When it comes to Frank McCourt’s legacy, money changes everything

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Sorry that I’m a bit hung up on the Dodgers/Magic Johnson stuff this morning, but there’s something about irresponsible jackwagons falling into $2.15 billion that captures my attention.

Anyway, in the past few minutes I have come across two quotes that just astound me. One is a factual assertion that is totally correct but which misses all that should matter. The second one is plain wrong, but which is something that many will echo at some point because of the way narrative works.  Both of them, then, are distortions of a type, made possible by virtue of billions of dollars being thrown at something.

The first one is from Forbes, where Mike Ozanian makes that factual assertion:

If Frank McCourt’s sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers to a group with Magic Johnson as the front-man holds up, he will become the most financially successful owner of a team in Major League Baseball history.

Again, basically correct. But still horribly troubling, no? Troubling in that it makes us realize the tremendous disconnect between what baseball owners are interested in — getting a return on their investment — and what fans and players and everyone else in the baseball universe care about. A broader form of success either from winning ballgames or, at the very least, from an enjoyable product being put on the field or on our televisions, computers and radios.

The second statement comes from Jon Morosi of Fox, who claims that the fans will one day thank Frank McCourt:

A word here about McCourt: Even though he’s walking away with a huge profit — the purchase price was a whopping $2.15 billion; he bought the team in 2004 for $430 million — he is no longer the most vilified sports figure in L.A. The perception that he used the Dodgers as an ATM, along with the reality that he drove them into bankruptcy, will never go away. He never will be liked by Dodgers fans. But he is selling the team to Magic.

From this day forward, when Dodgers fans see Frank McCourt around town, the word before “you” will be “thank.”

I’ll be shocked if Frank McCourt is genuinely thanked by a single Dodgers fan. But I won’t be surprised if his role in nearly destroying what was once the gold standard for a professionally-run baseball organization is whitewashed. If the money thrown at the Dodgers by Magic Johnson’s crew and any subsequent success they have makes people forget just how destructive McCourt’s reign truly was. People will let him off easier. Some may even give him credit for extending Matt Kemp’s contract, maybe.  But he won’t be thought of as the malignant force that he truly has been these past several years.

I have my opinions, obviously, but I try not to be an overly judgmental person. Frank McCourt has made that pretty damn difficult in the past few years, because if there is anyone who deserves a good judging, it’s him.  He’s not gonna get it though.  He’s going to walk away richer than he was when he walked in. He will be admired by some for his savvy.  His transgressions will be ignored by some because of his successor.

It will be yet another reminder that, when tons of money is involved, not much matters but the money.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.