Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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Frank McCourt makes me feel powerless.
He could be the next great disaster for the Dodgers. Or, he could be a hidden treasure of, well, adequacy.
But how disturbing is it that after Thursday's press conference to discuss his purchase of the team, there is nothing that actually inspires confidence? Every potential positive statement made by or about McCourt had to be qualified.
Whatever the future holds, good or bad ... today, the Dodgers really seem to belong to someone else. Maybe this feeling will go away, but they don't feel like the city's team right now. They don't feel like our team.
Literally, they never were ours, but figuratively, they were. Not today.
Consider this: throughout the entire day, I didn't find a note of celebration that the News Corp. (majority) ownership of the Dodgers was over. Can you believe this? A few months ago, the city of Los Angeles would have held a bonfire of revelry at Fox's departure. Today, there's just uncertainty.
It's perhaps the oddest feeling I've observed in following the Dodgers.
Here are some primary statements that contribute to this feeling, followed by my response to them.
1) David Wharton, Los Angeles Times: "McCourt had been precluded from speaking publicly during four months of negotiations with News Corp. and Major League Baseball."
I don't know why the Times would publish this statement when people, including a Times reporter, have stated that this was not the case - that there was no rule against McCourt speaking - his silence becoming the first sign of trouble.
2) Frank McCourt, Dodger owner: "We have no plans to do anything other than play baseball here at Dodger Stadium."
It's better than nothing. On the other hand, I had no plans to start a baseball blog two years ago, and look at what's happened since.
3) David Wharton: "But other changes could be in store for the venerable ballpark at Chavez Ravine, including a corporate naming rights deal."
This was a punch in the gut. I know, we're all prima donnas. But if Fox avoided selling the Dodger Stadium name, it's hard to swallow that the new owner is already broaching this one.
Some say that if the money goes to the payroll, then it's worth it. Prove to me that that's where the money is going.
4) David Wharton: "Terms of the deal remained unclear. McCourt said he committed more than $200 million, but baseball sources maintained Thursday he had taken out an unspecified bank loan and that none of the money was his."
This is good. Already, someone's spreading misinformation. Don't know if it really matters who.
5) David Wharton: "McCourt also announced that, for the first time, all 162 of the Dodgers' games will be televised next season."
Even I think this is overkill. I'm not criticizing McCourt on this decision, but of the added telecasts, how many will Vin Scully be broadcasting? Not enough, I fear.
6) Frank McCourt: "At the end of the day, it's not platitudes, it's performance that matters."
Agreed. This is a whole new chapter. McCourt's actions are the key. Does he know right from wrong? Does he know good from bad? No matter how many misgivings have built up to this point, I don't think there's a Dodger fan in town who won't come to like McCourt if he can do the job.
7) Frank McCourt: "We're going to sign a guy that can hit."
Follow-up question: Who determines who can hit, and what criteria do they use?
8) Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times: "Of his focus, [McCourt] said, 'This is about baseball, baseball, baseball.' Yet throughout the afternoon of interviews, he didn't mention one player."
I don't know if this is a crime. I'm wondering which player I would have mentioned. I guess I would have found some way to drop in, say, I'm excited about Eric Gagne or something. I don't know if this matters, but I don't fault Plaschke for bringing it up.
9) Bill Plaschke: [McCourt] said baseball prohibited him from meddling in the Dodgers' off-season moves, thus excusing himself of the failure to acquire a power hitter. "We were forbidden to influence the team," he said.
That's an appalling statement. Is it disengenous or just plain false? Does he not understand what the word "influence" means? His very existence was an influence. It may have induced paralysis, but I think that counts. Disturbing thing for him to say. Take responsibility, Frank. Say "I wish we (yes, we) didn't have to hold off on finding a power hitter, but the waiting is over, and we'll look to make the best deals we can from here on out." It wouldn't have made everything right - we'd still have to see what the future holds - but at least he wouldn't be insulting us.
10) Bill Plaschke: "Yet in the past several months he repeatedly has met with top Dodger officials. And back when the Walt Disney Co. was in that long holding pattern to buy the Angels, Disney was allowed to approve any moves costing more than $50,000."
Good for Bill, not letting McCourt off the hook on that one.
11) Frank McCourt: "We will have a $100-million-plus payroll."
For how long? Not that it matters, not that this figure makes or breaks the Dodgers' chances. But this statement needs elaboration.
12) Bill Plaschke: "Good. Make a trade for a high-priced slugger such as Magglio Ordonez."
Careful. Be very careful. One-year rentals (on players entering their free agent year, such as Ordonez) are dangerous. Never say never, but don't over-spend. This is where you fear McCourt trying to make too big a splash.
13) Bill Plaschke: "Only two years ago, the new ownership group in Boston was greeted with similar skepticism before confounding baseball officials by spending the money to build a contending team."
Although Plaschke is comparing apples to cantelopes here, this is why we're going to give McCourt his chance.
14) Frank McCourt: "It's not how much money you spend, but how smart you spend it."
See 7) and 11).
15) Bill Plaschke: "But right now, they have what appears to be the worst team in the division."
This almost seems off topic - talking about a pennant race. Anyway, the Dodgers are not worse than Colorado.
16) David M. Carter, USC Sports Business consultant, to Mike DiGiovanna, Los Angeles Times: "If [McCourt] makes changes soon, it looks like he's cleaning house and is a reactionary. If he waits, he runs the risk of a year going by with a lame-duck management team and forgoes a chance to get his own people up to speed."
A real dilemma, exacerbated by the tensions raised by McCourt's silence during the McCourtship with baseball.
17) Dave Roberts, Dodger outfielder, to DiGiovanna: "We have to hope the people controlling things have the organization's best interests in mind."
It all rides on hope for everyone.
18) Unnamed baseball agent, to DiGiovanna: "I think anything the commissioner's office can do to take a premier spending franchise out of the mix, that will bring more salary restraint, it will do."
The source is bad, but the statement is too obvious to ignore.
19) T.J. Simers, Los Angeles Times "THE FIRST guy I ran into at Dodger Stadium was one of parking guy's many PR advisors."
Boy, do these people need help.
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