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Frank McCourt

MLB First Pitch is 47 Days Away: The Greatest Day in America

The greatest day in America every year is opening day of the Major League Baseball season.
 
This is fact.
 
It’s based on tenants of the US Constitution and the love that the Gods above have for our form of capitalism. Yesterday the batteries of this great game, the pitchers and catchers, reported. For me, the beauty of opening day starts when the flame-throwers show up to camp and start their arm-strength programs. With that, I can begin shaking off the winter and start looking forward to sweltering days spent hiding from the sun under my Dodgers hat while desperately trying to hydrate with cheap American brews.
 
This time of year is also when I like to do the most introspective thinking. I know it sounds like I’m about to get all touchy-feely with you, but bear with me a second. It’s this exact moment annually that I officially countdown my hopes and thoughts for that year’s Dodgers squad becomes forever etched in my mind.… Read more...

Magic Johnson is the Owner of the LA Dodgers

We’re free. Our long, enduring local nightmare is over. That felt even better to write than I thought it would. 

Free from the thought of another offseason in which the question isn’t how much money are the Dodgers going to spend on free agents, but rather how much can the Dodgers spend. Free from another 6 months of wondering if our players are going to get paid on time for their work on the field, or if the stadium surrounding it will have enough security to keep paying customers safe. Free from the disgrace of having the most noteworthy headlines read about a divorce proceeding or a loan payment. Free from worrying whether or not the greatest announcer of all-time will finally be fed up with off-field shenanigans corrupting the team that is as much a part of him as is his own beating heart. Free from wondering why the stadium remains slowly withering away year after year, the memories of what has been made into a shining baseball cathedral by our collective hearts and minds growing more distant year after year.

We are free from the ownership of Frank McCourt and his incredible mistreatment of an American Institution. We are free from someone who has taken a franchise that predates Mount Rushmore, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and treated it not with the reverence it so justly deserves, but rather with the carelessness of a child’s piggy bank.

For the past day and a half, I’ve been deluged with questions of when MAMBINO would come out with our assessment of a Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter-led group buying the Dodgers. The truth is, much like watching Jeremy Lin stroking 38 points in the Garden, or seeing Kobe and Pau vanquish the Celtics in Game 7 in person, a thrown-together post about how happy we all are, or how awesome Magic Johnson is wouldn’t even come close to justifying how excited I am.

I knew that this day was inevitable from the moment that McCourt realized his inevitable ouster from his seat at the head of the table, and began to work hand-in-hand with Commissioner Bud Selig towards finding a new owner. I became guardedly excited with the prospect of this vampire leaving the desecrated remains of my barely breathing team, and a new, swashbuckling owner coming in and resuscitating the Los Angeles Dodgers. But not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine how well this would turn out.

I’ve written before that I never hated Frank McCourt for any of his failings as a business man and a family man. Those are his personal battles to win and lose, and in doing so, his consequences to bear. Rather, I’ve found that his absolute cratering as the steward of this public entity that means so much to so many positively appalling. Yes, his weaknesses of responsibility are his own. But his most egregious offense is that Frank McCourt thought he was man enough to be a Los Angeles Dodger.

The ideals of excellence, honesty and competitive fortitude that had been forged over decades of this franchise’s existence had fallen, so very publicly, under the guard of McCourt. He had lost touch with the community he vowed to help and more than anything, had become a villain to all that cared. Never before has an owner promised so much and not only delivered on so little, but gone entirely the other way and hurt his fan base with an almost malicious carelessness.

Looking back, I suppose we should all shoulder some of the blame. How could we expect so much from someone who hadn’t lived and breathed Dodger baseball? Why would we think that an outsider could possibly understand what it mean… Read more...

MLB: Bold and/or Reckless Predictions

MLB Opening Day is the best day of the year. The Fourth of July, Christmas, and the Super Bowl all have nothing on Opening Day. On the first day of the season, every baseball city in America has a legitimate chance to set course on a path towards the World Series (well everyone except those who root for the Cubs). Look at the champions over the last 10 years in the MLB and tell me if you would’ve correctly predicted: St. Louis, San Francisco, NY Yankees, Philly, Boston, St. Louis, Chicago White Sox, Boston, Florida, Anaheim, Arizona. Barring the normal Yankee dominance and a stint in their time as a ‘roided up Red Sox team, all those teams listed were not expected to win the whole thing on the first day of the season.

As a kid, I waited nervously for opening day. I checked spring training box scores and standings each morning in the LA Times. Now, as an adult (albeit a fairly irresponsible one), I feverishly read everything on the Internet about the upcoming summer of lazy days and double plays.
Everyone who knows anything about baseball can tell you the Dodgers are going to be a shitty team this year. We have the worst infield in the League and we still haven’t ensured that Frank McCourt is going to be out of lives forever (seriously, he still owns the parking lot/land in joint venture with Magic). So even though KOBEshigawa went through the trouble of doing a full season preview on the boys in the blue, I don’t see the point in guessing exactly how many players on our starting 9 will be hitting under .250. Instead, I would like to spend my time here with thegreatmambino making reckless predictions about the upcoming season that you will not get anywhere else…
Prediction 1: The Marlins AND the Pirates will WIN a playoff series
The Miami Marlins have been making a name for themselves this offseason. They no longer have to play in their cavernous hole of a stadium, and somehow they landed the craziest manager in baseball. Add that to a lineup that now has speedy (yet fragile) Jose Reyes, a rotation that boasts Josh Johnson (not crazy), Mark Buerhle (kinda redneck crazy), and Carlos Zambrano (batshit crazy), and you have a recipe for dominance. Granted, success in Miami will only come if this witches brew of talent can gel, but with the powerhouses in the East set to have down years (looking at you Braves and Phillies), a hot Ozzie-led squad will eek out a playoff series win this fall.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are finally going to do it this year. I live with a die-hard fan of the losingest team in baseball over the last 25 years and he has assured me that this season is the one! With the expanded playoffs and a Central that no longer has a Pujols or a Prince, the Pirates will finally put it all together and make it into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The playoff series they win… that first game to get into their series with Miami.
Prediction 2: This is the last season without a DH in the NL

The MLB has been run by a bunch of drunks for decades. Each league used to have power beyond anything you can imagine in any other professional sport. So much so that one league plays by entirely different lineup rules. This has been allowed to continue for decades for no apparent reason other than the fact that the AL prefers winning a lot, and the NL has cited tradition/purity in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I hate the DH, but with the new way the MLB has set up the schedule for 2012, the DH has to go. Currently, almost every single baseball league in the world uses a DH (all minor leagues, Japan, Latin leagues etc.).

Teams are soon going to be playing interleagu
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Does "anyone but Frank McCourt" include Mark Cuban?

I’ve used the words “tyranny”, “despot” and “oppression” to describe the ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. We’ve endured 7 years of terrible decision making, mismanaged dollars and broken promises. The franchise has seemed directionless and adrift, with every season ending with yet another pennant-less finish. Dodger Stadium seemed less family friendly than ever before. If only another person could come in and save us from these people who seem to have no idea how to own a Major League Baseball franchise.

Now take a look at what I’ve just written – was that from 2011…or from 2003?

I remember 7 years ago when everyone was calling for the end of the Fox Sports era of the Los Angeles Dodgers. We wanted nothing more than to free our underachieving team from the clutches of a soulless corporate entity that led the team to no more playoff victories in its 6 year reign than the 10 years before it. There was a certain sterility to Dodger Stadium that seemed to emanate with a lack of a human touch from a place that once was the heart of the vibrant Los Angeleno pulse. Fans criticized how the team made poor moves in free agency by paying the wrong guys and refusing to pay the right ones. It was Fox Sports that had traded already-legendary Dodger Mike Piazza to the disbelief of the entire fanbase (still to this day!) and signed Darren Dreifort to a 5-year deal. Kevin Malone and Dan Evans were both named GM to the delight of no one and their moves were met with similar reaction. Bill Plaschke begged for them to sell, talk radio wanted them gone and most Dodger fans longed for the day they’d finally be free.

Sound familiar at all?

We’ve been here before. We’ve done this dance and longed for “anything but…”. This time, I’m not hoping for anything but Frank McCourt. I’m hoping for someone better than Frank McCourt. I’m hoping for the best. Not just anyone. Does one of those Anyones include Mark Cuban?

Cubes is on a long list of suitors lining up by the day to place their bids on the soon-to-be for sale Los Angeles Dodgers. Rumored to be in on the sale is a group headed by former Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey, ex-Dodgers executive Dennis Mannion and even Peter O’Malley, the man who sold the Dodgers to Fox Sports in 1998 in the first place.

Obviously the sexiest and most exciting name here is Mark Cuban, a dot.com multi-billionaire whose most prominent and best known asset is the Dallas Mavericks, your reigning 2011 NBA champions.

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The Mavericks’ title win this year wraps up one of the most incredible turn around stories in sports history. For the first 20 years of the Mavericks now 31 year history, the Mavericks made the playoffs a scant 6 times, never advancing past the second round. After being swept by the Trail Blazers in the 1989-1990 season, the Mavericks went on to be one of the worst teams of the 1990s, never winning more than 36 games which equated to zero postseason appearances. To say that they were a joke is an understatement. For that 10-year stretch, I would argue they were the worst team in basketball. I know this partially from memory, and also because on NBA JAM for Sega Genesis, I never EVER selected the Dallas Mavericks, because that meant either a) an automatic loss or b) that you were so good that you could beat all comers despite playing as the worst team in the game. I was obviously not the latter.

But it wasn’t just their play that turned me off to the … Read more...

Inching Closer to Freedom – The Los Angeles Dodgers are (to be) liberated from Frank McCourt

As we’ve detailed exhaustively for months there on MAMBINO, the tyranny that has beholden the once mighty Los Angeles Dodgers has seemingly and miraculously undone nearly a century of history in just 7 short years. The ramifications of the McCourts’ ownership might be felt for decades to come, not just with the team itself, but also as the team loses what was once a death grip as the baseball sweetheart of Southern California.

Late this evening a joint statement from once (and most likely future) adversaries Major League Baseball and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt stated that they will work in conjunction to sell the team. I was flabbergasted. Even in all of my most optimistic fantasies, I feel like a resolution has come so quickly relative to what I thought would be an excruciatingly long process of excising Frank McCourt. Somehow, one of the worst owners in all of professional sports had not only managed to gain ownership of the team in the first place, but to keep his power despite such a stronger local and national outcry for his expulsion.

Everything I’ve felt and read about for the past two years seems completely antithetical to the events of today. McCourt has done everything he can to hold onto the Dodgers short of tying himself to the scoreboard in right field and strapping himself with a vest full of Dodger Dogs and dynamite. Every bit of maneuvering from Bud Selig to rid Chavez Ravine of the McCourts seemed to have come with a sadistically brilliant countermove from Frank and his legal team. Even as Selig figured to have pinned down McCourt and the sale of team seemed imminent, McCourt threw a Clayton Kershaw curve ball to Major League Baseball by filing for bankruptcy with the court of the United States, hoping that a federal judges’ power could trump the usually all-encompassing power of the Commissioner of Baseball. Selig fired back quickly, decreeing that even if the federal court allowed McCourt to keep the team after settling his creditors’ debts, that MLB would suspend the Dodgers from the league, leaving McCourt with nothing but 300 acres of land in a decrepit part of Los Angeles and a bunch of greencard carrying ex-athletes with multi-millions owed to them. Despite being faced with insurmountable odds, including a pending divorce showdown with his ex-wife Jamie, whispers surfaced that if Frank were to be forced to sell the team, that he perhaps could keep ownership of the cathedral known as Dodger Stadium and it’s surrounding parking lots, which would effectively extort any future owner of the team for hundreds of millions.

Every time that baseball thought they had an avenue to escort McCourt from their exclusive fraternity of owners, he’d find some way to wrangle himself a bit more time. To be quite honest, I thought that McCourt would fight Selig and MLB to the very end, tying up this case in the US federal court for years with injunctions, appeals and lawsuits. To this day, nothing to me suggests that Frank McCourt respects the authority of Bud Selig, the heritage of the franchise or the fans of the team. Another decade of disgrace and besmirching of the team sounded like a lock to me. Why would that change any time soon?

So imagine my surprise today to find out that like the rest of us, McCourt saw that this is a battle he could not win. He realized that even after every single trick he could pull behind the army of lawyers he’s assembled, no amount of paperwork could keep his prized possession within his hands for much longer. All he’d be left with would be a mou… Read more...

"Dodgers or Angels?" – How the Angels are taking over Los Angeles

The Anaheim Angels just completed an 86-win season. Just two years ago, they were one of the best teams in the American League with a 97-65 record, which was only surpassed by their 2008 campaign, most noted for an AL and franchise-best 100 wins.

These four seasons capture Tony Reagins’ entire tenure in Anaheim. He “resigned” from his position as General Manager after the Angels failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year, preceded by two seasons with an AL West title, but without either an American League pennant or World Series championship. According to Tony, he felt that his performance was not up to the standards of what the Angels, and owner Arturo Moreno, demanded.

Reagins’ brief career atop the Angels front office was populated by moves typical for a major market franchise. He made some big gambles in trading for players like Dan Haren, Scott Kazmir, Mark Teixiera and Vernon Wells, signing Torii Hunter, Fernando Rodney and Bobby Abreu while letting franchise players like Francisco Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero and John Lackey walk in free agency. Some of these plans worked out, some didn’t, but regardless, Reagins didn’t get Anaheim any closer to a championship.

And that’s what Anaheim baseball is. They play for pennants and championships, not for pyrrhic victories like 100-win seasons or ERA titles. They win often, expect excellence and demand nothing less. Arturo Moreno is a man who extends his staff and fans all the luxuries money can buy, which ranges from the finest training facilities to cheap stadium beers to $81 million dollar contracts. In return, he holds everyone under him accountable against the standards that George Steinbrenner, Walter O’Malley and John Henry hold their people to; winning, and winning big. The Angels and Moreno have spent an unconscionable amount of money buying everything they could ever need to win a title, and in doing so, have created an ideal that usually takes decades to earn – the highest standards of winning in professional athletics, set forth by those great men I just named. By the grace of Moreno and dignity by which he runs his organization, the Angels have joined the upper echelon of elite Major League Baseball clubs. When you mention the great franchises of the league, you cannot exclude Anaheim from the discussion. They are amongst the Red Sox, Yankees, Cardinals, Giants and Twins where the expectations are highest and the glory greatest. The Angels have become an organization that has trumped any sense of cross-town rivalry I might have been brought up with, and has morphed into a club that has earned my utmost respect. They have become the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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I live in New York City. I meet scores of rightfully braggadocios Yankee fans and downtrodden defensive Mets fans every week. Much like the Rangers, Islanders or Devils of the NHL. I understand that there is a geographical reasoning as to where their baseball and hockey allegiances lie. With football season in full swing, I have come to understand the difference between the blue-collar Jets fans and the white-collar Giants fans. The point is that I have to ask. There is no assumed answer. “Jets/Giants? Rangers/Islanders/Devils? Yankees/Mets?”. It’s still amazing to me that a seemingly innocuous question like that can paint such a vivid snapshot of the life you’ve led.

In the rare occasion that the conversation gets going a bit, I’ll get asked where m… Read more...

Three things to thank Frank McCourt for – but just three

Not a day goes by where I don’t read another article noting the shrinking crowds at Dodger stadium or another complication in the (hopefully) inevitable exhumation of Frank McCourt as despot in Chavez Ravine. The team is under .500, with almost no hope of making the postseason. Their top prospect is a 150 pound shortstop and the organization ranks amongst the worst in the game’s farm systems. Their best player can leave town in a year, and with a 180 million dollar contract awaiting him in such stable pastures of New York, Boston, Washington, Anaheim or Texas. It’s hard to believe that his days in Dodger blue are just beginning.

But this isn’t another post detailing the woes and agony of being a Dodger fan. I live that every day of my life. Everything I read will not allow me to escape our misfortune, and I am well aware that even with this seemingly unbelievable $1.2 billion dollar offer on the table, that the Dodgers’ future will be any less murky in a year than it is presently. Many friends of mine have asked “anyone but Frank McCourt”, but then again, weren’t we all crying out “anyone but Fox” 10 years ago? The optimist in me hopes for the best, but the poor man’s Jayson Stark in me speaks otherwise.

With every deposition and Juan Uribe contract in the periphery, I have somehow grabbed some straws of positivity in the current situation. I have found two kernels of goodness in an otherwise rotten crop. There is no NBA. I have to do something with my life.

The Dodgers currently have 66 – 70 record. They are four games under .500 and 11.5 games out of first place. They are not a good baseball team. But still, here I am proud of this team. Actually; I’m thrilled with this team. Now why would I, who spouts so often rants detailing my love of winning and perfection, give anything besides disgust and bile towards a subpar professional team?

Let’s take a look at the team as currently constructed. According to baseball-reference.com, here is the most recurring Dodgers’ lineup in 2011:

SS Jamey Carroll – 127 games
2B Aaron Miles – 114 games
RF Andre Ethier – 131 games
CF Matt Kemp – 136 games
C Rod Barajas – 81 games
1B James Loney – 134 games
3B Juan Uribe – 77 games
LF Tony Gwynn, Jr. – 121 games

James Loney is having the most miserable season of his career, with a .709 OPS, 9 homers and 48 RBIs, to go along with a .279 batting average (his numbers have really only been saved by a scorching August, in which Big Game James hit .367, with a 1.066OPS). We’re tragically close to renaming this the Uribe Line, as the Dodgers $21 million dollar free agent has come on to hit .204. Aaron Miles hasn’t played in more than 79 games since 2008. Jamey Carroll is 37 years old and is on track to break career highs in games played, hits and at-bats. Rod Barajas has been engaged in a season-long position battle for catcher with Dioner Navarro, who was recently cut for batting .193, having more strikeouts than hits and being fat and ugly (I’m joking about that last part, but it couldn’t have helped). I’d rather have Tony Gwynn in left field with his San Diego State University uniform on than his disgraceful son.

The pitching staff isn’t much better. Their best starter is 22 years old and their closer has played in 33 professional baseball games, all of which have been in 2011. Hiroki Kuroda is the best 11-14 pitcher you’ve ever seen in your life with a 3.03 ERA and fantastic 2.89 strikeout to walk ratio. Ou… Read more...

The Savior, Commissioner Selig

Today, Commissioner Bud Selig struck down a deal that would reportedly pay the Dodgers and owner Frank McCourt between 1.7 billion and 3 billion dollars. This cash-infusion would get McCourt $385 million up-front, which would be more than enough to get him through this year’s personnel payments. McCourt’s ability or inability to pay his players on a bi-monthly basis had become a source of hope for the Dodgers’ disenchanted fanbase, hoping that perhaps this would be the week that McCourt would have to sell the team for lack of funds.

Selig rejected the TV deal under the pretenses that it not only represented below-market value for the Dodgers (thus setting a below-market precedent for other teams and their television deals going forward), but he also felt that the proceeds from the deal would be used to settle McCourt’s divorce, rather than improving the team. As any Dodger fan who has sat in the incredibly outdated outfield bleachers can tell you, there couldn’t be a more true statement.

As LA Times writer Bill Shaikin so expertly pointed out last week, this ruling essentially means that Major League Baseball would be able to seize the team at month’s end. At that point, most people expect McCourt to sue Selig and Major League Baseball, on the grounds that he is being discriminated against for his financial situation unfairly, despite many of the problemss being similar to the ones that the Wilpon Family and the Mets are facing. Selig and MLB would ask that the suit get thrown out, as McCourt (like every other owner in the League) signs an agreement giving the Commissioner broad powers in anything related to “preserving the best interests of the game”, prior to buying the team.

As I stated in my post last month, the key words here are “best interests of the game”. A team under the stewardship of Frank McCourt does not serve the best interests of the Dodgers, their fans or the game itself. His irresponsibility has gone on for far too long, and has cost the Dodgers not only future success, but perhaps also prevented past greatness.

The most prevailing thought that comes to my mind is this; if you are Frank McCourt and the Commissioner of Baseball, elected as a representative of the league by all 30 owners, says on their behalf that they do not believe that you have the best interests of the game in mind, why would you want to stay? From that, wouldn’t you interpret that your peers, your co-workers for all intents and purposes, want you gone as well? Take that into account for a second. Essentially what the Commissioner is doing here is using his broad powers to force a man to sell his property, company and in Frank’s case, his livelihood. If the Commissioner can do this to McCourt, it sets a precedent that under these same circumstances, anyone’s team can be sold.

So even with the threat of a set precedent for Selig to take away their teams from them, I haven’t heard a single word of dissention from any of the 29 other teams. Now, you could say that these are extraordinary circumstances, but seriously – a rich guy’s wife cheats on him with her driver/pool boy/gardner followed by messy divorce? Is that never going to happen again? Hurm. To me, it seems like no one will mind if this guy finds a nice two-story home in Newton and never gets heard from ever again.

So if you’re Frank McCourt and everyone wants you gone – your co-workers, your boss, your customers – why would you want to stay around? Because it’s your property and ̶… Read more...

Frank McCourt’s cheapening of The Dodger Way

I have been to Dodger Stadium every year of my life. My dad took me there before I could walk, before I understood the game and when I only cared about eating a Dodger Dog and getting a chocolate malt. Whenever I step foot in Chavez Ravine, it feels like I belong there. It is the very place where Sandy Koufax destroyed any hitter that dared cross his path and where Orel Hersheiser emulated that to perfection. I know the exact spot in the parking lot where you can see brake lights as Vinny says “and…she…is…gone!” and Gibson does those fist pumps he steadfastly refused to recreate even to this day. I remember what it smelled like when Yoshinoya beef bowl had food stands all over the stadium because of the massive presence of Japanese tourists that came to see Hideo Nomo pitch. I am aware that the greatest Dodger of all time is a guy that’s never put on a pair of cleats and watches the games from high above, masterfully and effortlessly painting the games with eloquently crafted words for an experience I can remember from my childhood as my father can remember from his. I know about our six championships, our record number of National League pennants and playoff appearances. I know that there are only a handful of jerseys that a player can put on, look at himself in the mirror and think – “Wow. I can’t believe I’m wearing this uniform” – and the Dodgers are one of them. I know it should be an honor to run the bases at our hallowed grounds and to have Vin Scully tell the world what number you wear on your back. It is for all of these reasons and countless more that nothing that Frank McCourt tells me is relevant.

We are a joke and an embarrassment to the league. This is nothing new to our fans, but it might be to most of the country. We are the Los Angeles Dodgers and we can barely afford to pay our players. Several weeks ago, a fan wearing orange and black got beaten senseless in the parking lot, and I use the term “senseless” quite literally; Brian Stow might never feel anything ever again in his life, the length of which varies depending on the day. This might not be an issue if the mismanagement in the Dodgers’ front office hadn’t been so poor that we’ve been without a head of security for months now. For 7 summers I have been hopeful that we would be players in the free agent and trade market. We’ve snagged one guy in that entire time and he took us places not seen since 1988. But it wasn’t enough.

McCourt argues that during his tenure the Dodgers have had one of their greatest uninterrupted string of success in our history. And that’s absolutely true. We’ve made 4 playoffs appearances, won two playoff series and 9 playoff games, which is exactly 1 more playoff appearance, two playoff series and 9 playoff games more than the 16 years preceding McCourt’s arrival. He’s also argued that he successfully traded for, and retained for the sum of $45 million dollars, Manny Ramirez, and along with him, a very successful marketing campaign. There has been much ado about us being cheap when it comes to the draft, to which McCourt points to our recently signed Zach Lee, who, after one of the largest signing bonuses in history, turns out didn’t really want to be quarterback at Louisiana State University. Frank very happily points out that we broke attendance records and brought in more money than we have in years, and that the name brand of the Dodgers is worth millions more than when before he got there. Check, check and check, Frank.

I lo… Read more...