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McCourt and Pujols: How to Lose Fans and Alienate People

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment

First off, let me start by saying that I’m not a huge baseball fan, but being from St. Louis, I sometimes consider myself a Cardinals fan by default. St. Louis is, after all, a baseball town. That said, I do love sports. I do love being a part of the game day festivities. I do love when my city wins.  And I do love celebrating my city. Call me a fairweather fan, but I think I’m in a nice position of being able to “Go Crazy!” when the Cards win, but not ending up in tears when they lose. Now that I live in Long Beach, I have two MLB teams located roughly the same distance away from me and I see just as many people wearing Angels gear as I do Dodgers. Unfortunately, baseball in LA has already put a bad taste in my mouth.

Dodger Drama

The drama started before I even moved out to California. Maybe bringing hotshot “Lazy” Ramirez to LA was a bad omen. Former Dodger owner Frank McCourt has generated more negative attention toward himself and his team than I can express. For months it seemed like the morning headlines on KPCC had something to report involving the drama of McCourt’s infamous divorce proceedings, charity scandal, and ownership problems. The year after being proclaimed “Power Couple of the Year” by the Los Angeles Business Journal, the McCourts decided to split, and Frank fired his wife from her position as the “First Female” Dodger CEO the day after the team was eliminated from the playoffs. Maybe she deserved it after having an affair and dipping into the team’s bank account to pay for her lavish lifestyle, but Frank wasn’t much better, and personally benefited from some $130 million of Dodger money in the form of personal dividend payments to himself. After fighting over who owned what portion of the team, Major League Baseball itself was called in to bring a quick end to the drama. Deals were made, and then rejected, while McCourt struggled to find the money to pay the team he was fighting for. Eventually the team filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the MLB put the team up for sale. Then there was the salary of Howard Sunkin, Frank’s buddy and chief executive of The Dream Foundation- the charitable arm of the Dodgers- which was nearly equal to one-fourth of the charity’s entire budget.
After all this, the Dodgers still don’t have an owner and are suffering from a tarnished reputation. This gross display of greed, ineptitude, and corruption on the part of the McCourts has no place in professional sports. Here we have a man who continually raised ticket prices beyond what most teams dare to charge, failed to meet payroll obligations for his players, and involved one of the most storied baseball franchises in history in his personal affairs, all while raking in wild profits to support his image and lifestyle. And I haven’t even mentioned the beating of Giant fan Brian Stowe.

A Tale of Betrayal

Fast forward to December 2011. After leading the Cardinals to their 11th World Series victory, Albert Pujols was suddenly a free agent and the rumors began to fly. Of course we all thought he would re-sign with St. Louis. And by “we all,” I mean pretty much everyone who knew who he was.
Pujols is a St. Louis icon. He is part owner in a restaurant that bares his name. He began some ambitious and highly successful charity work there. There is an adult mental health facility named after him. He helped the Cardinals to the World Series three times, and won it twice.  He was given the nickname “El Hombre” by St. Louis fans. Unfortunately, he is also partly responsible for shutting down the only classical music station in the region (the 62-year-old Classic 99) to replace it with the christian rock station Joy FM, even though Joy Fm already had a home on two frequencies. Despite the loads of evidence suggesting Pujols would remain a Cardinal, he left town as soon as the LA Angels offered a bigger, better contract. Money, not loyalty, no matter what Albert and his wife might say, was the real issue here. Now all along the freeways in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas, you’ll find billboards depicting Pujols from the rear, swinging for the fences, alongside captions like “El Hombre,” “Big A,” “Now PlAying,” and “OMG!” How convenient that the Cardinals colors also happen to be red and white- they didn’t even have to photoshop Albert into an Angel’s jersey!

I couldn’t help but smirk and even cheer after reading Tom Schlafly’s most recent Top Fermentation column, where he, with tongue in cheek, quotes “Casey At The Bat:”

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
And in Mudville there is Joy-FM‚—Albert Pujols has sold out.
Unfortunately, the Cards don’t play the Angels this next season. So this spring when the Cardinals do come to Los Angeles, for a three-game series against the Dodgers, I’ll hope to grab a seat near the visiting bullpen for all three nights. If you’d like to join me to help pray away the parking-lot assault, you’re more than welcome.