Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Updated: June 29, 4:05 PM ET
No guarantee Dodgers would improve
By J.A. Adande ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- Just because your desire to see Frank McCourt sell the Los Angeles Dodgers is exceeded only by Bud Selig's desire to take the team away from him, it doesn't mean the franchise will end up in better hands. The compelling evidence is McCourt himself.
Remember when he was the alternative, the test case that anyone would make a better owner for the Dodgers than Fox? Careful what you wish for. You also must remember Selig was the one who authorized that transaction, even though McCourt needed to borrow heavily from the Fox folks just to meet their $430 million purchase price. And it's Selig who will have to sign off on another owner.
The saddest part of this Dodgers' debacle is there's no guarantee it gets better. If you look up to the top of the hill you won't find a knight in shining armor atop his steed, ready to charge down and save the day.
There was a time not long ago when Frank and Jamie McCourt were considered to be the positive ownership change the Dodgers needed after the inglorious Fox years.
Mark Cuban has proved to be a great owner for the Dallas Mavericks and has expressed interest in buying a baseball team, but there's nothing that says he'd get the Dodgers or even that he wants to try. He didn't sound interested when I talked to him before the first game of the Lakers-Mavericks series, and he has yet to go on record and say he'll be the first to write a check if the team goes on the market. It's possible he's merely posturing, that he doesn't want to show his hand and come off as a sucker willing to pay any price to get in the club.
Keep in mind, Cuban doesn't spend indiscriminately, and the last time he tried to buy a baseball team he was actually outbid in his pursuit of the Texas Rangers. If he didn't want to spend more than $600 million on the Rangers, why would he spend an estimated $750 million-plus on the Dodgers in what could be an even messier transaction that could possibly include legal filings from Jamie McCourt's divorce attorneys?
What about Ron Burkle? You always hear his name mentioned as a possible buyer when sports teams are on the market, but he never actually closes the deal. What if he finally breaks that streak with the Dodgers, only to adopt the same mentality when it comes to free agents: always mentioned as a possibility, never making the transaction?
There are people with better baseball backgrounds mentioned as owner candidates, including former agent Dennis Gilbert. That sounds appealing, but we don't know how much money these candidates will have, or how effective they would actually be. So for now we can't assume they're the solution.
What can the Dodgers and their mounting debts do to appeal to the deepest pool of worthy owner candidates? One appealing nugget I've heard from a person connected with the group trying to bring the NFL to downtown Los Angeles is the possibility of using Dodger Stadium as a temporary home for the team while Farmers Field is being built. Would the possibility of hosting eight NFL games and getting lease fees or a cut of the gate for a couple of years be enough to make the Dodgers enticing?
Because I'm starting to wonder if they have enough appeal on their own. I went to a recent game and saw what currently constitutes the Dodger Stadium experience, consisting of a traffic-free entrance to the wide-open parking lot and empty seats throughout the ballpark. Dodgers games are no longer a big happening, even though the setting is as beautiful as ever, even though they have the type of star this market craves in Matt Kemp (MVP-caliber numbers with a history of dating celebrities).
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Is it possible this goes beyond the damage the McCourts have done to the Dodger brand and the security concerns raised by the beating of Bryan Stow on Opening Day? Could it be that baseball, in general, and the Dodgers, in particular, aren't capable of generating the same adoration they once did?
The sport has no compelling storyline this summer, and after years of Jose Canseco books, BALCO investigations and congressional hearings about performance-enhancing drugs, a new race for the home run record would only prompt skepticism, not record ratings. Baseball needs a galvanizing team like the NBA's Miami Heat.
To get Los Angeles' attention, you have to win championships. There are people who are old enough to rent a car without hassles who have no recollection of the Dodgers playing in the World Series. But success doesn't always bring a restoration of status. The UCLA men's basketball team has a not-too-dusty banner from 1995 and went to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006 to 2008 but hasn't regained the place in this city's heart it held in the John Wooden era. It's possible the expansion of Pauley Pavilion could mean only more seats go unfilled.
An ownership change would bring some people back to Dodger Stadium simply because they'd be confident their money would no longer go toward funding the McCourts -- or more accurately, their divorce attorneys.
Even the thrill of seeing the team sold would be tempered by seeing Frank McCourt see a profit from the sale. Or possibly Jamie McCourt. Definitely their lawyers.
I'm not sure the restoration of the Dodgers is as simple as changing the name atop the organizational flow chart. All I know is that Frank McCourt deserves nothing and Jamie McCourt deserves half of nothing.
J.A. Adande is a columnist for ESPN.com.