Commentary

Frank McCourt's legacy is mixed

To say the Dodgers owner has only hurt the team during his tenure is too shortsighted

Updated: April 22, 2011, 2:38 PM ET
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- I've never been good at breakups. They always bring out the worst in me.

They cause me to speak in broad generalities, forget the past, and fail to put people and events in proper perspective.

The only thing I can think of at the time is that our relationship is over and how much time and energy I wasted while we were together.

It's never big-picture stuff, of course. How could it be when you're in the midst of a breakup? But eventually, gradually, painstakingly slowly, logic replaces loss and reality takes the place of rage.

You begin to realize your time together wasn't so bad and you actually had some pretty good times together even if the ending wasn't exactly the storybook finale you had pictured during the relationship's high-water marks.

[+] EnlargeFrank McCourt
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty ImagesSay what you will about Frank McCourt these days, but it wasn't too long ago that he was celebrating his success with the Dodgers.

We're a long way from knowing whether the Dodgers and Frank McCourt are breaking up, but with news of baseball's plan to take over day-to-day operations of the team, it got me thinking: If we're near the end, what has the relationship really been like?

If baseball's decision ultimately ends McCourt's 7-year ownership of the team it would remove the ugly divorce clouds lingering over the club since Frank fired Jamie McCourt after the 2009 season.

But as embarrassing as the ordeal has been off the field, and as inept as the team has been on the field since 2010, I think we should remember the Dodgers still enjoyed their best six-year run in 30 years under the McCourt ownership.

In Frank McCourt's first season, in 2004, the Dodgers won the National League West and won their first playoff game since 1988 when the late Jose Lima pitched a five-hit shutout to lead the Dodgers past the St. Louis Cardinals.

The team would win four NL West titles in McCourt's first six years of ownership, and for the first time since 1977 and 1978, the Dodgers made back-to-back trips to the NL Championship Series in 2007 and 2008.

The Dodgers won only four NL West titles between 1982 and 2003, and outside of their magical World Series run in 1988, failed to win a single playoff series during that time.

McCourt has been far from a perfect owner. In fact, his financial records suggest he probably should have never been an owner to begin with. But if the measure of a successful owner in sports is putting a competitive team on the field and contending for championships, it's hard to argue McCourt was a bad one prior to his divorce.

It would be one thing if McCourt slashed payroll and failed to sign quality players and coaches, but that was never the case prior to his divorce. He let go of Grady Little and hired Joe Torre when the team failed to make the postseason in 2007, signing Torre to a 3-year, $13 million contract after Torre had won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees.

The Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez in 2008 and subsequently signed him to a two-year, $45 million contract. Much like McCourt, you can say what you will about Ramirez and the way he left the team, but you can't deny the Dodgers' success while he was on the field in 2008 and 2009.

If anything, prior to spending cuts coinciding with the divorce proceedings, you can criticize the Dodgers for overspending on players during McCourt's tenure, such as the 3-year, $47 million contract they gave to Jason Schmidt, the 2-year, $36.2 million contract they gave to Andruw Jones and the 5-year, $44 million deal they gave Juan Pierre.

This isn't to justify or make excuses for what McCourt has done and what he has put the Dodgers through since the end of the 2009 season. He should have sold the team when things were getting ugly and saved a once-proud franchise from being dragged through the mud in the media and toward the bottom of the NL West standings in the process.

Relationships, however, shouldn't be defined simply by their ugly endings. Rather, they should be viewed in their totality for the good and the bad. To say McCourt has cursed the Dodgers for the past seven years or hijacked the team since he bought the club in 2004 would be ignoring the success the team had during his first six years at the helm.

While Dodgers fans are hopeful their team will soon have a new owner in place with deep enough pockets to revitalize their roster and with a personal life devoid of courtrooms and TMZ cameras, they can only hope the new owner has as much on-the-field success during his first six years as Frank McCourt did during his.

Arash Markazi is a reporter and a columnist for ESPN Los Angeles.

Arash Markazi

ESPNLosAngeles.com