adams?
  • Dodger players spent over 400 more days on the disabled list in 2011 than Diamondbacks players, according to Baseball Prospectus.
  • Learn more about "the jock tax," courtesy of Eric Seidman of Fangraphs.
  • This Fangraphs chart shows the highs and lows of the 2011 Dodgers relative to the other 29 teams. Read more about it here.
  • The defensive flaws of Jose Reyes and Aramis Ramirez are explored by Katie Sharp and Mark Simon of ESPN.com.
  • The late, inimitable, Jim Healy got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday. Here's a tribute page to Healy. (News via L.A. Observed.)
  • Farewell, Joe Frazier.
  • Update - The Hiroshima Carp have made an offer to Hiroki Kuroda.

Friday tidings

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
9:48
AM PT
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.
Several people remarked online Tuesday that they were worried about the possibility that the next Dodger owner could be awful as well. There's no guarantee that won't be true. But as I wrote Tuesday, that widespread wariness at the outset of the process, from the commissioner's office on down, should make a disaster much less likely.

Back when Fox was first selling the Dodgers, wariness was a relatively lonely place to be ... though it did spread. From the Dodger Thoughts archives:

(Read full post)


Paul Spinelli/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesHome, where my thoughts escape, at home, where my music's playin'
Home, where my love lies waitin' silently for me

We have worried, we have raged, we have sulked, we have sworn, we have screamed, we have sighed, we have yearned, we have cried. Outside we have tried to fight, and inside, more than a little, we have died.

But now, deliverance. Deliverance to what, we don't know. But deliverance nonetheless.

Here is the joint statement from Major League Baseball and the Dodgers, released Tuesday night:
“The Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball announced that they have agreed today to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner, Frank McCourt. The Blackstone Group LP will manage the sale process.”

Tony Jackson of ESPNLA.com has more:
Owner Frank McCourt reached an agreement with Major League Baseball on Tuesday night to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, along with Dodger Stadium and the surrounding real estate, a decision that brings to end not only a six-month legal battle with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig but also a 7-year ownership that was simply never embraced by the team's fan base.

Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times first broke the news:
Frank McCourt agreed Tuesday to sell the Dodgers, abruptly surrendering the team after fighting to retain it over two years and in two courts.

McCourt and Major League Baseball have agreed to seek approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for an auction of the Dodgers. The sale is expected to include the team, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots, a package bought by McCourt for $421 million in 2004 and likely to sell for two to three times as much now.

The league hopes a new Dodgers owner can be in place by opening day. ...

Opening Day? Won't tomorrow feel a little like Opening Day?

The cloud that's been over the Dodgers was no ordinary cloud. Southern California or not, Dodgers fans are used to walking through some rain. But this cloud was toxic. It wasn't that Dodgers fans couldn't stay dry -- it was that they had trouble breathing.

But now, we can breathe again. Now, we can have normal problems. Problems like everyone else. Will you have ever been so happy just to worry about what happens next with the team?

We know all too well from the end of the Fox era that a sale of the team doesn't guarantee anything. But this is the kind of second chance that galvanizes you. Everyone, I'm confident, will be smarter this time around. Not perfect. Just smarter. Can you ask for more?

The news seems to call out for something longer, something epic. But it's not really all that complicated, is it?

My friends, it's time to have some fun.

An informal rally has been scheduled by Save the Dodgers at 6 p.m. at Dodger Stadium to celebrate.
Not getting too excited about this, but let's just say I'm hoping it's one more roll of the boulder downhill ...
  • Frank McCourt might be closer than he's ever been to selling the Dodgers, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times.
    ... McCourt has long vowed not to surrender the Dodgers. In April, as Commissioner Bud Selig appointed a trustee to oversee the team and attendance plummeted at Dodger Stadium, McCourt insisted he would not sell.

    However, analysts suggested McCourt now might be willing to sell for a simple reason: Even if he won in court, he could lose.

    Based on figures McCourt submitted to the Bankruptcy Court, he would be hard-pressed to sell the Dodgers' television rights, settle his divorce and be left with enough capital to renovate Dodger Stadium and restore the team to prominence.

    "I don't know that there's a way for him to win," said Marc Ganis, president of the sports business consulting firm Sportscorp Ltd.
  • Shaikin also writes that if Fox Sports loses local rights to the Dodgers when the current contract expires following the 2013 season, it could lead to the consolidation of the two Fox Sports cable channels into one.
  • How will Prince Fielder age? One day at a time — and here's one analysis of how those days will go, from Ryan Campbell of Fangraphs.
  • Hardball Talk has begun its review of the 111 free agents on the market this winter. Here's something about two 34-year-old players that might amuse you:
    Marcus Thames, 2010: .350 on-base percentage, .491 slugging
    Andruw Jones, 2011: .356 on-base percentage, .495 slugging
  • Dodger prospect Allen Webster gets an evaluation, with video, from Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Matt Kemp is scheduled to be a guest on "Last Call with Carson Daly" in Thursday late-night programming, which really means Friday morning.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. went the extra mile in looking at the Dodgers' Gold Glove finalists.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness presented his 15-point plan to make the Dodgers the best they can be in 2012.
  • Bob Timmermann shared some great old baseball photos on Twitter on Saturday, including Vin Scully getting stats from Allan Roth, Dick Enberg in a Valley State (now Cal State Northridge) uniform and Willie Davis' bad day.
  • Former Dodger Tom Goodwin was named first-base coach for the Mets.
  • Best headlines of 2011 has to include this from Alex Belth of Bronx Banter on CC Sabathia: "The Stay Put Marshmellow Man."
  • In case you're curious, Sabathia's new deal pays out in the following manner: $23 million each of the next four seasons (as had already been in place), $25 million in 2016, $25 million vesting option in 2017 or $5 million buyout. More from ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Across town, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he doesn't expect to trade third baseman David Wright.

The lame blame game

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
9:46
AM PT
At the bottom of this morning's Ramona Shelburne news story for ESPNLosAngeles.com about the Bryan Stow situation, she quotes Jerome Jackson, a lawyer representing Frank McCourt, as follows:
... "What happened to Bryan Stow was a tragedy," he said. "The Dodgers have held fundraisers. The Dodgers have helped police in solving this case. That doesn't mean we're legally responsible for what happens here.

"What baffles me is that the level of public outrage at the Dodgers seems to be higher than the level of outrage at the people who inflicted the blows." ...

Here's what I'd say to that:

1) Let's be clear — whatever outrage exists isn't against the Dodgers, it's against McCourt. (Update: As Dodger Thoughts commenter Zissou_Steve points out, there was more outrage against Dodger fans than there was against McCourt when this incident occurred.)

2) Despite the anger against McCourt, I wouldn't say that when it comes specifically to the Stow beating, people are angrier at McCourt than they are at the assailants. People understand who the true villains are.

3) However, if you're trying to address public anger with McCourt, it sure doesn't help when you make statements such as these:
"I've been doing these cases for 23 years and I have never seen one yet in which it didn't take at least two people to tango," (Jackson) said, referring to the notion that jurors could decide Stow bears some liability in the attack. "So stay tuned and stand by."

Whatever the facts of the case are, when it comes to the question of "public outrage," that's an issue of public relations. Does this look like an example of good public relations?

* * *
  • Matt Kemp was the only unanimous selection to The Sporting News National League All-Star Team that also includes Clayton Kershaw.
  • Robinson Cano, whom I still link to Kemp because of all the trade rumors involving the pair a couple years back, is looking (via agent Scott Boras) to redo his contract with the Yankees that includes club options of $14 million for 2012 and $15 million for 2013, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
    ... Boras, has been peddling his sales pitch through the media recently, cautioning the Yankees that allowing Cano to become a free agent after the 2013 season would be extremely risky, not to mention expensive, the implication being that he would take Cano out onto the open market, where he would no doubt draw a lot of interest.

    An insider told Matthews that the chances of Cano's contract being re-done were "highly, highly unlikely."
  • Albert Pujols defended his hit-and-run playcalling, as well as the fact that he didn't swing when he called the first hit-and-run in Game 5 Monday. (Joe Strauss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
The rumors were flying today that the one-month postponement of the winner-take-all bankruptcy court hearing on Frank McCourt's ability to prematurely sell the Dodgers' post-2013 TV rights (what a mouthful that was) was actually a sign that a deal was being forged that would facilitate McCourt selling the franchise. (See ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times for more.)

What's clear is that talks have been taking place, what's unclear is whether there was any real momentum behind the talks. And so, there's no way of knowing whether the next month might see the happy revelation of closure, or whether it will just be 30 more days tacked onto our painful waiting game.

Elsewhere ...
  • Hong-Chih Kuo is going to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a loose body (no, this isn't a Halloween joke) in his left elbow. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Dodger training chief Stan Conte about the situation. Kuo is planning to try to pitch in 2012, but while he is certain to be made a free agent by the Dodgers, they're still as good a bet as anyone to try to re-sign him to a discounted contract.
  • Maury Wills is the subject of a story in the Times that illustrates what a longshot he was to make the majors with this anecdote: In 1959, Topps chose not to pay Wills the grand total of $5 for the rights to have him on a baseball card.
  • How overdue are the Dodgers for a World Series compared to other teams? Check the list at Cy Morong's Cybermetrics.
Major League Baseball has put a number and a name to what Frank McCourt has done with the Dodgers: "$189.16 million" and "looting." ESPNLosAngeles.com and Bill Shaikin of the Times have more.

I want to call out the last two paragraphs of Shaikin's story:
... The Dodgers also charge Selig with bad faith in declaring he would reject any television contract proposed by McCourt. The league claims any deal would necessarily require McCourt to divert some team revenue for personal use, including a $130-million divorce settlement.

That claim, the Dodgers said, is "simply make believe."

We have been down this road before ...

Dodger Thoughts, April 27:
... In a nod to the concerns over how much Dodger revenue he and his now-estranged wife had allocated for personal spending, McCourt said today that the proposed Fox deal would include an immediate payment of $300 million going directly into the Dodgers.

"None of those dollars (would be) used in any personal way," McCourt said.

Dodger Thoughts, July 22:
Selig then delved into McCourt's plan to put the 35% equity interest in Fox Sports Net West 2 that the Dodgers would receive into a holding company separate from the franchise, as well as his plan to take at least 45% from the $385 million up-front payment to settle personal debts.

Look, we all know that McCourt, if he somehow wins in the TV rights hearing, will be on track to have so much money coming in that he'll be able to paper over all his sins — paper 'em with green. But come on — no matter how many machinations he drums up, the idea that TV money would not play some role, explicit or implicit, in resolving his enormous debts is about as far from the Neighborhood of Make Believe as one can travel.

* * *
  • Jerry Sands' midseason swing adjustments have been carefully analyzed by Chad Moriyama. "To say I’m impressed by the changes that have taken place is an understatement," Moriyama writes.
  • Clayton Kershaw is going back to Africa for the second consecutive offseason. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passed along an MLB.com clip with a Kershaw interview from the World Series. By committing $100 in Kershaw's Challenge to Arise Africa for every strikeout he had this year to build an orphanage, Kershaw donated $24,800. The challenge has about $20,000 remaining to reach its goal of $70,000. Donate here.
  • It's come to this: Andrew T. Fisher of Rockies blog Purple Row is optimistic about center fielder Dexter Fowler improving in 2012 because he will be working out this offseason with Matt Kemp.
  • A round of the aghastly reaction to Tony LaRussa's managing of Game 5 Monday has been pulled together by Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com. Sample: "As La Russa played subterfuge artist, offering a story dotted with holes unbecoming of a man with a law degree, it was obvious that he was trying to protect someone, and he would go to such lengths only to save himself," wrote Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.
  • Mark Townsend of Yahoo! Sports summarizes the five outs the Cardinals gave away Monday.
  • Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors has an update on 25-year-old Japanese ace Yu Darvish, who might be coming to the U.S.
    ... Last week, I polled five agents and one team executive about Darvish's potential posting fee and contract. Guesses on the posting fee ranged from $30-55MM, with the team executive making the highest prediction. The average of the six guesses was $45MM. As for the contract, most people predicted a five or six-year deal in the $72-75MM range. One agent wondered if the winning team will "try to force some options down his throat," especially if it's the Blue Jays.

    The bottom line: everyone I talked to expects a minimum of a $100MM commitment to acquire Darvish if he's posted this year. ...
  • A "treasure trove" of records of the Philadelphia A's has been found, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk, and are "now in the hands of a historian who is making a big documentary about Connie Mack."
The Dodgers beat the Pirates tonight, 7-2, to keep their playoff hopes alive for at least another night. But no matter what happens on the field between now and the end of the regular season September 28, there's a big postseason showdown on tap for the Dodgers in October.

On October 12, Frank McCourt's attorneys will formally ask the federal bankruptcy court that is overseeing the Dodgers to permit negotiations and possibly an auction for the franchise's local television rights for 2014 and beyond. Should the court grant the request, it will pave the way for McCourt to retain ownership of the Dodgers – at least until Frank-Jamie II takes place in the courts sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.

Interested parties – Major League Baseball in particular – can and probably will file objections to the Dodgers' request until September 30. The bankruptcy court's first duty is to the creditors whom the Dodgers owe; what's up in the air is whether MLB can make the case that there's a better way to do this than by giving McCourt the chance to save his ownership – while further mortgaging the franchise's future – through the future rights sale.

From The Associated Press:
... In a 37-page motion filed Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, the Dodgers say "market conditions are optimal for licensing the telecast rights because the market for sports media rights in Los Angeles is vibrant at this time."

The Dodgers say "there can be no assurance that these ideal market conditions will last" and they should be allowed to sell rights now "to avoid any risk of deterioration in value." ...

One argument against McCourt is that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to be able to approve any TV rights deal, and that McCourt shouldn't be rewarded for steering the Dodgers into bankruptcy by being allowed to circumvent the sport's chieftain. Whether that argument will hold any sway with Judge Gross, I don't know.

Bill Shaikin has more in the Times, where he also passes along the news that the Dodgers are seeking to retain an expensive New York-based public relations firm.
... The two primary spokespersons (from the firm) charge $750 and $400 per hour, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

"Much of the media reporting on off-field issues has been inaccurate or misleading, and LAD requires a seasoned communications firm such as Kekst to better ensure that media coverage of LAD is more evenhanded and accurate going forward," according to the filing, using the "LAD" abbreviation for the Dodgers.

The filing does not include any examples of inaccurate or misleading coverage. ...


As far as I'm concerned, you can take this as another example of how deluded or desperate McCourt is – and no, the new PR firm won't change my negative thinking on this. As Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine tweeted:
What makes McCourt's media blaming so laughable is the best stuff we got was straight from his mouth in public court filings. Amnesia maybe?

You can't file mountains of court documents crying poverty to get out of paying spousal support and not expect fans to think you are broke.

* * *

In other inspiring news, Jonathan Broxton will have surgery Monday, 4 1/2 months after he last pitched for the Dodgers, to remove a bone spur and some chips, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:
... Although Broxton's bone bruise had improved dramatically, Dodgers medical director Stan Conte said the spur and loose bodies were the cause of repeated setbacks Broxton suffered in his effort to return, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying earlier this week that club officials no longer expected Broxton to pitch this season.

Broxton underwent what Conte said were "three or four" MRIs on the elbow during the season, but Conte said the chips were revealed only after Broxton underwent a CT scan, which was ordered when he experienced mild discomfort earlier this week during his first bullpen session in several weeks.

"CT scans normally aren't done on elbows," Conte said. "But we just wanted to make sure the bone bruise wasn't turning into microfractures."

The surgery will be performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, after which Broxton is expected to need four to eight weeks to recover before he can begin throwing again. However, with free agency pending, it is possible Broxton has pitched his final game for the Dodgers, who already have replaced him in the closer's role with rookie Javy Guerra and might balk at re-signing Broxton this winter to a major league contract. ...

The surgery will take place nearly 15 months after Broxton began to lose effectiveness.

Jackson adds that Tony Gwynn Jr. will miss at least the remainder of this weekend's series with the Pirates because of a jammed shoulder, which first happened last week in Washington and was aggravated Wednesday against Arizona.

* * *

Back on the field, the Dodgers came back strong tonight after Hiroki Kuroda allowed an unearned second-inning run, scoring once in the bottom of the second, twice in the third and four times in the sixth, capped by James Loney's first career pinch-hit home run, a three-run blast that enabled him to reach 10 on the season.

Dee Gordon made his ninth error in his 45th game of the season, but had two hits and stole his 20th and 21st bases. Kuroda gave up a sixth-inning home run to Alex Presley (whom Vin Scully's wife thinks looks like Tom Cruise, Scully told us), but was otherwise unscored upon. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out seven.

Scully also passed along a story that warmed my heart: Rod Barajas chose uniform No. 28 with the Dodgers because of how much his mother loved Pedro Guerrero in the 1980s.

Jeff Lewis/US PresswireJonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro in 2005.
Six years ago tonight, on a Friday, the Dodgers began a weekend series against the St. Louis Cardinals with a 46-56 record, then as they are now 10 games under .500. That day, the team made two transactions.
Purchased the contract of RHP Jonathan Broxton from Double-A Jacksonville and designated RHP Scott Erickson for assignment; Recalled C Dioner Navarro from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned C Mike Rose to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Jonathan Broxton and Dioner Navarro. Today, those two names bring up mixed emotions, to say the least.

But six years ago, making their Dodger debuts, they heralded a new era of promise for a downtrodden team: Broxton, the first of a heralded group of Dodger minor leaguers to reach the bigs; Navarro, a 21-year-old catching prodigy acquired in trade.

From Dodger Thoughts, July 29, 2005:
... The 5-foot-10, 189-pound Navarro, still only 21, has battled some physical issues this season - according to Nick Christensen of the Las Vegas Sun, Navarro was 2 for 18 since being activated from the disabled list July 18 - but has played 75 games overall for AAA Las Vegas, with an on-base percentage of .366 and a slugging percentage of .390. Offensively, he is lacking power for now - but down the road, some may catch up with him. Though his professional high in home runs is only eight, he did hit 31 doubles in 2003 at age 19, split between A and AA ball. Navarro's biggest strength is his strike zone command - 38 walks against 24 strikeouts. Defensively, he is obviously more promising than Jason Phillips, but we'll see if the Dodger pitchers still need to hold runners on better.

Broxton, four months younger than Navarro but six inches taller and around 50-100 pounds heavier, has been a stud ever since he became a second-round pick for the Dodgers in 2002. Averaging more than a strikeout per inning with a career ERA of 3.14 entering this season - primarly as a starter - Broxton has recently been used out of the bullpen for AA Jacksonville in anticipation of the Dodgers needing his help. In 28 games (15 in relief), Broxton has a 3.36 ERA and in 91 innings, has allowed 77 hits (just four home runs) and 29 walks while striking out 99. As a reliever, he has struck out 28 in 19 innings and has been clocked at 100 miles per hour, according to Baseball America, which also published a quote from an American League scout praising both Broxton's fastball and "power curve."

Broxton becomes the third home-grown player on the Dodgers 25-man roster, joining Jason Repko and Steve Schmoll (assuming neither is sent down). ...

Yes, you could say the youth movement was just getting underway.

In the game, Navarro started for the Dodgers, batting for the first time an inning after left fielder Ricky Ledee hit a three-run home run, and reached first on an infield single. He later struck out, grounded out and walked.

Broxton, also 21, replaced Brad Penny in the top of the sixth inning with the Dodgers leading, 5-4, and had mixed results. He gave up singles to David Eckstein and Abraham Nunez, then reared back and struck out Albert Pujols, who had homered the inning before. Broxton wild-pitched the runners to second and third base, prompting an intentional walk to Jim Edmonds. With the bases loaded and one out, John Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game, before Broxton struck out Mark Grudzielanek to end the inning.

Because the tying run scored, Broxton was charged with a blown save in a game that gave him no chance of actually recording a save. It was these kinds of no-upside blown saves that would skew his save percentage for years and help others make the case that he was unfit to close. Despite this, Broxton did become one of the top relief pitchers in the National League – just as one of many pieces of evidence, only six relievers in the majors had a lower OPS allowed than Broxton from 2006-09, and two of those are going to the Hall of Fame – but we're well past that debate now, with him unlikely to pitch much more than a few more innings as a Dodger, and others like Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen stepping forward.

Navarro would be supplanted much sooner, replaced in May 2006 by Russell Martin after a combination of sluggish defense and injury. Navarro came back to Los Angeles this season after a long absence, fraught with professional and personal struggles, but it's now a celebration when his batting average breaks .200.

Somehow, both players are surprisingly close over the hill at age 27, even perilously close to the end of their careers if they don't reverse fortune. It fits right in with a Dodger team that has tumbled off a cliff in 2011. We've come full circle and gotten dizzy in the process.

The next generation of Dodgers beckons – the generation that will try to revive this team. But it's impossible to fathom how it will play out. Broxton, Navarro, Martin, James Loney, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, Andy LaRoche, on and on and on - so many ups and downs. I can't tell if I feel that six years is long or short.

And then there's this: That same morning, in the July 29, 2005 issue of Variety, Dave McNary published the following story about the Dodgers, in their second year of ownership under Frank and Jamie McCourt:
... Frank McCourt, the Boston-born Dodgers owner ... strolls around the stadium as though he was the mayor of a small New England town. He's not the landlord, he's a host, eager to welcome people to his party.

Under the O'Malleys, many Angelenos felt the Dodgers represented "downtown." McCourt has broader ambitions. ... He wants Westsiders as much as Echo Park locals, and he believes the best way to get both of them is to make sure Hollywood feels welcome.

A year after buying the team in early 2004, McCourt added 300 seats to the Dugout Club and expanded the restaurant. McCourt and his wife, Jaime, attend most home games, where they escort club guests to a martini bar, as well as stands that offer prime rib, fajitas, salads and, of course hot dogs, all free of charge to box holders and other guests.

A seat in the club runs an all-inclusive $400 (booze is extra), but one of McCourt's biggest reasons for undertaking $20 million in upgrades was to attract people who may never pay at all.

McCourt wants to see the same sort of wall-to-wall celeb lineup who attends Lakers games. He's well on the way. On a recent evening, when the Dodgers suffered a blowout loss to the San Francisco Giants, club attendees included celebs Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Robert Wuhl and Alyssa Milano; sports agents Scott Boras and Dennis Gilbert; former players Dave Winfield and Bill Buckner; and Dodgers icon Tommy Lasorda.

Other regulars include Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Tom Hanks, Pat Sajak, Penny Marshall, Mary Hart, Wayne Gretzky and Peter Chernin.

The McCourts' four sons also are conspicuous, with most of the credit for bringing Hollywood into the Dodgers' fold going to Drew McCourt, the low-key marketing director who decided to work for his dad after getting an astrophysics degree from Columbia U. The 23-year-old has been charged with glad-handing Hollywood studios, agencies, top-tier producers and music industry execs, luring them into premium seats by promising that most elusive commodity, exclusivity.

Still, in wooing Hollywood, the McCourts have a tough job. As one of the few sports facilities built in the 1960s that has aged with some grace, even minor changes to Dodger Stadium provoke anxiety among devoted fans -- many of whom would never consider paying $400 for a seat.

"We've got an asset that's very unique within the baseball world," says Drew McCourt, who grew up going to Red Sox games at Fenway Park. "But we don't take it for granted that Hollywood's going to show up. We have to make this area attractive enough so the team's performance doesn't really matter whether people show up."

Six years. Six positively head-spinning years.
Nothing that happened in bankruptcy court today specifically precludes Frank McCourt from getting the television deal that would keep his Dodger ownership alive. So what's the endgame that could push McCourt out?

There's still the possibility that MLB strips McCourt of ownership, for violating the sport's rules that he agreed to abide by when he became owner, but the ability for MLB to do that while the Dodgers are in bankruptcy court is unclear.

Instead, everything might rest on whether MLB is able to delay a new television deal long enough to starve McCourt from meeting his personal obligations in a way that would allow him to emerge with the franchise.

Remember, it's the Dodgers who are in bankruptcy court, not McCourt. So none of the $150 million loan that the bankruptcy court is facilitating is supposed to go into McCourt's pocket — it's supposed to satisfy the Dodgers' creditors. If McCourt can't pay his own personal debts (complicated by his dealings with ex-wife Jamie), he would presumably have to start eating into his assets. Or, I suppose, file for bankruptcy himself.

So we're back to discussing TV revenue.

Fox has exclusivity though November 2012 on any negotiations for future Dodger TV rights. As was confirmed earlier today, Bud Selig believes there has to be competitive bidding for TV rights to ensure that the Dodgers are getting fair market value. McCourt ostensibly either needs a judge to bless that bidding (which would be contested by Fox), or get a judge to overrule MLB and approve a Fox-McCourt extension.

Would the court approve a Fox-McCourt deal over MLB's objections? It's not clear, but given the conflict-of-interest concerns at the heart of today's ruling by Judge Kevin Gross and the knowledge that the deal would largely serve McCourt at the Dodgers' expense, I think there's reason for the anti-McCourt camp to feel some hope.

This should come to a head as soon as a hearing scheduled for August 16. Josh Fisher has more at ESPNLosAngeles.com:
... A Dodgers attorney said in a statement that the team "will propose ... a competitive sale process of exclusive cable television rights" before the end of this calendar year. However, the Dodgers will find themselves in an awkward negotiating position with current partner Fox.

Under the terms of the existing television deal, the Dodgers cannot begin negotiating with anyone other than Fox until late 2012. That has led baseball to express concerns about the desirability of extensions of the Fox deal thus far proposed by McCourt. However, because of the club's bankruptcy, it may have the option to walk away from the Fox contract and sell the Dodgers' television rights competitively.

MLB will likely oppose such treatment of an important strategic partner. While today's ruling signals Gross' willingness to curtail baseball's policies to the extent necessary to achieve bankruptcy's purposes, he may not be as willing to entertain a move with potential negative impact across the game. Make no mistake, the fight over the Dodgers' ability to sell their TV rights will be as bitter and acrimonious as any thus far. The outcome will determine how much longer the Dodgers remain under McCourt ownership. ...

Hold your breath ...

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