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McCourts have dragged down Dodgers

Regardless of whether Frank or Jamie wins divorce trial, the team stands to be the biggest loser in the affair.

August 10, 2010|T.J. Simers

Nineteen days until the McCourts' trial begins, the race beginning to see who is eliminated first, Jamie or the Choking Dogs.

It's shocking how much we have learned already about the McCourts, far more disturbing, though, what we still don't know.

For the longest time we heard from an ever-changing list of image makers speaking on behalf of the McCourts, but as the folks over at the Los Angeles Business Journal might tell you after naming the McCourts in a Jan. 5, 2009, story, "L.A.'s Power Couple of the Year," things aren't always as they're sold to be.

So far the scandal has been titillating, teetering toward hilarious once we learned there were plans to have Jamie run for president and a spiritual healer was on the payroll.

Maybe one day there will be an explanation beyond court documents why two people so image-minded would be so willing to tear into each other publicly. Maybe it's as simple as they are who they are.

There has been limited outrage, I suppose, the Dodgers owners not paying taxes but paying their sons to work for the team even though they do not.

But for the most part the McCourts have drawn a public pass, or maybe even a yawn, divorce in L.A. not uncommon and with more than 3 million fans showing up to Dodger Stadium, is there really anything to worry about?

That really is the unanswered question, isn't it?

If Frank McCourt emerges as sole owner of the Dodgers, he will presumably come out of hiding, but will he have the money to remain in control?

So far we've been getting mixed messages.

We've been told in court documents that McCourt had to borrow money from a brother recently, and more from a business associate to make support payments to his wife.

And yet we're constantly reminded by GM Ned Colletti that the divorce has no impact on how the baseball team spends its money.

If there is anything we have learned so far in following the lead up to the Aug. 30 trial, the McCourts had no problem mixing personal money with their Dodgers checkbook.

The answer becomes even more muddled when taking into account Frank McCourt's resume. A recent L.A. Weekly story painted a very unflattering picture of McCourt and the manner in which he conducted business in Boston.

Given what we've learned the last few months, he's probably right up there with Donald Sterling now in L.A., with one obvious exception — we know Sterling has a bunch of money.

Josh Rawitch, McCourt's latest Dodgers image maker, disagrees, claiming McCourt has done just fine with the Dodgers faithful, repeatedly pointing out that when McCourt walks among the fans, they express their appreciation for the job he's done.

I had no idea McCourt still goes to Dodgers games. He hasn't been acting as Dodgers owner for some time now, his office no longer in the stadium and so where's the leadership?

Joe Torre has said he will decide next month whether he will return as manager, and while some disgruntled Dodgers fans and Plaschke maintain Torre looks weary, the same can be said about the Angels' Mike Scioscia. Losing makes managers look weary.

But if money is an issue with Frank McCourt, will he have his minions or (Dennis) Mannion, I should say, nudge Torre aside to save millions and pay Don Mattingly a first-time manager's salary? Is that in the fans' best interest?

If Dodgers ownership continues in appeals and upheaval, who would you rather have patrolling the dugout, the guy who worked under George Steinbrenner or the guy who has more managerial mistakes than wins to date?

Torre knows the Dodgers are in serious trouble if there is no money to compete, and I suspect he's already decided to step aside as manager with the hope the Dodgers will keep him on as consultant and wet nurse to Mattingly.

But shouldn't McCourt be knocking on Torre's door, begging him to remain until everything is stabilized?

Who says Mattingly has what it takes to manage a big-market team with no experience? Torre? Does Colletti get a say? Mannion? McCourt?

Why isn't Tim Wallach, the Pacific Coast League manager of the year last season, getting a look? Wallach is doing what Mattingly should have done at some point, managing the Dodgers' triple-A team in Albuquerque.

What about Vin Scully? The greatest Dodger of them all has said more than once there will be no farewell tour.

He has said that when he decides to retire, he will wait a few days after the season, call everyone together and thank everyone for their friendship.

Is that how this October will go for the Dodgers?

If money is an issue, who fills the hole left by Manny Ramirez? Who carries the day beyond Kershaw, Billingsley, Kemp, Loney and Ethier?

Jamey Carroll makes a very nice mascot, but these feel-good role players are just that. That's what the Dodgers are becoming, or will become if they cannot afford star power.

The time to laugh at the McCourts, or scoff at their ridiculous attempt to buy prestige and favor in L.A., is over.

This is serious business now, a trial and no guarantee that if Frank McCourt wins, he really does.

Just how do the Dodgers look a year from now with an owner scrambling to gather loose change, a manager in over his head and Steve Lyons telling everyone, "It's time for Dodgers baseball?"

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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