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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Singing The Dodger Blues...

The Next Biggest Loser could be one of the most historic franchises in Major League Baseball history if something isn’t done soon.  The Los Angeles Dodgers are destined for a takeover by Major League Baseball’s front office, and then put on the market like million dollar mansions whose owners couldn’t afford the mortgage payments. 

This has to be a concern for Commissioner Bud Selig and the rest of Major League Baseball owners.  We are not talking about the Montreal Expos, who were controlled by Major League Baseball from 2001 to 2005 until the franchise was moved to Washington DC and sold.  Or the Texas Rangers, when in 2009, Major League Baseball stepped in when the Rangers entered bankruptcy, and helped run the front office until they were sold in 2010.  This time, we are talking about one of the storied franchises in baseball history.  Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Duke Snider – this is the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of five World Series Championships.  One would think that a sports franchise with a history deeply rooted in the fabric of the sport, in one of the most popular cities in the country, would be run better than a hot dog stand on a busy street corner.  Where did it all go wrong in LALA Land?   

The Dodgers behind the McCourt ownership are boasting a $420 million dollar debt.  That’s right, the team that once was known for FernandoMania, Kirk Gibson pumping his fists as he hobbled around the base paths, and Orel Hershiser shutting out opponents as if he was throwing a wiffle ball to opposing batters, is now on the street corner holding up a sign stating… “Going Through A Nasty Divorce, Attendance Is Down…Can You Spare Some Change? God Bless You!”  And Major League Baseball didn’t see this coming?  

Until recently, the Dodgers drama was limited to Manny Ramirez and his usual selfish play.  In fact, behind manager Joe Torre, the Dodgers made the playoffs in 2008 and 2009 and showcased some of the upcoming talent in the National League with outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and lefty starter, Clayton Kershaw.  But the ownership’s ability to use the Dodgers as their own personal bank to fund their lifestyle has left the club with a debt the size of what they bought the team for 4 years ago - in 2004, Frank McCourt purchased the Dodgers from FOX for an estimated $430 million.  Supposedly FOX was so eager to dump the Dodger franchise that they gave McCourt a $145 million dollar loan to help with the purchase.  And the commissioner’s office didn’t see a problem with this transaction!  

How out of control has the McCourt ownership been in running the Dodger Blue into the RED…it has been noted that from 2004 to 2008, the McCourt Family took $108 million in personal distributions from the team for personal mortgages and real estate acquisitions.   The couple owns seven properties, employed an astrologer with a SIX FIGURE SALARY, and paid a hair stylist $150,000 a year.  All this as the team payroll dropped!  Yes, Los Angeles is home to fans who come to games in the 5th inning but after a while even the Hollywood Glitz and Glamour community have seen enough. 

Add in the ugly divorce between Mr. and soon to be ex-Mrs. McCourt, and the unfortunate beating of the San Francisco Giants fan in the parking lot after a game, and you can see that the team once owned by the O’Malley family for over 47 years, has had their uniform soiled, losing more than just games, but fan support as well.    This latest incident involving the brutal beating of a Giants fan and the admission of owner McCourt that inadequate security in the stadium parking lot was part of the issue that led to the beating, has left fans angry and away from Dodger home games.  Attendance is down 13.2% compared to home games in April 2010.

Through it all, the Dodgers are holding their own on the field, where they are currently in 3rd place in a weak National League West with 11 wins and 10 losses.  But Major League Baseball has to step in now before Dodger “Blues” becomes the longest running show in Hollywood.  

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