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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Frank Bialystock?

Introduction: I'm Bashless, Brother

There are those who believe I am intent on bashing the McCourts, i.e., railing at them at every chance regardless of the merits of the argument. This simply isn't true; I would like nothing more than for Frank to be the kind of owner we could cheerfully ignore because his abilities and aspirations align to make the Dodgers into the kind of team they have historically been. I will happily give credit where credit is due. But as Jon pointed out, there is a difference between bashing and legitimate criticism. That difference isn't simply "what I do is criticism, what you do is bashing", it's about weighing the positives and negatives as a whole, and being unafraid to announce the sum. If refusal to face the plain facts have got some bloggers itchy about running more McCourt stories, that's a net loss to everyone else who enjoys reading such stuff, myself included. But the truth will out, no matter which potentates wave their mystical wands. Once upon a time, some yokel nearly enlisted the benighted legislature of Indiana in his aid in declaring the value of pi exactly and legally 3.2. Even had he succeeded, it would have changed pi not one decimal, anymore than Heinz Vinegar won't become Opus One by any Michael Lewis proclamation.

Curtain

It's with this in mind that I launch on today's piece, a jeremiad from one Michael Ventre at MSNBC. (Note: my wife worked with him while he tried to sell an indy film he wrote, but that was several years ago.) Michael goes down the standard litany of complaints, many of which have been raised here (and elsewhere) before:
Instead, a team that was a piece or two away enters spring training worse off than a year ago.

McCourt doesn’t seem like a charlatan. You don’t have to be a bad guy to be ineffective. McCourt has all the tools to be one of the great flops in ownership history. He has a farm system that is on the rise again, but not at the point where it can reliably churn out helpers for the big club, or even produce enough trade bait to make a difference. He again has a solid pitching staff, although it may be weaker than last year with the subtraction of Brown and the addition of Jeff Weaver, who bombed in the Bronx. All the free agents are gone. He has a general manager who appears bright and talented, but has never run a club on his own before.

Oh, yes. And he has no money.

There is also the matter of his true intentions. McCourt professes to love baseball, but some think he loves razing existing structures and building on prime real estate even more. That might not bode well for preservationists who see Dodger Stadium as a shrine instead of something that is standing in the way of condos being erected.

Others with closer vantage have made the case that he and Jamie are fiscally incompetent. And Michael is right about McCourt possibly being an epically bad owner, though I'd question the quality of our starting five at this point in time -- not to mention their identities, with Jackson looking like he doesn't belong on the big club on opening day. He's also right about the farm: without enough pieces to help in Chavez Ravine, there won't be enough pieces to trade.

Which brings me to his last point. An even more skeptical -- or paranoid -- line of thinking along this line might extrapolate that Frank is taking a cue from the Max Bialystock character of The Producers, and looking to put the worst team on the field imaginable, so as to make a plausible case that the Dodgers must find new digs with more luxury boxes. So, as we cut to the middle of that fine musical, we see the curtain rise on a most unprecedented stage:

Dodger fans were having trouble, what a sad sad story
Needed a new owner to restore their former glory
Where oh where was he?
Where could that man be?
Fox looked around, and then they found
A guy as rich as me!

And now it's --

Springtime for Giants and Diamondbacks
Selig is happy and gay
Dodgers tied down like Oakland A's
Look out, Bum fans, here comes fourth place!

Springtime for Frank and his bud, Selig
Winter for fans of the Blue
Springtime for Fox and their balance sheet
Come on Dodgers, go do what you do --

<Video of Adrian Beltre taking strike three on a pitch three feet off the plate and in the dirt>

Evans: I started dealing with the Sox
but now we'll finish 'neath the Rox!

Sabean: Join a winner while you can
Come and be a Giants fan!

<Big finish:>

Springtime for Selig, he got his way
Frank's credit cards are maxed out
Dodgers are done, they've got no pay
So much for ending our hitting drought!

Springtime for Giants and Diamondbacks
Beltre is swishing once more
Springtime for the rest of the NL West
'Cause soon we'll be cutting, you know we'll be cutting, we've got to cut payroll once more!

<videos of Bubba Trammell bobbling an easy fly ball, Shawn Green hitting into a double play, etc.>

Sadly, such fantasies remain in the museum of whimsy. Call me naïve, but I've overcome the belief that Frank, whatever his other (numerous) shortcomings might be, is interested in razing Dodger Stadium. This is for two reasons:

And with that, I retire, but leave the avenue of musical baseball theater open for exploration by those more accomplished than myself.

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