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Concern Is Not Revolt
2004-03-09 07:18
by Jon Weisman

If a son tells his father he's been playing too fast and loose with the family finances, does that mean the son doesn't support the father?

If Dad tells Junior that this struggling family needs to change its ways - meaning that everyone in the family should start buying Quick Pick lottery tickets on a daily basis - do we conclude that because it's change, it must be change for the good?

The significance of Ross Newhan's article in this morning's editions of the Times is not the individual departures of Dodger executives Bob Graziano and Kris Rone. Rather, it's the added spotlight shed on the possibility that Frank McCourt's finances are a house of cards - and not a full deck at that.

Let me narrow down the key part even further:

... a business plan based on a best-case scenario. If that best case doesn’t totally evolve — and seldom do all of the pieces fall in place in baseball — [there is concern] about McCourt’s long-term operating potential given the level of the debt servicing in his highly leveraged purchase of the club.

If there is anything to critique about this article, it is its credibility. Nothing against Newhan, or his unnamed source, but until a source goes on the record, there is always going to be doubt about its veracity. Not because the source wishes to spread misinformation, but because the information might not be proven to begin with.

But the concern the article raises is serious, unnamed source or not. What happens to the Dodgers if McCourt's plans go awry - hardly an idle concern in Dodgerland?

The Dodgers can do better as a franchise, no doubt about it. I am not rooting against Frank McCourt to make that happen. I have said repeatedly that for the sake of the Dodgers, I hope my worries about him are unjustified. And the trial is ongoing - the verdict does not come today or Wednesday or next week.

But does that eliminate the right to monitor the operations of the team in the interim? McCourt has near-unfettered control over the team at this point; he is hardly being prevented from having his chance. Does one's faith in McCourt have to be completely blind?

If you have any doubt, consider this: when he came to the team, Kevin Malone deserved support and a chance as well. Kevin Malone was encouraged to make changes.

The Dodgers can do better as a franchise, no doubt about it. They can also do worse.

Update: Bob Bryant from Birds in the Belfry published a recollection of his personal/professional dealings with McCourt. An excerpt:

As the Director of Operations for the facility, I attended a number of meetings with Frank, and his lovely wife Jamie, and found them to be earnest, but totally incompetent people.

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