The Welcome End of the Steve Soboroff Era

On April 19, Frank McCourt hired Steve Soboroff as team vice chairman. Soboroff had been a mayoral candidate, real estate developer, and former senior advisor to Mayor Richard Riordan. Today, after a tenure of less than 100 days, most of which was marked by hilarity not seen since the days of “Baghdad Bob“, he resigned. Let’s look back longingly at the all-too-short tenure of Soboroff with the Dodgers.

April 19:

In a news release Tuesday, the Dodgers said Soboroff would be entrusted with “leading the efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium, strengthening ties to the region’s community and philanthropic organizations, and expanding conservation and sustainability programs at Dodger Stadium.”

“Steve understands this city as few others do, and his contributions have made Los Angeles a better place,” McCourt said in the release. “Not only will he infuse great ideas and energy to the Dodger organization, but he will use his trademark ‘get-it-done’ approach to extend the Dodgers’ positive impact on Los Angeles. It starts with a quality fan experience in the stadium, and extends throughout the Southern California community.”

April 20:

Bud Selig: “Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club.  I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball. My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt’s ownership.  I will announce the name of my representative in the next several days.

April 21:

“This is like having money in the bank and having somebody hold your ATM card,” Soboroff said. “The money is in the bank. The Fox deal is done. These actions are not allowing him to access money. That’s a lot different than saying he’s got financial problems.”

Soboroff, a former advisor to former Mayor Richard Riordan, a mayoral candidate and the developer of Playa Vista, was hired by McCourt on Tuesday. In a meeting with reporters, Soboroff said, “Frank McCourt is financially fine.”

Selig was said to be aghast at that statement, but Soboroff did not back down. He cited the Fox deal, potential real estate development in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and unidentified “other potential new revenue sources” as untapped sources of revenue for McCourt.

April 23:

“They think, ‘My God, this guy has lost his mind,’ ” Soboroff said in a late-night phone conversation Thursday. “Am I losing my marbles? No.”

He did say, however, that he would not have accepted the job had he known Selig was about to take the team: “I’m not stupid.”

May 6:

Now McCourt has had to apologize for Soboroff’s latest verbal volley, which he repeated to several media outlets.

He told Yahoo Sports, the New York Times and KPCC-FM (89.3) that he was unable to reach MLB’s Dodgers monitor, Tom Schieffer, the night Osama bin Laden was killed to ask for additional stadium security. Soboroff said he did not know how to reach him, so he sent an email to MLB Vice President Rob Manfred, who did not respond.

“So I did it myself,” Soboroff told the New York Times’ Richard Sandomir. “If I’m fired, so be it.”

Said Manfred to Sandomir: “I’ve never received an email or phone call from Steve Soboroff on security matters.”

Turns out, club general counsel Sam Fernandez, who must have known the double-secret handshake and did know how to reach Schieffer, made the request — and, as Schieffer showed in an email, had it approved within two minutes.

Which forced McCourt to apologize in both a public statement and a phone call to Manfred.

May 27:

The Dodgers return Friday night to open a brief six-game homestand, which seems a perfect time to mention who was all but invisible during the last homestand:

“Bulldog” Steve Soboroff.

Seems Frank McCourt actually did put a leash on his wild hair vice chairman of something or another.

During the last seven games at Dodger Stadium, Soboroff was nowhere to be seen, which naturally had me wondering if he had been fired after McCourt had to apologize to Major League Baseball after Soboroff’s latest verbal attack.

But, no, I was assured he was still in the fold, if just less publicly prominent. Seems McCourt finally understood that if you’re trying to get the commissioner of baseball to approve a TV deal to save your ownership, it probably isn’t the best idea to have your latest lackey trying to take a bite out of us butt every other day.

June 25:

Soboroff: I accepted the position as Vice Chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers because I love Los Angeles and I love the Dodgers. I felt I could use my previous experience during the past 30+ years with civic and public policy projects like Staples Center, the city’s Recreation and Parks system, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles, etc., etc. to help the Dodger organization and to help Los Angeles.

On the day my appointment was announced, last April, I received hundreds of messages of support from people throughout Los Angeles. It was a great start!

Unfortunately, the very next day, an unanticipated action by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball resulted (understandably) in elevating the resolution of ‘control and ownership’ issues to top priority, which remains to this day. As a consequence, it is not possible for me to effectively work on the very initiatives and contributions that you had hired me to implement.

My family and I have reflected on this turn of events and have determined that the present environment is not conductive to getting the results I was brought on to achieve for the Dodger organization or for Los Angeles

As a result, I am tendering my resignation as Vice Chairman of the Los Angeles Dodgers, effective immediately.

I remain a lifelong Dodger fan and will now embark on a different path to continue my longstanding efforts to make good things happen in Los Angeles.

In retrospect, you have to feel bad for him a little bit, just because of the timing of the MLB takeover; even he had admitted that he wouldn’t have taken the job if he had known that would happen. Don’t feel too bad for him, however, because it was hardly a secret that McCourt was in trouble, and it doesn’t change any of the ridiculous things he said, only serving to make McCourt look worse, which is a feat in itself. Soboroff’s departure, while almost certainly the right thing for the team, is just another in an embarrassingly long line of executives who have moved on under McCourt’s tenure.

Clock is ticking, Frankie.

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