Readers of this blog know I don't have much use for Dodger fans. Yet I feel strangely sympathetic for them right now. Yes, they're guilty of year-in year-out arrogance, obsession with beach balls, chanting "Barry sucks" endlessly and being generally clueless about baseball -- particularly in the insistence that Steve Garvey and Walter O'Malley are sterling human beings.
But I actually feel some measure of sympathy for Dodger fans. Perhaps part of that is my being impressed with how Dodger fans were properly horrified about the Brian Stow beating and put two and two together -- that the McCourts maybe didn't care much about the fans and their saftey -- and decided to stay away to the tune of more than 8,000 per game. And the latest takedowns of Frank McCourt are absolutely brutal. Larry at the It's About the Money, Stupid blog has a long but solid piece explaining how the McCourts have essentially looted the franchise for the past 7 years
and will probably keep looting it unless MLB intervenes. Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce spells out what a mess this has turned out to be because McCourt has managed to strip out key assets from the team and place them under his control --
Sources familiar with McCourt's strategy indicated Monday that significant sources of Dodgers revenue would not be available to Major League Baseball or another owner without McCourt's consent. These are said to include a $21 million annual lease obligation owed from the team to a McCourt entity for the club's use of the parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium and any ticket revenue in excess of the $6-7 million per year of service on certain McCourt debt, according to the sources. This year's figures were not available, but the surplus cash after debt service exceeded $60 million in 2005. Both of these revenue streams are slated to stay with McCourt for at least 20 more years.
The lease payments and ticket sales revenue could act together as a poison pill discouraging what would be called in the corporate world a hostile takeover. Baseball's recourse would most likely be legal action seeking a determination that such revenue cannot be diverted from team operations. McCourt's counter could be that baseball has always had knowledge of these practices and, indeed, approved the separate sale of the team and surrounding land when McCourt purchased the Dodgers before the 2004 season.
The takeaway for fans is that McCourt likely will make a complete MLB takeover as painful as possible. After all, any money baseball spends running the Dodgers until a new owner is identified ultimately comes from the league's other 29 team owners. Furthermore, the team is likely much less marketable to potential ownership groups if such significant revenue streams do not flow back to the team, but to McCourt entities.