Infidelity and unsavory business practices are the backdrop for the Los Angeles Dodgers upcoming season. Accusations and thousand-page divorce documents have been made very public and suddenly Los Angeles Dodgers tickets are available for a family drama fitting of a Greek tragedy as well as America’s pastime.
Frank and Jamie McCourt are heading toward divorce this summer and that glaring distraction is destined to ruin the Dodgers year as they try and win the NL West for the third season in a row. Frank has alleged that Jamie had an affair with a bodyguard and Jamie (a lawyer) has presented a 1,400 page manuscript detailing Frank’s plan to borrow against his team’s future ticket sales to fund his personal business ventures, raise ticket prices, and then play Moneyball in the nation’s second largest market. The scary thing is that the divorce process is just starting, so Dodgers fans have to wonder how much nastier is this going to get?
Amidst the accusations and the argument over whether Jamie owns the team or not, Joe Torre has to be the only mature adult. Torre has made a career out of managing baseball teams in the most difficult situations. In New York he managed a Mets team with its own family strife at the ownership level and he managed a Yankees team with a renowned impatient micromanager as its owner. He has to go the locker room and continually tell his roster of grown men playing a child’s game that everything is alright.
Sadly, I doubt even his calming influence will be able to keep the internal issues at bay. The fans will be angry that they are being fleeced so that Frank can make money elsewhere. The players will be angry that they are likely not getting the raises they believe they deserve. The owners will undoubtedly drag the team into this. They will air the other’s mistakes and put the players in a position where they have to choose sides.
If the Dodgers are able to weather this storm then one thing is clear: Joe Torre is the best manager in the history of baseball. Sure he has been named the AL Manager of the Year twice and has been the manager of four World Series-winning teams, but that was as the manager of the Yankees. Then he had the best of everything. He had a general manager willing to spend any amount of money to field a great team, he had baseball’s most storied stadium as his home field at least 81 games a season, and he had a team with impeccable character.
In Los Angeles he starts the 2010 season with a cheap owner, an admittedly pretty storied venue in itself, and a team full of young players maturing as millionaires with Manny Ramirez lurking as the potential clubhouse cancer in the corner. If a simple team sale can derail a team as talented as the Chicago Cubs in 2009 then surely this very public messy divorce could easily detonate the Los Angeles Dodgers chances of even making the playoffs this season.
If Torre is able to deliver another division title and get to the NLCS for a third time then he is undoubtedly baseball’s version of a Zen master and should eclipse even the beloved Tommy Lasorda in terms of greatness.