Frank McCourt Aims His Appeal At Other Baseball Owners, Not At Dodger Fans
Since his remarkable press conference on Wednesday, alleged Dodger owner Frank McCourt has been on a media barnstorming tour.
Why, after 18 months of silence, is he finally going public? What does he hope to gain? Well, consider who he's talking to.
He has not spoken with ESPN, the L.A. Times, or Yahoo Sports -- the places you'd go if you wanted to talk to Dodger fans. Instead, he has gone to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg TV, and CNBC.
That's where you go to talk to the other owners.
McCourt has to know that it's way too late to win back the Dodger fan base. (Note that he didn't apologize to fans on Wednesday until he was prompted to by a reporter.)
But the fans are not the problem. The problem is that Major League Baseball refuses to approve his TV contract and has appointed a monitor to run his business. McCourt's message to the other owners is: If Commissioner Bud Selig can do this to me, then he can do it to you, too.
Here he is on CNBC:
You can't say to somebody that has a private business, without due process -- I'm going to send somebody in and be a receiver and then I'll do an investigation. That's just not -- it's just not correct. It's fundamentally unfair.
Does that sound like a message that is intended to resonate with the average fan? It does not. It is aimed at the other owners.
Throughout his public comments, McCourt has emphasized again and again that he has followed all of MLB's rules. Does the average fan know what those rules are or care whether McCourt is following them? No. But the other owners do. And they are the only ones who can pressure Selig to back off.
If you try to interpret this as an appeal to Dodger fans, you'll be left scratching your head. If McCourt cared about the general public's opinion, he would have avoided all this by settling the divorce case before trial. He didn't.
Remember how he characterized his relationship with fans at the press conference:
"I'm no PR genius."
In other words: I have a lousy relationship with fans, but that's not central to my qualifications to own the team. That's just PR.
Then consider how he characterizes himself: "A working-class kid," "a self-made guy." "I've earned every nickel I've made." "Every dollar I've made I've earned the old-fashioned way."
Whether it's true or not -- and in McCourt's case it's not -- that's how every owner wants to see himself: as a regular guy who deserves his good fortune. He is appealing to a shared sense of privilege, which no doubt runs deep in every team owner.
And so here's how to understand Drew McCourt's Twitter feed. Frank's son -- the one whom the Dodgers paid $400,000 a year to do nothing -- has been on Twitter the last couple of days defending his dad and denouncing Major League Baseball. If there's one person less sympathetic than Frank, it may be Drew. But he's been made the point man for interacting with fans on Twitter. That's how little McCourt cares about PR.
Needless to say, it's not going well. But here's what Drew, who used to be the Dodgers' marketing director, says about that: "we've never been much good at PR... doesn't change the fact that this is 'unlawful' and 'un-American.'"
Bottom line: Frank doesn't think he needs public support to keep the Dodgers. And he may be right. But he sure as hell needs support from the other owners.
Update: McCourt takes his case to the local airwaves tonight.
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