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By fighting for club, McCourt can only make Dodgers worse


Know what's potentially up around the bend for Andre Ethier and the common street urchin he's got for an owner?

Consider this: If Ethier returns to the lineup against the Mets on Friday in New York (he sat out Wednesday with an inflamed elbow) and hits in every game for the rest of the month, he'll pull within two games of Joe DiMaggio's record 56 on May 31.

Same day sources within the game believe that Frank McCourt, urchin and chief carnival barker, will fail to meet payroll.

Now, I know what you're thinking, how incredibly unrealistic this is.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Ray Ratto Ray Ratto
All we need from Frank McCourt from this day forward is silence. Read More >>
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And you're right: There could be a rainout between now and then. Ethier's hitting streak might only be at 53 games when the deadbeat finally runs out of money and can no longer convince others to give him money.

If the Dodgers play through, though, I can just picture the scene on May 31:

"Congratulations, Andre, 54 in a row!

"Now if you want money to eat tonight, go get a job at Subway!"

Ah, as Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda likes to say, he doesn't consider it Dodger Stadium, he thinks of it as Blue Heaven.

Hell of a spot right now for McCourt, who has become only more brazen since Commissioner Bud Selig locked him in his room. The guy suddenly started gabbing like Oprah on Friday, apologizing to Dodgers fans in very general terms and vowing that nobody is going to take his business from him.

He says he has made "mistakes" running the Dodgers and that he now just wants the opportunity to make amends. As if running the franchise into the ground for seven years warrants that opportunity.

As if second chances are "deserved," rather than "earned."

The more McCourt wails, the more it becomes clear: It's like listening to a second-grader.

McCourt is a dead man in the eyes of the game, which was the whole point of Selig putting former Rangers exec Tom Schieffer in place as "monitor."

Multiple major-league ownership sources tell that every single one of the game's other 29 owners/ownership groups is firmly aligned behind Selig. They all want McCourt gone. The man has zero support.

"He's out on a plank," said one ownership source, requesting anonymity.

Selig doesn't make a move unless he has built consensus first and, according to sources, none of the other 29 owners has been left out of this loop.

"I don't think it's shocked anybody," a second ownership source said. "I think it required that a drastic piece be changed. Bud wouldn't have done this if he didn't believe he was well within his rights legally that this was in the best interests of baseball."

If McCourt fails to make payroll on May 31 -- or anytime thereafter -- it is the 29 other owners who will be required to foot the bill.

As long as Frank McCourt stays in the picture, he'll be a drain on the Dodgers. (AP)  
As long as Frank McCourt stays in the picture, he'll be a drain on the Dodgers. (AP)  
McCourt now says he's breaking 18 months of silence because his four boys, whom he said had elicited a promise that he would keep his divorce from Jamie out of the media, now have given him the green light to defend himself.

What he's finding is that it's damned difficult to defend the indefensible, even in his delusional existence.

Any promise to his sons was toast as soon as Frank and Jamie took their fight to court rather than settling it privately, like so many other couples who wind up hating each other's guts.

That trial is what revealed they had funneled some $110 million worth of Dodgers profits into their own account to fuel an extravagantly personal lifestyle that included a Southern California mansion-buying spree. It's also what is said to have gotten the IRS's attention.

The Dodgers have accumulated more than $400 million in long-term debt, McCourt borrowed $30 million from Fox to meet his last payroll (and, theoretically, the upcoming May 15 payroll), and now he's railing against baseball because Selig won't sign off on what he says is a potential $3 billion agreement with Fox on a new television deal that will keep the Dodgers afloat?

His current television deal has two more years to go.

The Dodgers' 2011 player payroll ranks only 12th in the majors.

There are no other clubs looking for more TV money two years before their current pacts expire.

The Dodgers Dream Foundation under McCourt paid a man named Howard Sunkin $400,000 of an approximate $1.6 million budget in 2007. The club says the money was repaid to the charity. The attorney general's office is investigating.

Since taking over the club in '04, he has fired between 300 and 400 people. Just staggering. Once his marriage blew up, he gassed dozens of dedicated, good people simply because they either had been hired by Jamie or were associated with Jamie.

When that Giants fan was beaten into a coma on opening night, the Dodgers had been operating without a security chief (fired last fall) for months.

If I were Frank McCourt, I would be hiding in the back of a Dodger Stadium luxury box, quivering, too ashamed to go out in public.

Yet here he is, tilting at more windmills. Big surprise that baseball says he is not cooperating with its investigation of the Dodgers -- which will only further hamstring the club. Already, Schieffer, who was in Milwaukee on Thursday for meetings with Selig and others regarding the situation, is required to approve any expenditure of more than $5,000.

"The pace of the Commissioner's investigation has been adversely impacted by the Dodgers' failure to produce documents in a timely manner and by the complexity of the financial structures surrounding the club," MLB executive vice-president Rob Manfred said in a statement Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Dodgers attendance was down 6,390 per game last month compared to April 2010, and down 95,843 fans through their first 15 home dates -- a drop of 14.5 percent. They announced 38,017 for a Tuesday game against the Cubs, but a scout who was there said there couldn't have been more than 15,000 in the stands.

"There were a ton of cops, though," the scout added wryly.

McCourt says his troubles would be behind him with the new TV deal, but after siphoning so much money for so many years from the club for Malibu mansions and such, Selig should trust him now ... because?

Yes, the rich are different from you and me. F. Scott Fitzgerald and all that Great Gatsby stuff. I get it.

But this -- this is obscene, and insulting.

DiMaggio got "distractions" like Marilyn Monroe.

Ethier gets this.


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