Baseball teams are not conventional businesses. The league's special status is even reflected in its exemption from anti-trust law. Its teams are franchises, and its owners answer to the commissioner, the fans and the nation itself. That demands a lot of an owner: enough wealth to buy a team and enough humility to serve its many masters. McCourt has neither the money nor the temperament to succeed.
The ownership crises are only glancingly reflected on the field. On the day McCourt declared bankruptcy, his players posted a 15-0 win. But the team dropped into last place two days later, and fans are subtly but unmistakably registering their offense. Attendance has plummeted, and the Dodgers, who once led the major leagues in crowds, now face the sharpest dropoff of any club.
Sooner or later, preferably sooner, the McCourt era will end. When it does, baseball can get right what it got wrong when it approved his purchase of the team. This time, Selig and the major league team owners should approve a financially stable owner with an intense interest in maintaining a roster of the best players in the game, and a keen understanding that the team is not a cash register but rather a cherished civic trust. This is the franchise of Robinson, after all, and of Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela and Hideo Nomo, of Tommy Lasorda and Vin Scully. It is as scrappy as Brooklyn, as eclectic and aspiring as Los Angeles. It deserves an owner devoted to its future and as admirable as its history.