I missed two interesting Frank McCourt stories over the weekend, both via Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times, and neither of which makes McCourt look very good.
First, there is the report that one of the reasons Commissioner Selig has not approved the Fox contract McCourt is so hot for is that Jamie McCourt has not signed off on it. The idea is that, while Jamie doesn’t have operational control of the team, she does have an ownership interest and she thinks that the Fox deal would devalue that. This suggests that the idea that she simply wants cashed out of the Dodgers as fast as possible — or that McCourt could even do that if he wanted to — is not a safe assumption. It’s also further evidence that the Fox deal is not as good as Frank says it is, because you have to think that Jamie has advisors looking at it too.
Second, Shaikin had a sit-down interview with McCourt, and McCourt did not exactly make a good impression when asked about how his personal issues and financial irresponsibility have impacted the team:
Q: Could you explain to Dodgers fans why you believe you are the best person to own this team?
A: First of all, I want to apologize to the fans. I want to tell them how deeply sorry I am for what has occurred over the last 18 months. I’m sorry that my personal mess has entered their lives and affected their experience being a fan of the Dodgers.
I’m sorry that some of them think that lifestyle decisions I made affected my commitment to putting a winner on the field and winning a championship for L.A.
Q: Are you saying that is simply the fans’ perception, or did those decisions affect the team?
A: I’m saying it’s clearly the perception of some.
Q: So you would not agree with that perception?
A: What matters is that is the perception. I’m sorry that is their perception. I’m sorry that they don’t think I’m committed to them. I’m sorry that my situation has been a source of embarrassment for the community, an embarrassment for the team and an embarrassment for the fans.
See: you just don’t understand, Dodgers fans, and Frank McCourt is deeply sorry that you don’t understand.
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.