November 1, 2011 will go down in history as a momentous day in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers. After over two solid years of fighting — with his now ex-wife Jamie, with Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, with common sense — Frank McCourt has finally agreed to sell the Dodgers.
Now Dodgers fans can finally move on. The embattled owner who took the Dodgers into bankruptcy is no more, which makes this a time for celebration. Cautious celebration.
A company called the Blackstone Group LP will manage the court supervised sale of the team, and all parties hope to have a new owner in by opening day. That doesn't exactly make the Dodgers potential big spenders in the free agent market this winter, but that likely wasn't going to be the case anyway with McCourt still in charge and the bankruptcy still hanging over everybody's head.
There will, and should be concerns over the next Dodgers owner. After all, Dodgers fans were ecstatic when Fox sold the team in January 2004, simply happy to see them gone. In stepped the McCourts, proving the age old warning "be careful what you wish for."
Not that the McCourt ownership was all bad. The team made the playoffs in four of their first six seasons of ownership, including two consecutive trips to the NLCS, the first taste of any kind of postseason success for the franchise since 1988.
But the divorce trial and eventual bankruptcy of the team quashed any era of good feeling in Dodgertown, when the McCourts' lavish lifestyle and financial mismanagement of the team was laid out for everyone to see. There were always lingering concerns of the McCourts' liquidity from day one of their ownership, but fan disgust over the McCourts reached a boiling point in 2011.
The team had its worst paid attendance in 11 years, failing to reach 3 million in attendance for just the second time in 16 seasons. But that was the paid attendance; the actual butts in seats was much lower as many season ticket holders simply didn't show up, fed up with the state of the franchise.
For Frank McCourt, the settlement is a bit out of character for him, though it is likely personally his best option. McCourt is a litigious sort and it seemed like he would fight everyone until the team was pried from his cold, dead hands.
But with the settlement, there is finally closure. As fans, we just want to focus on the team on the field without having to worry about distractions of ownership. We have no idea who the next owner will be. The new owner could be worse than McCourt, though that hardly seems possible at this point.
This feels like the end of The Candidate, when Bill McKay (played by Robert Redford) ultimately wins election to the United States Senate after going through the whirlwind of a campaign. After realizing he won the election, McKay asks, "Now what?"
That is where the Dodgers are right now. There is an uncertain future out there, but with Frank McCourt gone it's time to embrace that uncertainty, and bring on whatever is next.