Frank McCourt

Frank McCourt on his time with the Dodgers: “We created value there . . . “


Frank McCourt, who bought the Dodgers with mountains of debt, mismanaged the team into bankruptcy and engaged in financial conduct which led to a federal grand jury investigation, has amnesia. Or suffers from delusions. Something along those lines anyway. I mean, how else can you explain the characterization of his tenure as Dodgers owner he made today:

“You know what happened with the Dodgers,” said McCourt, who in 2012 sold the Major League Baseball team for a record $2.15 billion to a group that includes executives from Guggenheim Partners. “We took a franchise losing almost $60 million per year and ended up selling it for the highest price ever paid for a sports franchise. We created value there and we plan to do the same thing here.”

Those comments came today when it was announced that he has purchased a 50% stake in the Global Champions Tour, an international show jumping series that draws top riders and horses.

“We created value,” he says. Bollocks. He lucked his way into “value” due to fortunate timing that he neither predicted nor did anything himself to help bring about. He wanted to keep the Dodgers, but was forced to sell due to his divorce and his crushing debt load and because he had totally worn out his welcome in Major League Baseball, which is really, really hard for an owner to do. It just so happened that all of that came to a head when the Dodgers’ TV rights deal opened up and the local rights bubble reached what is likely its apex. Yes, a famous Dodgers executive once said that luck is the residue of design, but in McCourt’s case he was only able to take advantage of his great financial luck due to his enormous incompetence.

So good luck, Global Champions Tour. Here’s hoping that, among the many other things Frank McCourt has been wrong about, he is wrong about his desire “to do the same thing here.” Because while the Dodgers withstood it just fine, I wouldn’t count on it happening twice.

(Thanks to Sarah D. for the heads up)


Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon
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I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.

MLB games were six minutes shorter this year

Pitch Clock
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According to STATS, INC., the average game in 2015 was 2 hours, 56 minutes. That’s six minutes faster than games in 2014.

The gains came in the first half, when games averaged 2:53. Second half games averaged three hours even. One can probably thank the expanded rosters in September for that, as games then see many more pitching changes. Of course, it’s likely that second half games were faster in 2015 than 2014 as well given the rules changes.

Those changes: agreement to enforce the rule requiring a hitter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box and the installation of clocks timing pitching changes and between-inning breaks in ever ballpark.

It remains to be seen if MLB stays satisfied with that modest improvement or if chooses to go the way Triple-A and Double-A leagues did. They installed 20-second pitch clocks and started penalizing violators with balls and strikes. Triple-A’s two leagues, the International and Pacific Leagues, saw game-time decreases by 13 and 16 minutes, respectively.