A Much Needed Day Off

The Dodgers have today off, their first after a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, the maximum allowed by the collective bargaining agreement. Usually a day without baseball is arduous, but I for one am glad for the break, because what happened in a stretch of just two hours yesterday afternoon is unlike I’ve ever seen.

At approximately 12:30 pm PST, the Dodgers were avoiding a sweep in Miami, as homers from Rod Barajas in the 5th and Andre Ethier in the 10th – along with four scoreless innings of relief from Blake Hawksworth, Matt Guerrier, and Vicente Padilla – helped overcome the 4-0 deficit that Chad Billingsley had put them into. Billingsley’s final line indicates a shaky start, but all of the Florida damage came in the second innings; other than a few walks, he was essentially perfect in his other five innings.

The big story there – other than Ethier’s heroics, of course – was Padilla entering the game to nail down the save in the bottom of the 10th, rather than Jonathan Broxton, deemed “unavailable” despite not having pitched the day before and with today being a day off. Much will be made of Padilla’s usage over Broxton, despite Don Mattingly claiming after the game that Broxton remains his closer. (Dylan Hernandez later reported that Broxton was dealing with some elbow soreness; whether that’s legitimate or a convenient excuse to not use Broxton remains to be seen, but this would be the rare case where I’d actually be thrilled if he had an arm injury, if only because it would provide a reason for his troubles.)

Regardless of how the 9th inning situation works out, I’m glad to have another alternative besides Broxton, who’s clearly not right. (Padilla and Kenley Jansen are each featured in my new Baseball Prospectus piece on relievers, which I was writing yesterday when all the Dodger fun went down.) Still, I’d caution against heaping too much praise on Padilla just yet; while he was able to smoothly get through the inning, he was also helped by three defensive plays that ranged from good to outstanding, support Broxton hasn’t always received. Padilla’s struck out just one of the eleven batters he’s faced, and while I’ll chalk that up to his quick return from arm surgery, he’s not quite there yet either.

But the fun hardly stopped there, of course. Hours later Frank McCourt was in New York, just three blocks from where I sit, giving a press conference on how MLB had wronged him. I won’t recap the play-by-play of the proceedings here – Tony Jackson, Jon Weisman, and Ramona Shelburne have all done so expertly already – but if anything has become abundantly clear, it’s that McCourt just doesn’t get it. He can act contrite, accept blame, and play the victim all he wants, but he doesn’t seem to understand that everything he says he’s doing for the fans of Los Angeles, he’s really just doing for himself. If he really wanted to help the fans and the Dodgers, he’d accept what a villain he’s become and slink away – and by “slink”, I mean “sell for many, many millions more than he paid for the club with other people’s money”.

We’re not close to being done yet, though. Almost immediately after McCourt finished in New York, back in Los Angeles, new Dodger caretaker Tom Schieffer met the media for his own meet-and-greet – and struck all of the right tones about how his goal is simply to return the Dodgers to respectability. The visual overtones were hard to ignore; Schieffer in Los Angeles, riding in to save the day, while McCourt was 3,000 miles away in New York stamping his feet that he couldn’t get his way, after Bud Selig had vetoed his proposed deal with FOX.

Of course, the main problem with that it didn’t necessarily really happen that way. Just after the dueling press conferences finished, Rob Manfred, Executive VP of Labor Relations for MLB, kept the rollercoaster going by issuing a statement, which read in part:

It is unfortunate that Mr. McCourt felt it necessary to publicize the content of a private meeting. It is even more unfortunate that Mr. McCourt’s public recitation was not accurate. Most fundamental, Commissioner Selig did not ‘veto’ a proposed transaction. Rather, Mr. McCourt was clearly told that the Commissioner would make no decision on any transaction until after his investigation into the Club and its finances is complete so that he can properly evaluate all of the facts and circumstances. 

If it wasn’t clear already that MLB wants nothing further to do with McCourt, Manfred’s statement made it crystal. Even better, we’re still going this morning, as Drew McCourt, better known as one of the McCourt sons on the payroll despite questionable contributions, refuted Manfred’s opposition:

Recap of meeting with baseball was 100% accurate… Manfred’s comment not truthful… Someone ought to ask him.

In addition, McCourt’s making the media rounds, stopping by CNBC early this morning to repeat much of what he said in his press conference.

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(I particularly enjoyed CNBC slapping up a graphic showing Jamie as “co-owner” over his face while he was talking. I bet Frank will love that.) I will admit that I am hopelessly biased in this case, but there is nothing that comes off as genuine there. He continues to harp on the fact that the Dodgers have met all of their obligations without asking MLB for assistance, neglecting to mention that he had to take a loan from FOX to meet payroll. He insists that $300m of his proposed megadeal with FOX will go directly into the team, not his own debts, hoping we won’t ask what happens to all the rest of that money, of which $300m is a drop. He apologizes for taking “only” $50m out of the team (plus another $50m in a loan), as though that makes it all okay. He complains that Selig won’t speak to him and that he doesn’t understand why, as though it’s not totally obvious that Selig is concerned about a possible McCourt lawsuit and doesn’t want to provide anything actionable. He attacks MLB for moving to insert Schieffer, as though his actions didn’t lead to that in any way.

McCourt vows to fight on, saying, “Nobody gave me this property or handed it to me and nobody is going to take it away. These are my hard-earned dollars that I’ve put in my franchise, and I’ll protect my rights. I’m not going anywhere.” As ever, he’s completely out of touch. Fans want him gone. Baseball wants him gone. His ex-wife wants him gone. Even Joe Torre has gone over to baseball’s side, and while Ned Colletti would never say it, you better believe his life would be a lot easier without all of this.  

The only one who doesn’t want Frank gone is Frank himself, and he’s apparently willing to burn the team down to the ground to hang on to it.

Go away, Frank. Go. Away.

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