The Collected Sins of the Frank & Jamie McCourt Era

The McCourts, as I hardly need to remind you, continue to take their battle against each other and Major League Baseball to new and ridiculous heights. Or lows. Every day, it seems, they or one of their cohorts are either saying something humiliating or backpedaling against new allegations of past improprieties. You don’t want to say it’s to the point that nothing else can shock you… but it’s hard to think that it’s far off. Really, does anyone have any respect whatsoever for these two any longer?

In fact, the list of moments in which they’ve embarrassed the Dodgers and/or the fans has grown so quickly that it has become very difficult to keep track of it all. Today, we rectify that, by collecting all of the events which have caused us to cover our faces in shame. It hasn’t been all bad, of course, and you can point to some positives during their tenure, but not nearly enough to compete with the horrors they’ve visited upon us.

Two caveats here. First, this is just about the activities of the McCourt family and their immediate cronies, not of the entire organization, so unless you can find concrete evidence that McCourt ordered Ned Colletti to give Juan Pierre $44m over Colletti’s objections, it doesn’t belong here. Second, I’m not including two items that many will see as glaring omissions. Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Angels before McCourt officially took over in 2004, and the Carlos Santana trade may not have been as much about money as we like to think it was. Frank McCourt has done enough awful things to this franchise, so no need to fabricate any others.

This is intended to be a living list, which I’ll link to on the sidebar and update as needed, so if you think I’ve missed anything, do let me know – but be able to back it up with proof.  If I’ve misstated anything here, I’m happy to hear that feedback as well. Unless noted otherwise, all items here are Frank’s. The list is presented in rough, though not absolute, chronological order.

  1. Purchased Dodgers almost entirely on debt. (Yes, MLB deserves a huge amount of the blame for allowing this to happen in the first place.)
  2. Split team and related properties into a tangled web of entities which pay into themselves, the ramifications of which are only being realized now.
  3. Charged the Dodgers rent to play in their own stadium, money which went to one of his many holding companies.
  4. Allowed incumbent GM Dan Evans to twist in the wind, claiming he was a candidate for his own job, before firing him just prior to spring training in 2004.
  5. Fired CMO Lon Rosen and VP of communications Gary Miereanu less than a year after McCourt had hired them, the first in what would be a long string of front-office departures.
  6. Conducted managerial search behind GM Paul DePodesta’s back, as DePodesta was interviewing his own candidates.
  7. Fired DePodesta a month after an injury-plagued 2005 season, after having allowed him just one offseason to make moves, most of which – Derek Lowe, Jeff Kent, J. D. Drew – worked out well.
  8. Placed two sons on the payroll despite neither having an identifiable position with the club.
  9. Unveiled plans for massive upgrades to Dodger Stadium, to be completed for Opening Day 2012… most of which, you may have noticed, never took place.
  10. Paid Vladimir Shpunt, an elderly Russian self-proclaimed “faith healer” who knew little about baseball,  approximately $600k to send the team ”V Energy” from his home in Boston. Yes, that’s a thing which really happened.
  11. Allowed merchandise/advertisements to be produced which celebrated both the 1962 and 1966 World Series championship seasons and the career of former catcher Lou Campanella, who wore #42 with the Dodgers. (added 7/18/11 – thanks, Luke)
  12. Forced out VP of communications Camille Johnston, who announced she was leaving just two weeks after Charles Steinberg was hired. At the time, in December 2007, she was the fourth communications chief to leave since the McCourts purchased the team.
  13. Make that five, since Steinberg left when the divorce was announced, along with the firing of six employees who Steinberg had brought on. (One of whom, admittedly, was a roommate of mine in college. He made out with a friend of mine who later joined a convent. Still don’t know how to feel about that.)
  14. Announced separation hours before the start of the 2009 NLCS, creating a public distraction at the worst possible time.
  15. Fired CEO Jamie and changed the locks on her office hours after the 2009 NLCS ended.
  16. Planned to reduce payroll while doubling ticket prices over the next several years.
  17. Asked Dodger fans to choose between talented ballplayers and fields for poor children. (This one, and the next four, are just on Jamie.)
  18. Reportedly engaged in an affair with a team employee, bodyguard/driver Jeff Fuller.
  19. Sent said employee to Taiwan, where he claimed to represent the Dodgers on a bizarre marketing trip…
  20. but not before taking a European vacation with Fuller on the Dodgers’ dime.
  21. Asked for nearly $500k per month in spousal support, including flowers, hair and makeup, free tickets to all NL games, and access to a private jet.
  22. Reduced draft pick spending in 2008-09 to the lowest level of any team in baseball.
  23. Allegedly fired 40 employees days before Christmas 2009, which at least one employee says was made public knowledge at the team Christmas party.
  24. Fired team president Dennis Mannion, who had experience in all four pro sports, in addition to three of Mannion’s employees – and replaced him with Geoff Wharton, who had only a real estate background.
  25. Paid Howard Sunkin, a Frank associate and head of the Dodgers Dream Foundation, a salary commensurate with a charity nearly 90 times as large. (The money was later repaid.)
  26. Repaid over $100,000 to the charity that had improperly went to Jamie McCourt.
  27. Reduced international spending on prospects to the lowest level of any team in baseball.
  28. Took at least $100m out of the team for personal use.
  29. Considered plans to eventually run for president. (Jamie)
  30. Saw at least 22 front-office employees either quit or be fired between September 2009 – December 2010.
  31. Attempted to procure a $200m loan from Fox in February 2011 to meet expenses, which was rejected by Bud Selig.
  32. Borrowed about $55m from Fox on a personal loan to meet early 2011 expenses, circumventing Selig.
  33. Fired security chief Ray Maytorena and left post unfilled for four months, a period in which Giants fan Bryan Stow was nearly beaten to death in the parking lot.
  34. Waited days to respond publicly to Stow incident.
  35. Sued by his former law firm, Bingham McCutchen.
  36. Reportedly investigated by the IRS for not paying taxes.
  37. Hired Steve Soboroff, who quit barely two months later after a disastrous stint that included an outright lie about security, which McCourt was forced to apologize for.
  38. Watched as MLB appointed Tom Schieffer to monitor the team.
  39. Went on New York media tour pathetically trying to drum up public support.
  40. Attempted a second deal to sell future television rights to Fox for below-market value, which was also rejected by Selig.
  41. Sued by the family of Bryan Stow.
  42. Claimed, falsely, that not a penny of Fox deal would go to settle divorce case. (See next item).
  43. Announced sham divorce settlement that was not only untenable because it depended entirely on Selig’s unlikely approval of Fox deal, but confirmed that $173.5m would actually go for personal use.
  44. Stated that he lived in a one bedroom apartment, which is really a $30,000/month luxury hotel.
  45. Met the May 30, 2011 payroll by getting sponsors to pay in advance at a heavily discounted rate.
  46. Threatened to sue MLB, despite having signed a document agreeing that he would not when he took ownership.
  47. Claimed that the MLB takeover was the cause of low attendance, as opposed to criminal ownership, horrendously bad PR, stadium security concerns, or an underwhelming on-field product.
  48. Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  49. Barred MLB-appointed overseers from Dodger Stadium. MLB responded by demanding that their people be allowed back in.
  50. Lined up an incredibly lousy deal ($4.5m fee, 10% interest) on a loan to make June 30, 2011 payroll. (7/1/11 updateit gets worse. The $4.5m fee is upon completion of the loan, and is separate from a $5m upfront fee to make the deal.)
  51. Included in bankruptcy argument that since the Dodgers beat the Twins 15-0 shortly after filing was announced, “I think this convincingly disproves the argument bankruptcy is bad for baseball.”
  52. Bounced checks to Dodger Stadium security guards and ushers. (Added 6/30/11)
  53. Reportedly attempted to take an additional $20m out of the team in April 2011, even after the concerns about making payroll had arisen. (Added 7/6/11)
  54. Failed to convince a judge to accept McCourt-arranged financing in favor of MLB-provided loans, with the judge noting “previously undisclosed financial stake in the Highbridge financing had compromised [McCourt's] judgment.”
  55. Cited by Vero Beach, FL, for improperly maintaining a team-owned plot of land and vacant house, with terms such as “nuisance” and “eyesore” thrown around. (Added 7/27/11)
  56. Sued by the Dodgers own broadcasters, Fox Sports West, for attempting to sell television rights before Fox’s exclusive contract is over. (Added 9/28/11)
  57. Countersued the two men accused of beating Stow, claiming they should be held liable for the attack rather than McCourt, which is fine – but which included comments by McCourt lawyer Jerome Jackson indicating that Stow shares liability for the jumping that ended with his head split open in the parking lot, which is much less fine. (Added 10/29/11)

So we start off with 50 items. How large will this list need to grow to before this nightmare is over?