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When it comes to Frank McCourt’s legacy, money changes everything

Mar 28, 2012, 11:36 AM EDT

File photo of Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt speaking at a news conference about increased security at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles

Sorry that I’m a bit hung up on the Dodgers/Magic Johnson stuff this morning, but there’s something about irresponsible jackwagons falling into $2.15 billion that captures my attention.

Anyway, in the past few minutes I have come across two quotes that just astound me. One is a factual assertion that is totally correct but which misses all that should matter. The second one is plain wrong, but which is something that many will echo at some point because of the way narrative works.  Both of them, then, are distortions of a type, made possible by virtue of billions of dollars being thrown at something.

The first one is from Forbes, where Mike Ozanian makes that factual assertion:

If Frank McCourt’s sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to a group with Magic Johnson as the front-man holds up, he will become the most financially successful owner of a team in Major League Baseball history.

Again, basically correct. But still horribly troubling, no? Troubling in that it makes us realize the tremendous disconnect between what baseball owners are interested in — getting a return on their investment — and what fans and players and everyone else in the baseball universe care about. A broader form of success either from winning ballgames or, at the very least, from an enjoyable product being put on the field or on our televisions, computers and radios.

The second statement comes from Jon Morosi of Fox, who claims that the fans will one day thank Frank McCourt:

A word here about McCourt: Even though he’s walking away with a huge profit — the purchase price was a whopping $2.15 billion; he bought the team in 2004 for $430 million — he is no longer the most vilified sports figure in L.A. The perception that he used the Dodgers as an ATM, along with the reality that he drove them into bankruptcy, will never go away. He never will be liked by Dodgers fans. But he is selling the team to Magic.

From this day forward, when Dodgers fans see Frank McCourt around town, the word before “you” will be “thank.”

I’ll be shocked if Frank McCourt is genuinely thanked by a single Dodgers fan. But I won’t be surprised if his role in nearly destroying what was once the gold standard for a professionally-run baseball organization is whitewashed. If the money thrown at the Dodgers by Magic Johnson’s crew and any subsequent success they have makes people forget just how destructive McCourt’s reign truly was. People will let him off easier. Some may even give him credit for extending Matt Kemp‘s contract, maybe.  But he won’t be thought of as the malignant force that he truly has been these past several years.

I have my opinions, obviously, but I try not to be an overly judgmental person. Frank McCourt has made that pretty damn difficult in the past few years, because if there is anyone who deserves a good judging, it’s him.  He’s not gonna get it though.  He’s going to walk away richer than he was when he walked in. He will be admired by some for his savvy.  His transgressions will be ignored by some because of his successor.

It will be yet another reminder that, when tons of money is involved, not much matters but the money.

  1. Jon Weisman - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    I can assure you that the notion that Frank McCourt has changed his legacy with this sale – as if this matters to anyone but him – is preposterous. What he did in the past is too prominent, and it’s not as if he made some sacrifice to get Magic in the game.

    The visceral level of the anger might soften as it often does over time no matter what the situation, and it will be easier to make jokes about him, but thanking him? No way.

  2. Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    Craig, listen. Just put a nice cushion or couch pillow on the floor, sit down on it, cross your legs, extend your arms over your knees, open your palms, close your thumb and index finger to just not quite touching each other, take a deep breath, close your eyes and from as far back in your vocal apparatus as possible say ohhhhhmmmmmmmmm. Do this for an hour, slowly rise back to the daylight, and then go write something about the Angels for a change.

  3. Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:47 AM

    Incidentally, how much of that profit is Jamie going to try to grab? This circus might not be over yet….

    • Gamera the Brave - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      As one erstwhile funnyman once said, “HALF, Eddie!!!!!!!!!”

      • Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM

        Gamera – you forgot to add, “in one of the funniest movies ever made.”

    • Kevin S. - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      $131 million. She settled months ago.


      • lanflfan - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:54 AM

        Time to send that high-priced attorney back into court and renegotiate.

      • paperlions - Mar 28, 2012 at 3:10 PM

        Well, first, Frank is going to have to pay off all of his debts…which total to…what? $800M plus? There will be something going to taxes one would hope, but he may be rich enough to avoid that all together. It’ll be interesting to find out how much he walks away with in the end.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 28, 2012 at 5:44 PM

        Good point, lions. The battle McCourt has isn’t close to being over, with everything else he has to settle.

  4. koufaxmitzvah - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    He looks like a lizard in a suit.

    Aliens are among us.

    • Gamera the Brave - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:58 AM

      You just put me in the mind of that classic flick, “They Live”, where Rowdy Roddy Piper utters (or, more accurately, mumbles) the classic line – “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass…and I’m all out of bubblegum.”
      Aliens and bad actors ARE among us.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 28, 2012 at 5:45 PM

      My iguana is offended by your comment. :)

  5. yankeesfanlen - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    As stated in the previous post, Magic not withstanding, this is a business proposition that went totally awry and will take a ton of money to remedy.
    The part that will probably be the most difficult is getting the product back on track through intelligent drafting of farms and FAs. We shall see if the new management is skilled and determined enough to do that

  6. lanflfan - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    Frank McAsshat will never be like or thanked by any sane Dodger fan. He will reap a huge pile of ill-gotten gold, and with such acquisitions eventually comes the karmic boomerang. I just hope I’m able to laugh my ass off at him when it happens.

  7. koufaxmitzvah - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    Jon Morosi should change his name to Jon Moron.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      His statement is very Foxual. After all, they created the belief that the Iraqi people will be thanking George W Bush for his invasion of Iraq 30 years from now. All that bloodshed, looting, and violence will be forgotten because GWB brought democracy to the Middle East!

      • jimeejohnson - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:26 PM

        I think you’re lying!

  8. cur68 - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    See this is where Craig fails: he doesn’t know enough to suck up to the mega rich and ultra stupid. Morosi has seized the advantage from him by being first in line as official Media Toady for Frank McCourt, America’s newest Billionaire.

    He won’t be the last to try and get a little of that sweet lucre for a PR job and, at FOX, he’s ideally situated to suck up to rich idiots.

  9. Jeremy Fox - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    “…he will become the most financially successful owner of a team in Major League Baseball history”.

    Isn’t that mostly because all franchise values have been rising dramatically, the Dodgers have fundamental value that even McCourt couldn’t destroy, and there was a bidding war between several very rich buyers when McCourt was forced to sell at a time not of his choosing? Why should McCourt get any credit for any of that?

    Funny how making lots of money in business is always attributed to the CEO’s business acumen and never to larger forces outside the CEO’s control…

  10. Jonny 5 - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    This tells me Forbes doesn’t know squat when it comes to the value of MLB teams. They valued the team at 1.4 b which is a 75% increase from the year before.

    • mcsnide - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:52 PM

      They also had the Astros at $474 mil last year. You know, the team that sold for $615 mil after a $65 mil discount for moving to the AL. The Rangers also went for about 25% more than Forbes thought they were worth. In the past, Forbes was pretty close with its estimates, but the last couple years, not so much. Makes you wonder what changed. BP has a good article up on the topic:

      What I really want to know: If the Dodgers are worth $2 Bil, how much are the Yankees worth?

      • yankeesfanlen - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        Ten trazillion million.

      • cur68 - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:16 PM

        How much is that Canadian?

      • umrguy42 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:31 PM

        cur, more loonies than you can shake a stick at.

  11. CJ - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Morosi’s basically says that Dodger fans will than McCourt for selling. Which could have been true had Mccourt done so of his own choosing. Morosi seems to foget that McCourt was basically forced into selling the team, thus Dodger fans will not be changing the workd before “you” to “thank” anytime soon, or ever, for that matter.

    They’d have to thank Selig instead. Not that that’ll happen anytme soon either.

  12. smoothaswilkes - Mar 28, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    What about the 579 million of debt that McCourt assumed in the Fox sale? That is not being reported in any of these stories. Where’d that debt go? Doubtful that it paid off given Frank’s money problems. If you count that against the sale price, McCourt still comes out with a cool billion and it still makes me want to vomit repeatedly.

    Am I wrong about the 579m? Why is that being widely reported?

    • smoothaswilkes - Mar 28, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      Sorry, why isn’t the 579m widely reported? I only saw it once and never again.

  13. jkaflagg - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    While Frank McCourt is the ultimate American business success story – get rich using other people’s money and taking advantage of fools – let’s not forget that once you get past the Magic Johnson as front man schtick, the Dodgers are now owned by a financial company; and despite all the flowery talk about Dodger tradition blah blah blah, they bought the team because they saw a chance to make more money. Let’s give this thing a little time to see if the new ownership can keep both the money people back home and Dodger fans happy – because if it has to be one or the other, I think we all know how it will go.

  14. jimeejohnson - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    McCourt is Darth Vader’s cousin, “the malignant force”. Boston is glad he moved way out there!

  15. lostsok - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:59 PM

    This entire article is naive. And painfully so. You act as if running down a business and walking away with a massive profit for doing so is something new…and that people should care that CAN do anything about it. Numerous CEOs and other business poobahs have done exactly the same thing. I used to work for Idaho First bank, which became WestOne bank, which became US Bank…and thousands lost their jobs here in Idaho. The CEO at the time, Larry Johnston, floated off to Florida on a 40-50 million dollar golden parachute.

    He is one of the most reviled people in the world to those of us in Idaho. Think he’s losing sleep behind the gate of his mansion?

    And now you talk about “perception” with McCourt? I guarantee you…he does not care. Frank McCourt is validated by dollar signs, and nothing else.

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