THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Bob Ryan

McCourts give fans reasons to have Dodger blues

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / June 30, 2011

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In addition to all the other good news in the world of sport that has put such a gigantic spring in our collective step, I would like to add the following:

Frank McCourt is LA’s problem, not ours.

Please, have pity on your Los Angeles brethren. There is nothing so inherently good about us as sports folk that makes us deserving of our colossal good fortune, nor, despite the decades worth of jokes we’ve made whenever the Celtics square off against the Lakers, is there anything so inherently bad about the people of Southern California that makes them appropriate victims of the Frank and Jamie McCourt Follies.

It’s bad out there, very bad. I call your attention to a recent column written by Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times when he tells an interesting tale of an afternoon at the ballpark, Frank McCourt style.

The story begins with his son locating tickets on StubHub for a game between the Dodgers and Reds. The price?

$2.55.

Per ticket.

$2.55!

There was no bait-and-switch, it was the gospel truth. A ticket to a Dodger game in the year 2011 could be had for far less than a small order at Starbucks.

Plaschke then outlined the entire experience, which included no traffic near the stadium, no fuss in the parking lot, no lines at concessions or restrooms, and, finally, the fact that he and his two children had an entire section to themselves.

In keeping with the fraudulent nature of the McCourt regime — and doesn’t the word “regime’’ bring to mind notions of evil governments? — the announced attendance for that June 15 matinee was 30,443. The “443’’ was closer to the truth.

This ghost town atmosphere is what Frank McCourt has created in Dodger Stadium.

We are talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers, who, along with the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Cubs are one of the five golden marquee franchises in major league baseball. It took a man with a spectacularly well-developed reverse Midas touch to turn an elite franchise in which the team had drawn in excess of three million fans 24 times in the last 32 years to one in which attendance is down to an official count of 64 percent capacity, which we all know is a lie.

But it’s not just the numbers. The collateral damage to the image of this proud franchise is equally catastrophic. When Frank McCourt (and, I guess we should say, ex-wife, or soon-to-be ex-wife Jamie) bought the team in 2004, the Dodgers, despite some bumbling by Fox, were still held in very high local esteem. There was no question which was the king of local sports franchises. As successful as the Lakers had been in the previous 30 years, everyone would tell you that, sure, they matter, but, good Lord, they’re not the Dodgers, you know?

That’s before Frank McCourt began pinching pennies. That’s before Frank McCourt began raising prices. That’s before Frank McCourt began alienating loyal fans. That’s before Frank McCourt began messing with the entire Dodger experience. And, of course, that’s before Frank and Jamie fell out of love.

Hey, they have a right to divorce. People do it all the time. It’s the American way.

But often divorces leave behind their own human collateral damage. They’re called children.

In this case, they’re called fans.

There is no need to bore you with the hair-hurting details of both the McCourt divorce proceedings and the machinations between Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball, as personified by commissioner Bud Selig. OK, the McCourts are still bickering in court over just who should have the rights to the team. But that hardly matters to Selig. He wants neither McCourt to own the Dodgers. Period.

Well, that’s fine, and I’m rooting for him to succeed. All parties concerned will benefit from the exit of the McCourts from major league baseball. It’s hard to imagine a more disastrous stewardship, when you consider the outsized importance the Dodgers have had in both Southern California and major league baseball since their move from Brooklyn in 1958.

It’s very easy to identify the Good Guys and the Bad Guys in this scenario. But I have a question, and I pose it with the qualifier that, in the most general terms, I like and admire Bud Selig for his unquestioned love of baseball, which I share.

I do not, however, remotely understand why he invoked the power of his office to prevent Frank McCourt from getting his hands on the Red Sox, which he did, and then allowed him to gain control of the Dodgers. Nothing had changed. Selig knew McCourt was 99 percent Hat and 1 percent Cattle at the time he sought to purchase the Red Sox in what would have been a ludicrously leveraged deal, and yet that same state of affairs was deemed perfectly acceptable when he sought to purchase the Dodgers.

What was Selig saying? That Boston and the Red Sox are sacrosanct in the eyes of Major League Baseball, but Los Angeles and the Dodgers are disposable? If that’s not it, then what was it? And where were the other owners? Don’t they have reliable antennae when it comes to sniffing out a business fraud like Frank McCourt?

We were spared the nightmare a Frank McCourt regime represents. The suffering and frustration of the LA sports community has no end in sight. Not fair, is it?

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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