Earlier today, Tony Jackson of ESPNLA penned an open letter to Frank McCourt, asking him to sell the team and leave town, both for the sake of the franchise & their fans and the McCourt family itself. It’s rare that you see a beat writer so openly turning on the team (though he is of course absolutely right to do so), and I commend Jackson for doing it so eloquently and thoughtfully.
It also reminded me that I did the same thing nearly two years ago. I bring that up not in an any sort of an attempt to say that it was my idea first (clearly, dozens of similar items have been written), but because when I went back and read it today, it’s amazing to see how we felt at the time without even knowing just how bad things would get.
This was from October 23, 2009, about a week after the news of the separation and just after the Phillies bounced the Dodgers out of the NLCS.
Frank & Jamie;
Hi. How’re things? Oh, right. That. Yes, we were all very sorry to hear about the impending end of your marriage. I think we all know more than a few people at this point who’ve been through that (it took me until 28 to date a girl whose parents weren’t divorced), and there’s no question it can be a terrible and traumatic experience. So, our utmost condolences to the both of you and your family, and we hope that if reconciliation is no longer an option, then at least this trying issue can be worked out as painlessly as possible.
Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. See, what should be happening here is that your personal issues are no different from the 8 billion other divorces that happen every year. And of course, if you weren’t who you are, that’s exactly what would be happening. Your marital issues would be none of our business, just like every other person’s.
The difference here, of course, is that you (both of you? one of you? who even knows at this point?) are the owners of the Dodgers, and it is only in that capacity that you really matter to us. Don’t get me wrong, because I know how callous that sounds, and I’m sure you’re lovely people. It’s just that we’re in this because we’re baseball fans, and if you didn’t run the Dodgers your lives would be no more or less important to me than any other person’s who I have not and will not ever meet.
So when the news of your divorce came out on the day of Game 1 of the NLCS, that was troubling enough. In the days since, rather than celebrate the end of the Dodger season and plans for the offseason, we’ve had to listen to quotes like “they’re trashing each other terribly. It’s going to be World War III” and now see the news that Jamie’s been fired from her position as CEO, while promising a lawsuit.
I’ve yet to read an account that doesn’t characterize this as being an extremely ugly situation. And yet again, I don’t really care about the “winner” of this situation insomuch as who gets the two (at least!) mansions you own. Remember, we only really care about how this is going to impact the Dodgers. We’re workaday slobs, you know, so watching our favorite team succeed is the only respite from our otherwise crushing lives. Or something like that.
We all saw what happened in San Diego, when John Moores got divorced and was forced to drastically slash the payroll and sell the club, right? Well, as crushing as this NLCS loss was, the fact remains that the Dodgers have won a playoff series in each of the last two years and still have a nice young core of talent. The future should be bright. So if this team goes downhill because of your petty bitching, well, that’s just unforgivable.
Even worse, this is hardly your first misstep. First, we had to watch as you bought a team, financed by debt, that you really couldn’t afford. That led to such atrocities as having to include catcher Carlos Santana (who’s only won the MVP of his league in each of the last two seasons) in the Casey Blake deal just to save $2m, rather than use a lesser prospect. He’s probably going to be the Indians’ starting catcher next year, and with how badly Russell Martin’s fallen off the cliff, don’t you think he would have been a nice player to have right now?
Or how about firing Dan Evans – sort of, by not relieving him of his duties but by telling him that they were looking for his replacement, and that he could interview for his own job - just three weeks before camp started in 2004? Or the sloppy way in which Paul DePodesta was canned? Say what you will about DePodesta (not to start that war again), but what’s more egregious – giving a GM just one offseason to remake the team, or not firing him until a month after the season ended, with him interviewing managerial candidates while you – unbeknownst to him – conducted your own search?
Then there was the absolute horror of the comments that Jamie made about Dodger fans having to choose between signing Manny or building parks for kids, which – in addition to coming right before buying that second mansion - infuriated us all so much that I have to reprint part of how we felt about it last winter:
Do you ever read something and you want to say three sentences at once in reply, but you have to force your brain to relax and just do one at a time so it’ll make sense? Because right now I’m not sure which thought is trying to push its way out of my head first: the idea that paying for 50 baseball fields is somehow costing enough that a top free agent is no longer affordable (seriously, how much did these fields cost? Is the grass made out of emeralds? Do the kids get Hall of Famers to coach every position) or the idea that Jamie McCourt basically just said “if you want the Dodgers to get good, though expensive, players, then you’re a monster who hates children.” Because, you know, when the Dodgers went out and got Manny and sold about ten billion $300 replica jerseys and fake dreadlocks and playoff tickets, all of you were bad people for supporting that expensive player and giving all that money to the McCourts.
All of which is a long way of saying that, despite the recent success on the field, you’ve done plenty to enrage Dodger fans – and remember, if we’re not “Dodger fans”, then you are two completely nameless, faceless people to us.
Don’t let your personal issues get in the way of the enjoyment of millions of Dodger fans around the world, because if – as seems likely – this devolves into a path of scorched earth and courtroom rhetoric that leads to the selling off of assets on the field and a string of losing seasons like in San Diego, you might still own the team, and you might have won in the eyes of the law, but you’ll still be a pariah in the eyes of Dodger fans everywhere.
Fix this quickly and privately, or sell the team. Now. You may be striving for the spotlight, but you’re not bigger than the Dodgers, and it’s your association with them that’s brought you fame – not vice versa.
That was about 20 months or so ago, and other than the still uncertain fact that the Santana deal may not just have been about the $2m, there’s not a single thing I’d take back there. We were worried, coming off of two NLCS appearances, that the team would fall apart on the field. It’s happened. We were scared that we’d have to witness years of two pompous, selfish, arrogant nitwits engaging in a public cash grab while the team and fans suffered. That happened too. Remember, this was all before the true facts came out about just how much money they were siphoning off for personal use, before any talk of Russian faith healers, before any unwelcome security concerns at the ballpark, before MLB stepped in to monitor the team, and before the bi-weekly guessing game of “will they make payroll?” We didn’t know any of that yet, and we were still terrified about what these two would do.
It also reminds me that we didn’t like the pair very much even before the divorce, a fact which I think is often lost today. Even as apprehensive as we were at the time, none of us could possibly have predicted just how bad it would get. These two clowns needed to be rid of the team years ago. As Jackson says, the clock is ticking on their regime. Do the right thing.