Behind him, a large, round window that expands his smallish office to the purplish peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains. To his left, Dodger Stadium, dabbed with blues, yellows and greens, seven weeks from its third opening day under his ownership.
Ahead? Hard to tell.
Frank McCourt has the props.
He recently purchased a letter written by Jackie Robinson during his tumultuous early seasons in the major leagues, and he clearly treasures it.
On a bookshelf, an orange Wheaties box depicts the last glorious moment in Dodger history. It is signed by Kirk Gibson himself.
A photo of the scoreboard at Fenway Park leans nearby, the panels turned to announce the Dodgers before an interleague game.
After two years, McCourt and the Dodgers are again in transition, from DePodesta to Colletti, from Tracy to Little, from first place to fourth to whatever 2006 holds.
On a recent Friday afternoon, McCourt talked about some of the issues of his first seasons in Los Angeles, and where it goes from here.
\o7Q: How are the Dodgers better off than they were two years ago under Fox?\f7
A: Well, without any comparisons, which I'm reluctant to make regarding other ownership, I can comment on how I think [the Dodgers] are better off two years into my stewardship. First of all, I'm an owner with two years of experience. When you buy a baseball franchise, it doesn't come with an owner's manual. You've got to be an owner of a baseball team to understand what it means to be an owner of a baseball team, and to fully internalize the notion that you're really not an owner, you're a steward. Sure, you own the asset, but it's a civic asset. It's a public trust. The other point is, it takes time to get your arms around an organization, to get your priorities right and to embed the values you want in an organization.
The great thing about the Dodgers, of course, is we get to do that building on a great tradition, a great history.
\o7Q: Tangibly, how are they better?\f7
A: Vision is one thing. Setting the goals that I've set for, No. 1, championship baseball; No. 2, the best fan experience; and No. 3, a deeper and richer relationship between the Dodgers and the community. Those goals and that vision is one thing. But you need to have senior management in place to turn that vision into a plan and implement that plan. I feel now we have a great senior management team in place here. With that, they will realize those goals.
\o7Q: Do you believe that what you're doing here is properly aligned with the perception of what you're doing here?\f7
A: Probably not. But time and consistency will solve all that. Our mantra in business is, "High road, long view." I think that what I've learned living in the fish bowl for the last couple of years is that people draw conclusions very quickly, impressions can be created very quickly. I'm not someone who's lived my life thinking about [public relations] first. I've tried to focus on what it is I want to do, and what I want to do, with whom I'm going to do that. So, there may be some misalignment in terms of reality and impression, but it will all come into focus over time.
I think it's getting more into focus now, for instance, than perhaps it was a year or 18 months ago.
\o7Q: The passage of time will allow your vision, your work ethic, your goals, your financial capabilities to align with public perception?\f7
A: I think the passage of time will do that, if you're true to your goals and true to your vision and you work hard at it every day. That's not to say we shouldn't do a better job aligning perception and reality, because you've got short time frames. I guess what I'm trying to say in a nice way, substance, to me, will always trump sizzle.
\o7Q: The McCourts and the Dodgers: Which is the brand and which is the product?\f7
A: It's all about the Dodgers, period. End of sentence.
\o7Q: There are employees who seem to be confused. They have suggested that, according to the McCourt family, the McCourts are the brand and the Dodgers are the product, and to think in terms of that. Is that inaccurate?\f7
A: Totally, 100% inaccurate. I've learned there are a lot of people who say a lot of things. That's life owning a big league baseball team, not to mention the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
\o7Q: The employee turnover within the organization. Why do so many people leave, whether of their own volition or otherwise?\f7
A: First, in a polite way, I don't accept the premise.
\o7Q: You don't think there's been an unusual amount of turnover in two years from your top management to the lower levels?\f7