Some harsh criticism has been lobbed at Frank McCourt in the media, and it began even before he came to town a year ago to purchase the Dodgers.
For example, a sports columnist in the Los Angeles Times wrote that McCourt should never have been approved as the team’s new owner.
McCourt was portrayed as someone unfit to purchase the team because he was borrowing a lot of money.
I think fans should only worry about the man’s finances if he drags down the franchise. The Dodgers have a proud history and fans have a right to expect a lot.
Well, let’s review what has happened since McCourt arrived from Boston with wife Jamie, who became a key Dodger executive.
First, the Dodgers won a division championship last season, something that hadn’t been happening with previous owners. Then they won a playoff game for the first time in 16 years.
The McCourt critics were silent for a while but got loud again when new general manager Paul DePodesta made some controversial moves in the off-season. Trading Shawn Green and failing to sign Adrian Beltre were questionable decisions.
But my position was to wait until the season started. Give these people some credit for knowing what they are doing. I didn’t say everything was going to be all right but I just didn’t know.
The acquisition of J.D. Drew offset the loss of Green. And the signing of Jeff Kent made up for sacrificing Beltre. Giving up good players and getting good players may be a lateral move. But the Dodgers didn’t just let players leave and pocket the money. They put it back into the player payroll and kept the figure close to last year’s amount.
The Dodgers then signed Derek Lowe to be one of their main starting pitchers. And they put $20 million into stadium improvements.
I can’t forecast whether the Dodgers will win their division this season, but if they falter, DePodesta’s moves will be the issue. It won’t be because McCourt lowered the payroll.
I think it’s unfair and simply wrong to say Mccourt isn’t qualified to own the team. Actually, McCourt’s critics owe him an apology.
I also want to say that I’m proud of Dodger fans for ignoring the media’s disaster stories about the direction of the team with McCourt in charge. They’re turning out as strong as ever.
And with the addition of 1,600 seats the sellouts are now resulting in record crowds. The capacity has grown above 55,000. Expect another season when home attendance will exceed three million.
With the return of Brad Penney, the anticipated return of Eric Gagne and Jason Werth being able to play, the Dodgers might have enough to win the division again. Certainly, they’re one of the contenders.
Barry Bonds isn’t playing in San Francisco because of a knee injury and San Diego, which had high hopes, is off to a slow start. Colorado is rebuilding and looks like a certainty for last place.
That leaves Arizona as the Dodgers’ most serious challenger in the division. Coming back from a terrible season, Arizona acquired Green from the Dodgers and Troy Glaus from the Angels. The DiamondBacks swept three games from the Dodgers last week to go into first place. They’re a good team.
I listened to McCourt during spring training. He expressed passion for the Dodgers and was proud of the stadium improvements he authorized. Unlike some major league owners, he’s a true fan. Sure, the business end of the operation is important, but his stated goal is to produce quality teams year after year that have a reasonable chance of winning pennants.
McCourt was a Red Sox fan who was caught up in the fierce rivalry with the Yankees, yet he seems to respect George Steinbrenner.
“One thing about the Yankees,’’ he said. “Everyone in that organization is very clear about the objective — to win the World Series every season.’’
When I hear McCourt talk, I believe he makes sense. I go to a press conference and find very little wrong with the things he says. Then I read accounts of the press conference and wonder if critics were at the same event I attended.
In some cases, the criticism is so harsh I wonder if it was predetermined. No matter what he said, he was bound to be criticized.
But fans are making up their own minds, the evidence being the way they’re coming to the ballpark.
Almost everyone I know has attended Dodger ganes through the years. There have been very few instances of the team being terrible, as Arizona was last year. Heck, the Lakers were terrible this year following their run of championships.
The Dodgers usually are competitive and they play in a beautiful stadium. McCourt gives every indication of respecting that tradition.
“Dodger stadium is the best. We just want to tweak it a little to make it even better,’’ he said.
The new seating, which brings fans closer to the field, works. The rubberized outfield warning track, which players didn’t like, is gone. McCourt spent the money to put a dirt warning track back in, like the one it used to have.
Some of the seats will be replaced by new ones before next season begins.I’ll be waiting to read apologies to the owner, but I’ll probably have a long wait.