Dodgers trustee downplays role with embattled team, wants 'conversation' with McCourt
The man sent by Major League Baseball to oversee the Los Angeles Dodgers used a Thursday morning TV appearance to downplay his role even as the team’s embattled owner vowed to fight outside intervention into the troubled franchise.
“I’m here to try to help,” said trustee Tom Schieffer, the former Texas Rangers president appointed to his new post by baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
In an interview on KTLA Channel 5, Schieffer emphasized he would not make decisions on who would play and where, and that general manager Ned Colletti would perform his duties without interference. But Schieffer also acknowledged that if Colletti wanted to exceed the budget to pursue a player needed for a pennant drive, that move would require his approval.
Schieffer noted that the Texas Rangers also had a league-appointed trustee last year as they were dealing with a bankruptcy. And yet that team still was able to acquire pricey pitcher Cliff Lee in a push that ended with an American League championship.
“Nothing would make us happier than for the Dodgers to be in the World Series,” he said.
On Wednesday, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt defiantly rejected what he said was the league's effort to oust him, a possible prelude to a legal battle over the team.
"Nobody handed the Dodgers to me," McCourt said in a news conference. "Nobody is going to take them away."
Reacting to the McCourt’s tone, Schieffer told KTLA, “I’m sorry to hear him say that, and I hope to have a conversation with him,” adding, “the commissioner felt it was necessary to step in and offer to help … and get the ship right.”
“Mr. McCourt is the owner of the franchise,” Schieffer said. “The organization will do the work.”
Schieffer's main duties will be to monitor and investigate the financial situation “and try to figure out what the problem is.”
The folksy, former ambassador quickly showcased his diplomatic skills: “I walk into situations like this and try to remember that listening is an important thing to do … The Dodger way is professional and it is what made this franchise the premiere franchise that it is.”
“I hope that the fans realize that all of us who love baseball love this franchise,” he said. He credited the Dodgers for changing the face of baseball through such figures as Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson. He said he hoped to help “reconnect fans to the franchise.”
-- Howard Blume
Photo: Tom Schieffer speaks at a news conference Wednesday at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times