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Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Politics Of Envy: Kurt Streeter Spins Jamie McCourt's Kids-Or-Manny Falsehood

Look, I hate to go into brutal detail on this account again — and I won't — but reading Kurt Streeter's sad bit of McCourt brown-nosing reminds me all over again exactly why the McCourts are so utterly clueless. Let's start by breaking things down from the top. The precise quote, originally quoted here from a Nov. 26 Times story, was this:
"If you bring somebody in to play and pay them, pick a number, $30 million, does that seem a little weird to you?" Jamie McCourt asked in an interview at the Evergreen Recreation Center in East Los Angeles. "That's what we're trying to figure out. We're really trying to see it through the eyes of our fans. We're really trying to understand, would they rather have the 50 fields?"
As already hashed out to death damn well everywhere in the Dodgers blogosphere, the important point here is that this is a profoundly disingenuous comment.
  1. As Jamie McCourt herself later admitted in a radio interview with John Ireland and A. Martinez, the pile of money for Dodgers operations is separate from the Dodgers' various charitable activities. Yet the quote above conflates the two.
  2. Combined with the other actions the Dodgers have taken recently — whether it's failing to block the Adam Dunn trade (reportedly because they couldn't afford his salary), demanding the Red Sox pay all of Manny Ramirez's salary, likewise for the Indians and Casey Blake, or failing to offer arbitration to Joe Beimel and Brad Penny — and it furthers suspicions that the team is running short of money. That is, the Dodgers are not interested in making a serious offer to Manny.
Streeter says we should be grateful: "Jamie McCourt should be thanked for opening up a box brimming with hard questions about the economy and sports", and that we should question the "ungodly salaries paid to adults who play kids games". Well, if we do, shouldn't we just stop watching? It's a pretty simple thing to do, really, but he doesn't quite go there. The main concern is whether the Dodgers are going to assemble a good team, first and foremost. All this hooey about giving back to the community and salary caps — well, what good is it, really? So smaller-market teams can compete for free agents? Back when the reserve clause was still around, big-market teams still had the economic advantage over small-market teams; recall Clete Boyer, the bonus baby who hid out on the A's roster for two years.

In the end, the questions raised by McCourt are silly, immature, and rooted in envy. A logical consequence of freedom is that ability and talent, being unevenly distributed, will result in an uneven distribution of wealth. If Streeter finds himself drawn to a share-the-wealth system of allocating revenues, he will first need to explain why Visalia, say, shouldn't then have a major league team.

Update: I should also throw in today's T.J. Simers piece which makes much the same point, but with the specifics of the actual cost of going to the game. Simers sometimes makes himself useful by saying what needs to be said, and he gets to it about halfway through the article:

It's gibberish, just cheap talk for the sake of a better image. The Dodgers are in the business of attracting fans with a good product on the field, and donations to charity are a wonderful byproduct of it all.
Hat tip to Jon for the link.

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I think Streeter is one of the most talented and insightful writers the Times has left. The tragedy is that this piece will further feed the McCourts delusion.

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