I’m hardly the first one to cover this (see: DodgerThoughts, 6-4-2, Sons of Steve Garvey, BaseballThinkFactory, Ken Rosenthal and many more), but I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss out on this shitstorm. Let’s chalk this one up as “another reason having a real job stinks, because they expect you to actually work instead of blog”. For the record, I just scanned those other blogs to get the links and have not yet read their responses, so it’ll be interesting to see how similar to them it ends up.
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Jamie McCourt said one of the dumbest things in American history the other day. Let’s do this with a fervor usually reserved only for Bill Plaschke! I don’t even usually swear that much when I write here, but this one’s got some special sauce involved…
Would Dodgers fans react negatively if the team were to pay big money to free agents when the nation’s economy is in sharp decline and many Americans are losing their jobs?
That was the question posed by Dodgers President Jamie McCourt as she made an appearance with her husband, team owner Frank McCourt, Tuesday at an event where it was announced the club’s charitable foundation would help build 42 youth fields around Southern California.
Anywhere, Los Angeles. Two recently laid-off Angelenos try to distract themselves from their inability to find a job by discussing their favorite pastime, Dodger baseball.
“Steve, I think I’m going to lose my house. I won’t be able to send my kids to college. But at least I still have baseball to look forward to.”
“Tom, I feel your pain, I can’t find a job either. Hey, I hear the Dodgers might sign CC Sabathia. How great of a rotation would CC/Billingsley/Kershaw/Kuroda be? Unstoppable!”
“What! How could they do that! I can’t find work, and they’re going to give Sabathia all that money! I’m offended by that! Boooo!”
“Tom, what the hell are you talking about? Sabathia’s getting his money no matter where he signs. Ticket prices are going to be high no matter what, and it’s not like we’re getting a refund if CC doesn’t get that salary from the Blue, so shouldn’t we at least want to see our team win while we’re down in the dumps?”
“You’re right, Steve. I’m being ridiculous. Because while the economy sucks, I’m not a fucking moron and realize that a billion-dollar baseball team giving a hundred million dollars to a great player will have absolutely no impact on my life other than to make me happy to see them win.”
“If you bring somebody in to play and pay them, pick a number, $30 million, does that seem a little weird to you?” Jamie McCourt asked in an interview at the Evergreen Recreation Center in East Los Angeles. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We’re really trying to see it through the eyes of our fans. We’re really trying to understand, would they rather have the 50 fields?”
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 it’s 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.
You want to see it through “the eyes of the fans”? Guess what: we’re all for kids. Build them fields. Be a good citizen of the community. Build the next generation of baseball fans, because that’s how this business is going to sustain itself – and who knows how many kids we’ve already lost through 9pm EST World Series starts and the like. But there is no one – no one – who’s going to say “I’d rather the Dodgers miss the playoffs, in order for some kids to have a nice field to play on.” I’m not pretending that a baseball team winning is more important than supporting the youth of the America – it’s not, let’s keep our priorities straight – but do NOT insult our intelligence by suggesting that one has anything to do with the other.
Once again, just in case I wasn’t clear. This is not an either/or proposition! I salute you for building these fields, I really do. You’ve probably made a difference in the lives of some kids, and that’s commendable. But the idea that the “charitable donations” budget and the “baseball operations” budget is one and the same is ludicrous. And again, let’s not forget that the cost of 50 youth baseball fields maybe covers Manny’s per diem.
The Dodgers recently made a two-year, $45-million offer to slugger Manny Ramirez that they later withdrew, and the McCourts seemed to be hedging against lavish spending during a time of such great economic uncertainty.
Not that anyone ever expected Manny to accept this offer in the first place, but we all know how poor the economy is right now, and I have no problem with fidiuciary responsibility; no one is suggesting or asking that we become the West Coast Yankees.
Jamie McCourt said the fact that the majority of contracts were guaranteed was a significant issue.
“I think, oddly enough, maybe if things weren’t guaranteed, then we could pay for it,” she said. “If people can’t play anymore, it’s like, ‘Oh well, see ya.’ Different story. Whatever money they are guaranteed could be money that we could otherwise have given to community.”
Oh dear God. You’re complaining about guaranteed contracts? Welcome to the last 30 years. Hey, you know what else is an issue? Free agency! Why can’t we bring back the reserve clause and tie players to their original teams forever? That’d be great for us poor, poor owners! Damn you, Curt Flood!
As for the second part of that quote… look, I know Jamie McCourt is a smart woman with her fancy degrees and all, but I am actually getting offended with how stupid she thinks baseball fans are. Are you really, truly, honestly suggesting that if contracts weren’t guaranteed, then underperforming players would be cut loose and their salary given to the community? Would you really be giving the $18 million or so due Andruw Jones to needy families? Or are you saying that you can’t afford to give more to charity because your cash is all tied up in expensive players? We’ve said pretty much everything bad you can say about Juan Pierre around here, but “takes food out of the mouths of orphans” isn’t exactly a level we’ve made it to yet.
Frank McCourt said that while he and his wife contribute money out of their own pockets to the Dodgers’ charitable causes, the team and its foundation are separate entities and the funds to pay for the fields won’t be taken out of the team’s operating budget. But he, too, said the Dodgers had to re-examine their priorities.
Frank, I think you may want to have a chat with the missus, because she seems to think otherwise. I think that chat should maybe start with, “hey. could you keep your fat mouth shut when you have no idea what you’re talking about?”
Later in the article, McCourt was asked about the absurd spring training prices, while Dylan Hernandez astutely points out McCourt’s error:
Because of the economy, Frank McCourt was asked, had the Dodgers overpriced the tickets for spring training games at their new facility in Glendale, Ariz.?
He said no, adding that only a small percentage of tickets cost $90. (Actually, they can cost as much as $125 for “premium” games.) He called the other seats, which range from $18 to $30 for “regular” games and $20 to $35 for “premium” games, “very affordable.”
“And keep in mind,” Frank added, “there’s also going to be the berm seating at the ballpark,” referring to tickets to sit in the grass behind the outfield fences, which will cost $8 or $10, depending on the game.
I love spring training. Love it. Well, loved it, now that it’s moving from Vero to Arizona, but that’s another story entirely. But even I wouldn’t pay $35 to see Luis Maza, Pablo Ozuna, and BJ LaMura amble around the field. If the economy is so bad that you’re choosing between free agents and children, Frank, then why are meaningless practice games so much?
Oh, right. The scented towels.
You know what, I’ve tried. I really have. I’ve been a Dodger fan for two decades and I can’t imagine anything happening that would change that. But I just cannot stomach any more of these woe-is-me stories from millionaires. McCourt has made some immense mistakes since taking over, from how much money he had to borrow to buy the team to the ridiculous way he caved to Plashke in prematurely firing Paul DePodesta. We’re starting to see real repercussions on the field of play due to these new penny-pinching ways, and unfortunately, this points to a much larger issue. Look, I don’t need to see you outspend the Yankees. But these are the Los Angeles Dodgers we’re talking about here. This is a huge market, and one that annually is at or near the top of the league in attendance. We shouldn’t be pinching pennies. We shouldn’t have had to throw in Carlos Santana just so you could avoid paying the $2 million left on Casey Blake’s deal, and we shouldn’t even be speaking to the Pirates about Jack fucking Wilson, much less demanding the Pirates eat most of his salary (to clarify here, I’m not saying it’s not a bonus if we have to pay him less, because it is; it just reeks of “we’ll only do this trade if it doesn’t cost us anything” more than it does a good baseball deal. I wouldn’t do Wilson for Hu straight up, much less Wilson for Hu, Young, and another player.)
I get it. The economy is lousy for everyone, and due to that handing out $160 million or so to Sabathia might not be the most prudent course of action. That’s reasonable, and if that’s the case, so be it. We’d understand. Or at least we’d accept it a whole hell of a lot better than we would be treated like idiots who can’t smell what a load of horsecrap “free agents OR KIDS!” is.
I am, for the moment, truly disgusted. Happy Thanksgiving.
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness