Commentary

Frank McCourt shows the disconnect

Dodgers owner speaks passionately, but it's probably not what the fans want to hear

Updated: April 28, 2011, 9:54 AM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

In seven years as owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Frank McCourt has never been as real and raw as he was standing outside an office building in New York on Wednesday, fighting to hold on to his team until what promises to be a bitter end.

For 45 minutes, he spoke with the honesty and passion Dodgers fans have waited seven years to hear. From the heart, without talking points or crisis management consultants, and revealing, after all these years, how he truly sees the Dodgers.

[+] EnlargeFrank McCourt
AP Photo/Mary AltafferFrank McCourt was in New York on Wednesday, meeting with Major League Baseball officials.

As his business.

His asset.

His property.

He is both entirely right -- from a legal and business perspective -- and entirely wrong, in every way that matters to Dodgers fans and the game of baseball.

"It's my money that's invested in the Dodgers," McCourt thundered. "I have the liability associated with the Dodgers, I have the responsibility associated with the Dodgers.

"Somebody can't come in and act like they're controlling the business which I've invested in, that I have a legal responsibility for, and all these employees I'm responsible for.

"There's a disconnect here that's very, very fundamental."

Yes, there is.

But the disconnect is with McCourt, the Dodgers, and their proud fans. Not with any of the actions baseball commissioner Bud Selig has taken recently.

The Dodgers have always been a possession to McCourt.

They should've been a privilege.

It took Tom Schieffer, the white knight Selig appointed this week to come in and monitor the club's operations, all of four sentences to grasp what McCourt never has.

"The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of the great franchises in sport, not just baseball," Schieffer said at a news conference Wednesday.

"Last Monday, the commissioner called me and said that the franchise was having some difficulty and asked if I could help. I said I'd be happy and honored to serve. Baseball had called and I was going to do my part."

Schieffer took the job Monday before even negotiating a salary, hopped on a plane to Los Angeles two days later, and said he plans to stay "until the job is done."

His ego was nowhere to be found Wednesday as he calmly listened to McCourt's remarks via conference call with senior baseball officials, delaying the start of his own introductory news conference for 30 minutes.

"I look forward to talking to Mr. McCourt and hopefully we can have a nice visit and see what it is he's concerned about," Schieffer said, smiling.

He says he understands McCourt's frustration and anger. Everyone does.

The man's life has fallen apart the past two years, specifically through the ongoing divorce from his wife, Jamie, and his loss of power within the team.

The problem is that it has taken until now for McCourt to acknowledge or take accountability for the toll these issues have taken on the Dodgers and their fans.

"I made some mistakes. I am sorry about that," he said. "For anybody out there that's been divorced, you know what I'm talking about. It's hard. ... I think I'm on solid ground to say, to do it publicly, and to have your worst day replayed to everybody for two years, it's tough.

[+] EnlargeTom Schieffer
AP Photo/Reed SaxonTom Schieffer, above, says he looks forward to being able to talk to Frank McCourt and address his concerns.

"The one good thing, and I don't want to call it that because there's nothing good that comes out of a divorce, but the silver lining is that you do change as a human being. You re-evaluate your life and your priorities, and you redouble your efforts to do the right thing."

Last week, I asked his friend and new Dodgers vice chairman Steve Soboroff why McCourt has waited so long to apologize and ask for that second chance.

Soboroff, who had spent the previous 20 minutes bravely defending McCourt, could only shake his head and say: "I don't know. I agree. If it was me, I would."

Wednesday evening, Frank McCourt finally did.

He spoke passionately and honestly, staring down Selig's challenge and promising to fight for control of the team he has owned the past seven years.

Twelve-hundred miles south, in Florida, the Dodgers won a baseball game earlier Wednesday on a 10th-inning home run by Andre Ethier.

McCourt never mentioned it.

To him, this has never been about the game.

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.