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The Dodgers paid a guy big money to channel "V energy"

Jun 10, 2010, 8:20 AM EDT

The Dodgers appeared to intentionally draft an unsignable pick in the first round the other day, quite possibly because they didn’t feel like paying anyone first round bonus money this year. But while they don’t appear to want to spend on ballplayers, the team had no problem spending six figures on some whack-job Rasputin “scientist and healer” figure to “send positive energy over great distances” in an effort to help the Dodgers win games.

It all comes out in a story from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that you have to read in its entirely to believe, but even a glimpse is enough to cause Dodgers fans to slam their heads into a wall.

The upshot: Vladimir Shpunt is a physicist of dubious quality who emigrated from Russia in 1998. He believes that his body channels 10 to 15 percent more “natural energy” that normal people’s bodies, and that that energy can be transmitted through both his hands and over great distances. He basically built a faith healing practice out of it in Russia.

Flash forward to 2004. Jamie McCourt has an eye infection and somehow gets referred to this guy, who she thinks healed her. She refers Frank to him and the relationship is bonded. They think about adding him to the Dodgers training staff but they don’t. They do refer Jayson Werth to him when he injures his wrist but — surprise surprise — it doesn’t help. Werth later says, without being specific, that the Dodgers misdiagnosed and mistreated his injuries. He goes to the Mayo clinic instead. Smart guy.

But the McCourts like the cut of Shpun’s jib and hire him anyway, paying him in excess of six figures to sit in his Boston home, watch Dodgers games on TV and send his positive energy their way. He counseled the McCourts to fire general manager Paul DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy. He also thinks he helped them win the NL West. The McCourts apparently do too, as they kept him on payroll and sent him thank you notes after clinching a playoff spot in 2004. Frank and Jamie each blame the other for hiring the guy, but it was quite obviously a team effort.

It is also merely the latest bit of evidence that the McCourts haven’t a clue what they’re doing and have wasted untold amounts of the Dodgers money on the sort of ridiculous things on which clueless rich people tend to spend their money.

The Dodgers were once thought of as the marquee franchise in all of baseball. The McCourts have turned the club into a laughingstock.

  1. YankeesfanLen - Jun 10, 2010 at 8:38 AM

    Wasn’t there an old George Carlin skit “Put your hands on the radio”? Seriously, a Boston tv channeling a former New York team.
    And “The Dodgers were once thought of as the marquee franchise in all of baseball” Craig, Craig, Craig, don’t get on a roll and make a spectacle of yourself. You know to which team that applies.

  2. Craig Calcaterra - Jun 10, 2010 at 8:44 AM

    That may be true of the Yankees’ on-the-field product, but the Dodgers were the archetypical franchise in terms of front office, organization and professionalism for several decades.

  3. Chipmaker - Jun 10, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    Craig, Craig — it’s an LA thing. Your midwestern sensibilities just cannot understand.
    Captcha: started percent

  4. Old Gator - Jun 10, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    I think Craig is referring to the days when you could contrast the stability and consistency of the O’Malley-Alston regime to the ineptitude of CBS and the ravings of a larval Steinbrenner.
    All that notwithstanding, this is a great story. I really hope Jamie wins the team, because it’ll be the greatest show on earth. Humiliating to baseball, to be sure – though how baseball can further humiliate itself after being run by a drooling jackass like Bud Light all these years taxes the imagination – but more fun than any reality series (which are colossal crashing bores meant for the brain-dead anyway). Then again, perhaps the Bums front office would make for a great reality series: Bum-cam. Shputnick or whatever his name is would be the biggest celebrity since Kato Kaelin.

  5. Moses Green - Jun 10, 2010 at 8:52 AM

    You poke fun, but I bet you’re wearing a new hat made out of tinfoil. What if the dude is a scanner?

  6. Simon DelMonte - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:09 AM

    And yet…the Dodgers are in first. I suppose I could say that Torre has the unique skill of being able to get teams to win despite turmoil upstairs, but I really don’t know how much that sort of turmoil affects a team.
    Same question can be asked of the first place Rangers.

  7. BC - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:12 AM

    Are Nancy Reagan and Shirley McClaine also advising the McCourts?
    This is great stuff, you can’t make this up!

  8. Joey B - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    “All that notwithstanding, this is a great story. I really hope Jamie wins the team, because it’ll be the greatest show on earth. Humiliating to baseball, to be sure – though how baseball can further humiliate itself after being run by a drooling jackass like Bud Light all these years taxes the imagination -”
    Yup, the same Bud Light that has major league teams printing money. The RS are putting fans on the roof and charging a fortune for the priviledge. The NYY FO literally laughed at me when I told them I wanted more season tickets. The small market teams are guaranteed a profit before they even turn the lights.
    You should be calling him Rainbow Bud because he leaves a pot of gold behind everywhere he goes.
    Still, your entire post is redeemed with the Jamie remark. Bring Sputnik back as the GM, Manny as manager, and maybe Penny as the head trainer.

  9. Michaell, physicist - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    The Author suggests that “Vladimir Shpunt is a physicist of dubious quality”. Well, go to the Harvard database
    , choose “physics” (not “astronomy”), enter: Shpunt, V.
    Then click on the blue button “Send Quiery”, and get his publication list. Looks quite impressive.
    Maybe it is our Craig Calcaterra who is a journalist of dubious quality…

  10. Craig Calcaterra - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    There’s another physicist in the article who specifically calls Shpunt’s quality as a physicist into question.
    I’d argue, however, that no matter what his qualities as physicist, anyone who believes that they have the ability to cure leukemia and help baseball teams over thousands of miles due to “personal energy” is a scientist of dubious quality.

  11. Grant - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:37 AM

    The guy is 71 and has 21 publications. Doesn’t seem all that impressive to me. I don’t know exactly how it goes in the sciences, but in the humanities I would expect to see a much longer CV by that age and career stage.

  12. Grant - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Also, I would always be wary of Soviet-era science degrees. Their academy was incredibly corrupted by ideology and bureaucracy.

  13. Joe G - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:55 AM

    What’s a jib?
    Recaptcha: Clanging Their (Their what? THEIR WHAT???)

  14. Jonny5 - Jun 10, 2010 at 10:21 AM

    Seriously, this guy is nothing more than an egomaniac with deleusional tendencies. And the McCourts are not only gullible, but off their frigging rocker to pay this guy that kind of money for his insanity!!! The Dodgers are soooo screwed with either of these morons at the Helm. What’s next? Witch doctors putting voodoo curses on opposing players? I hear Ted Lilly got his head shrunk, Is that true?

  15. michael standish - Jun 10, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    Associating Selig with Bud Light is an insult to lousy beers everywhere. Also, the image of a “larval Steinbrenner” is amazingly hideous. Hats off &c.

  16. Old Gator - Jun 10, 2010 at 11:47 AM

    Personally, I think the Dodgers should send up a pot.
    Replying to Michael Standish: Or as Cormac McCarthy put it so succinctly in Blood Meridian, “Pale, bloated, larval to some unreckonable being.”
    True story: when my daughter was five or so, she came home from kindergarten with a baby tooth wrapped in a napkin and said her teacher instructed her to find out why it fell out. I told her it was caused by the burrowing larva of the tooth fairy. She went back to school and told her teacher that. My wife got an interesting phone call from the teacher later that day. My daughter grew up to become an actress/improv director. Really.

  17. scatterbrian - Jun 10, 2010 at 12:28 PM

    Why couldn’t Vlad fix the McCourts marriage?

  18. BS - Jun 10, 2010 at 12:34 PM

    Bill Shaikin is an ass, always has been, always will be.

  19. Craig Calcaterra - Jun 10, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    Fine. But you’re not disputing that he’s right about this story, are you? Jamie McCourt’s own lawyer and the subject himself confirms it. Or do you just think that anyone who says something truthful-but-less-than-complimentary about your rooting interest is an ass?

  20. BS - Jun 10, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    I don’t know, but does it matter. How many owners have monkeys in their closets. If these are the kinds of storys you like to do then shouldn’t you write about the other owners and their quirky behavior. It would be only fair to expose all the owners personal lifes and what they spend their money on. Is that what we want in these columns. Is this expose city, Jerry Springer, Murray. If you go looking for superstitions among baseball players you will find them all over the place. Write what you want, then you will become known as that type of writer.

  21. PatrickDC - Jun 10, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Honestly, this guy might be the smartest guy on the planet. Sure he got his degrees in Soviet era Russia, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw that they’re not worth a crap like we do and came up with this “personal energy” idea, paid a couple people to say they got “healed” and start working this angle. The guy is getting paid six figures to sit on his living room couch and watch baseball. If only I were so smart…

  22. The Rabbit - Jun 10, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    I’m not a physicist; however, I’ve read works of some very prolific authors in my field. They were hardly impressive.
    Quantity and quality should never be confused.

  23. Michael, physicist - Jun 10, 2010 at 7:38 PM

    hell, it never was my intention to engage in a discussion…
    So let me respond to Grant, who says that the guy has 21 publications.
    In fact, he has much more than a hundred works. About half of these have been translated into English. Some of those works are in the Harvard database, to which I referred you. Some others are in the medical database
    Other databases may contain more. During the Cold War era, much of what was published behind the Iron Curtain remained unknown in the West. Or came here with a delay. Which sometimes caused re-discovery of already known stuff. Regarding this physicist Shpunt: back in early 80s, he published an outstanding result
    , proving that the so-called gap junctions make a long electric cirquits in the organisms of mammals. Since that journal was not at the time translated into English, this important result went unnoticed and was re-discovered in the West some 20 years later.
    Grant also suggests: “I would always be wary of Soviet-era science degrees.” This immediately reveals that Grant does not come from the academia. In the academia, it is a common knowledge that the Soviet-era degrees in mathematics and physics are of a superior quality. Find a mathematician of 50 or older, and ask him what program in math used to be # 1 in the world back in 60s-70s-early 80s. He/she will say: Moscow State University (Harvard being probably second). Also find a semiconductor physicist of that age group, and ask what (s)he thinks of the Ioffe Institute (wherefrom Shpunt comes).
    Now, a couple of words to the Author, Craig Calcaterra.
    I know nothing about sports, but I know enough about physics, and about the rules of scientific ethics. Before using the word “dubious quality”, please print from the web several papers by Shpunt, on vitreous semiconductors (this used to be his main area of research). Find a couple of experts in this particular field, and ask them what they think about this research. And if you are an ethical Scholar, please do not forget to apologize to Shpunt.
    But on the other hand, you are not a Scholar, you are journalist. Your community lives by different rules…

  24. Craig Calcaterra - Jun 10, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    And what does the scientific community think about members who peddle pure charlatanism like Shpunt has peddled to Jamie McCourt and no doubt many others? He has made hundreds of thousands of dollars claiming what is functionally the equivalent of faith healing. I’m guessing his results in this particular endeavor were not peer-reviewed and his results not falsifiable in a lab setting.
    And just so you know, I may work as a journalist right now, but I am also a licensed attorney. While they are often ignored by my colleagues, at least my field has rules about swindling people. Does the academy have something similar?

  25. Michael - Jun 10, 2010 at 9:06 PM

    As I said, I am not expert on sports. Distance influences, too, are well beyond my expertise. However, I do know some of Shpunt’s publications on semiconductor physics and on the physics of living tissue, and I can say that this was a bona fide research.
    Could you please also clarify your statement regarding swindling? Please make it more precise, if you will

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