POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jun 28, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 01:57 a.m. HST, Jun 28, 2011
There’s a whole new meaning to the phrase for a franchise that has never felt the blues like this — and it has little to do with the uniforms.
Not even when Babe Herman was leading the majors in errors at different positions in consecutive years and, legend has it, taking balls off the noggin and tripling into a double play, were the Dodgers as much of an embarrassment as owner Frank McCourt seems intent on making them.
At times in their rich history the Dodgers have been unlucky and self-destructive, blowing a 13-game lead in 1951. And they’ve been plain bad, such as the days that inspired the joke: The Dodgers have three men on base. Guess which one?
But never have they sunk to the depths where the present ownership has deposited them, rendering the Dodgers deadbeats and a ward of MLB.
In filing for bankruptcy protection Monday, McCourt reaffirmed that he is presiding over an enterprise he has made bankrupt in more than just a financial sense.
A club whose owners once made it a leader in not only baseball but pro sports, giving us Jackie Robinson and building one of the few 100 percent privately financed stadiums, now has a boss who finds new ways to disappoint on a regular basis. It makes more headlines in courtrooms these days than in Chavez Ravine.
A Giants fan was nearly beaten to death at Dodger Stadium. The team barely hovers above the bottom of its division and “crowd” is relative term, given the expanse of empty seats. Fans no longer leave early to hit the freeway. They hardly bother to come at all. The Dodgers had four managers in a half-century under the O’Malley family. They’ve had that many since McCourt bought them in 2004.
The combination of bad management and an owner who, reports suggest, has used the box office revenue in better times like a private piggy bank, leaves the Dodgers owing almost as much money as Greece. Among the $500 million in debts listed, they are still on the hook for $21 million to long-gone Manny Ramirez and $11 million to Andruw Jones. Two recent draft picks are also listed as creditors.
More unspeakable isn’t the vast sum owed Ramirez, who served a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, as much as the nearly $153,000 said to be owed Vin Scully, the team’s iconic radio voice these last 62 years.
“The action taken today by Mr. McCourt does nothing but inflict further harm to this historic franchise,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. When Bud Light calls you bad for baseball, that is saying something.
Of course the Dodgers might not be in this plight if Selig and MLB had been more vigilant before letting McCourt get his hands on them seven years ago when he leveraged the purchase, or kept a closer eye on things in recent years. A year ago, as the machinations and lavish, over-the-top spending were revealed during divorce proceedings, former owner Peter O’Malley was telling anybody who would listen that McCourt’s regime had lost all credibility.
The honorable thing would be to put the team up for sale and move on. But McCourt and honor parted any acquaintanceship a long time go.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.