The Dodgers are the kids in a custody battle

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Normally, if you fire someone at work after you stop sleeping together, you’re going to get sued for sexual harassment. Of course, what’s going on in L.A. ain’t exactly normal:

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has fired his estranged wife, Jamie, from her position as the team’s chief executive, triggering what her attorney said would be an imminent legal response.

“Jamie is disappointed and saddened by her termination,” attorney Dennis Wasser said Thursday. “As co-owner of the Dodgers, she will address this and all other issues in the courtroom.”

OK, so this one might actually be uglier than a sexual harassment suit. Those are awful, but companies survive them and often learn something in the process. This, on the other hand, is going to wreck the Dodgers for a good long while.  Why? Because of this:

Jamie McCourt is believed to be lining up investors for a possible effort to buy her husband out and gain sole control of the team. In addition, she was believed to have started calling prominent baseball figures, with the intention of arranging meetings to discuss the direction of the team.

There have been ownership battles before, but they almost always involve fights over money and the analysis of contracts and stock certificates and stuff. With a married couple each claiming the team is community property, each is going to have to try and establish that they, in practice, are the owners of the team, just like a husband in any normal divorce would try to establish that he really and truly was entitled to the boat because he always used it or a wife would try and show that she gets the prized show dogs because she’s the one that grooms them. 

Except with the Dodgers, it’s Frank McCourt trying to show that he owns the team by firing his wife/employee.  At the same time, that “arranging meetings to discuss the direction of the team” stuff could mean that Jamie McCourt is going to try and show that she owns the team. What happens if she sends an email to Ned Colletti telling him to trade Clayton Kershaw? Or, more realistically, pledges a million bucks to some charity on behalf of the Dodgers? Based on the positions everyone is taking, it would be hard to figure out what to do.

If I were her lawyer, I’d tell her to try and show up for work this morning and see if big Frank has the stones to escort her off the premises with a security guard. If he doesn’t, it tends to show that she’s an owner too. If he does, she gets some sensational media coverage and probably no small amount of sympathy.  OK, maybe I wouldn’t tell her to do that, but I’m sure some divorce lawyer would.

But even if they avoid that kind of high drama, the Dodgers now find themselves as the kids in a custody battle.  And as any of you who have been in that position can attest, that’s not a fun place to be.

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza
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Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.