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Frank McCourt might be up to old tricks on sale of Dodgers

T.J. SIMERS

Throwing $160 million Matt Kemp's way seems strange for a lame duck owner who is on the way out of town, unless there is a self-serving motive.

November 15, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Frank McCourt appears to be rebuilding his reputation among Dodgers fans even though it was his former wife, Jamie, who claimed to be the 'face of the Dodgers.'
Frank McCourt appears to be rebuilding his reputation among Dodgers fans… (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

What a wonderful, heart-warming picture of Frank McCourt on the front page of The Times on Tuesday morning.

He's smiling, and appears to be holding a little girl so they might get their picture taken together.

My, how time flies. It wasn't that long ago the little woman would be the one standing with Frank mugging for the cameras at a charity event.

Oh well, he still knows how to put on a good front.

Matt Kemp is pictured, too, and he's smiling and saying nice things about McCourt. I would, too, for $160 million; I'd make him the twins' godfather.

A little later, Frank tells our Bill Shaikin he's "very grateful" to Dodgers fans, I presume because no one took a swing at him.

Frank also says he has no regrets about selling the Dodgers, and we're finally in agreement.

But until he's gone, taking root in some posh Boston hotel and there is documented evidence he has no more ties to the Dodgers, I shall remain suspicious of everything he does.

I didn't trust he had the money he insisted he had before buying the Dodgers. And I never gave him the benefit of the doubt when so many others did -- it taking court documents later to change their minds.

That's why I wonder why he's spending $160 million of the next owner's money on Kemp.

His motto, Dodgers insiders say, is "What's good for Frank." So what's good for Frank here?

Is it really just some last-ditch effort to improve his image, spending someone else's money to make him look better?

The Dodgers still had the rights to Kemp for another year. If he became a free agent, tell me Frank wouldn't have liked to see him in a Red Sox uniform a year from now.

So why is Frank so interested in signing Kemp now?

If Kemp became a free agent, the new Dodgers owner would have to overpay to keep him to make a good first impression with fans here. Why is Frank trying to make it easier on the new owner?

Does Frank already know who the new owner will be? Will the auction process be a charade, Frank's choice already calling the shots from the wings?

Our Dylan Hernandez reports the Dodgers have made the decision to reduce the payroll. Why?

What does Frank care? He's supposed to be gone by opening day.

Why not sign Prince Fielder if Frank is so interested in helping the Dodgers by securing Kemp?

We're told now there is no possibility of signing Fielder. Why? Is someone in the wings telling Frank to keep the payroll down so they might make a splash next off-season with free-agent signings?

Frank has already made it tough on a new owner by lowering ticket prices. The first thing a new owner will have to do after spending about $1 billion to buy the Dodgers is raise ticket prices. He will need to sign free agents to justify such increases.

Major League Baseball says there are no restrictions on what Frank does now so long as he doesn't draw attention from the bankruptcy judge. They said signing a high-priced free agent would be considered normal business.

But the Dodgers won't be signing big-name free agents.

Why? If Kemp's signing enhances the value of the team as it goes up for sale, wouldn't a power hitter such as Fielder do the same?

Frank has selected the investment firm that will do the sale. He will pick the buyer, if he hasn't already. MLB has final approval, but Frank's choice will gain approval because he will have money. We know this because Frank needs lots of it.

How would you feel knowing the new owner is already in bed with Frank? How would other bidders feel knowing they never had a chance?

Would you want as big a conniver as the one who is leaving? I can hear Frank advising the new guy: I'd hire Lon Rosen, have him get rid of Nancy Bea and turn up the music really loud.

Those who know Frank says he's calculated in everything he does. Do you think he'll leave an auction to chance?

Do you think he wants Peter O'Malley to be the last bidder standing after O'Malley publicly criticized him?

Or Ron Burkle, whose name was mentioned along with Jamie's months ago as possible buyers?

If Frank has a buyer lined up, then why didn't he sell the team earlier? Maybe he believes an auction will drive up the price.

Something just doesn't feel right here with Frank suddenly acting as an owner and signing Kemp.

Maybe I have it all wrong and everything is copacetic. I don't know. There's a first time for everything, I guess.

SOME FOLKS ask why more time isn't spent praising coaches and athletes who live among us.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam died four years ago. But in "Pride of the Lions," a book about Joe Paterno published a few months back, Halberstam is quoted.

"It always seemed to me that Paterno is one of those special men. He brings honor to what he does. He's one of those rare people who has lived up to the ideals of intercollegiate athletics. He's one of those people who has a mystique that you hear about and then it turns out to be true. There have been no flaws in his career."

He probably thought he had Paterno nailed.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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