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Prove Us Wrong, Frank, Prove Us Wrong
2004-01-26 08:07
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

So here he comes, dressed to dazzle in his rented tux, pink corsage in hand. (We're wearing blue.)

Our blind date is ringing the doorbell, and now all we're wondering is what he's gonna say when we open the door.

Back in November, I urged Frank McCourt to come meet the parents. I wrote:

If you intend to bring glory back to the Dodger franchise, Frank, then Step 1 is for you to come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.

If you intend to have a generous approach to payroll, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so. If you intend to have a conservative approach to payroll, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.

If you intend to preserve Dodger Stadium, a high-functioning city treasure, rather than embark on a real-estate swap that will make Mayor Jim Hahn's crackpot scheme for LAX look like genius, then come to Los Angeles and tell the people so.

In the absence of such a visit, in the absence of any statements on these issues, I can only assume the worst about your intentions, Frank.

After I published this piece, readers wrote to me to tell me that McCourt was under a gag order imposed by Major League Baseball and could not make any public comment on the purchase until after it was completed.

However, when Bill Shaikin of the Times interviewed me for this McCourt story and I mentioned the gag order, he clarified that there is no rule preventing McCourt from commenting, just a recommendation.

Are the two the same? Perhaps McCourt was in no position to find out on his own. But the smart thing to do would have been to tell MLB commissioner Bud Selig that silence was anything but golden.

The best interests of everyone involved - Selig, McCourt and the fans - woud have been much better served if, at a minimum, McCourt could have prepared some talking points that would have filled the information gap about his intentions. If he's the family man/passionate baseball fan that his supporters would have us believe, then all the more reason to let him converse with us.

Instead, McCourt let Selig and his lieutenant, Bob DuPuy, make guarded comments that offered platitudes but nothing concrete, let the media and fans fill rest of in the blanks and, as I predicted two months ago, created an environment of fear and resentment.

So now, McCourt has to make up for it.

First, he's going to have to answer questions about Dodger Stadium, and either he's going to say a teardown is on the table or it isn't. That's most of the game right there - more than anything, his intentions about the Chavez Ravine property will determine whether McCourt gets a kiss on the lips or his corsage thrown back in his face.

As for the team on the field, yes, the Dodgers need hitting. And yes, not a single Dodger minor league prospect should be considered untouchable in the literal sense.

But Dodger general manager Dan Evans has been on the right track in being ferociously careful with the jewels of the team's minor league system. (Vladimir Guerrero, as we all know, could have been signed without sacrificing a single ruby.) If McCourt's idea of winning the fans involves giving up top prospects for a one-year rental on a hitter that, given the team's payroll concerns, will leave the Dodgers as empty-batted eight months from now as they are today, then Los Angeles and McCourt will have truly embarked upon a dysfunctional relationship.

The hostile reaction to McCourt over the past two months has debunked the myth that Dodger fans are stupid and apathetic. They haven't bought in to the myth that no owner can be worse than News Corp. And after years under that ownership, they will surely recognize when the future of the team is being trashed.

The good news, of course, is that because of McCourt's cash-poor situation, he may have no choice but to hang onto the prospects - or if he's going to approve a trade, make it a trade for a productive, long-term investment.

We can only hope. We can only hope.

When that door opens and you walk in, Frank, you get a clean slate. Everyone in Los Angeles is perfectly willing to eat their words, to apologize, to say that their fears about you were misguided.

Be smart. Be good. That's the whole ballgame.

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