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Gastelum: For the good of baseball, McCourt is gone (Nov. 3)

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Wicked Witch of the West is dead.

Settled in the mystique of the foothills and the grandeur of the city lies a stadium many have looked to as a haven. Certainly, this Los Angeles native has. Surrounded by palm trees and pines, hilltops and mountains, we find an escape from the bustling traffic and smog of the booming city.

There, in Chavez Ravine, baseball rules over all. Yet this season, one man’s shadow swept over the placid sanctuary faster than the marine layer rolls in from the South Bay. One man who didn’t wear a number on the field wore Public Enemy No. 1, exiled from the team he bought and yet hoarding the spotlight of America’s Pastime on the West Coast.

This one man covered up a (nearly) triple-crown season for the ages from Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp. This one man pillaged the hidden treasure of the lanky left-hander Clayton Kershaw’s pitching triple-crown season. This one man was louder than the purest voice baseball has ever heard in an announcing booth.

Yet in a place where the names of Sandy, Fernando, Orel and Tommy are locked in the grand niche of Dodgers lore, it was Frank who frankly added his legacy in the most brutal of ways.

Through all of the court hearings, settlements, bankruptcy and spending, the time of Frank McCourt is blown by the wayside as worldly fame is nothing more than a Dantean gust of wind, blowing in a spontaneously new direction with renewed purpose.

This past season, Dodgers fan everywhere organized an unofficial boycott of McCourt, going through sources such as Stubhub or scalping to get their tickets if they even managed to attend a game because of their hatred for McCourt.

The boycott, the Los Angeles Times reported, cost McCourt at least $27 million that would have otherwise surely gone to feed the beast of his legal team and lengthy divorce settlement — McCourt looted over $189 million from the Dodgers for his personal use.

But McCourt wasn’t ever present in his owner’s box next to the dugout, nor did he ever publically support his team. McCourt’s legacy went something like this: Whenever the Dodgers did something noteworthy, McCourt found a way to top it.

Go back to the 2009 NLCS, when the Dodgers were fresh off of a sweep of the heavily favored Cardinals and a day away from facing the defending World Series champion Phillies for the second-straight year. McCourt trumped that, announcing that he and his wife of almost 30 years were separating.

When Joe Torre, one of baseball’s all-time greats, announced his retirement from managing, McCourt managed to continue cutting payroll for a team that won two straight division titles.

During Kershaw and Kemp’s torrid seasons that will go down as some of the best in the esteemed franchise’s history, all the media focused on instead was the $130 million settlement Frank McCourt has to pay his wife and the Major League takeover of the team following his bankruptcy.

And even yesterday, when a third-place team with bundles of confidence following a 41-28 finish — post-All Star break — was awarded three Gold Gloves (Kemp, Kershaw and Andre Ethier), McCourt stole the spotlight announcing his sale of the team.

And a sigh of relief blew the palm trees in center field in LA that could be heard from South Bend, and the darkest of the Dodgers nights saw just a gleam of sunlight. There are still a lot of things the Dodgers need to accomplish to rebound from this tyranny.

Start with resigning the upstart Cy Young favorite in Kershaw, five-tool MVP candidate Kemp and the fiery Ethier, then proceed by signing or trading for a power hitter like Prince Fielder — who has two good friends on the team in Kemp and Tony Gwynn Jr. — to complement Kemp and find another starter to fortify the rotation.

There is still so much to do, but it is a start for an upstart team whose fans are finally feeling the warm rays of optimism in always sunny Los Angeles.

Just one question: Is it too early to change the sign in Hollywood to Cubanwood