Frank McCourt has finally agreed to sell the Dodgers. The grassroots Save the Dodgers group is organizing a celebration outside Dodger Stadium for 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
While champagne is certainly in order, the damage that McCourt has done to the franchise won't be repaired overnight.
The Dodgers have always been more than a baseball team. In the 1940s, they were a touchstone of immigrant assimilation and racial integration. When they came to Los Angeles, they became a symbol of America's move west.
Now, under Frank McCourt, the Dodgers have become a symbol of corporate greed and the widening gap between rich and poor. Major League Baseball says that during his tenure, he looted the team of $190 million. At the same time, he doubled the price of parking and jacked up ticket prices by 66%. His ownership has been a case study of the transfer of wealth from the middle class to the super-rich.
McCourt seems to have felt genuinely entitled to help himself to as much cash as he could, no matter how much that hurt the long-term sustainability of the franchise. If he ever felt a pang of guilt about that, he kept it well hidden. In fact, he still seems baffled as to why people hate him so much. In that, he is no different from the CEOs of so many other companies — Gannett, Hewlett-Packard, most of Wall Street — who have taken multimillion-dollar paydays while running their firms into the ground.
That entitlement seems to far outweigh any notional responsibility he might have to the community at large. According to the Times' Bill Shaikin, a person close to the situation said that McCourt decided to sell because it was in the “interests of his family, his business and the team.” No mention of the community. The idea that he could have some broader social obligation seems utterly alien to him.
In urging McCourt to sell, MLB has said he will depart a very wealthy man. McCourt and MLB are now partners in making sure that happens. To get there, they'll have to extract a high price from the new owner. That will affect the average Dodger fan. Don't expect to be paying $8 to park at Dodger Stadium again anytime soon. Also, it might take a while before anybody gets around to renovating the cheap seats.
McCourt will cast a shadow for a long time.