SBJ/May 2-8, 2011/Franchises

Schieffer in ‘big-picture situation’ with Dodgers

The long-simmering financial woes surrounding the Los Angeles Dodgers heated up last week as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig appointed former Texas Rangers President Tom Schieffer to run the Dodgers’ day-to-day operations as part of the league’s takeover of the franchise. Club owner Frank McCourt lambasted the moves and vowed he will fight vigorously to maintain control of the team. Still, Schieffer arrived in Los Angeles last Wednesday to begin his attempt to stabilize operations, and investigate the finances of the heavily debt-ridden franchise. Schieffer, 63, spoke with staff writer Eric Fisher regarding his new assignment.

There is disagreement, particularly between McCourt and MLB, regarding the nature of your role. How would you describe it?

SCHIEFFER:
Mr. McCourt owns the franchise. Nobody disputes that. But Major League Baseball and the commissioner have the right to seize control of the franchise in the best interests of baseball. And that’s what he has done. I am his representative. And I am here to try to determine what the facts are.

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"I am here to try to determine what the facts are."
You’re obviously no stranger to tense situations, but McCourt’s statement Wednesday clearly suggested he’s got a big problem with your presence and your role. How are you going to address that and deal with what is likely to be a hostile situation?

SCHIEFFER: People don’t have to agree. But I can assure you that the commissioner of baseball is following both the law and the rules of baseball. And those rules have determined why we’re in the situation we’re now in, and I hope Mr. McCourt will recognize that and try to help us resolve the difficulties the franchise is now in.

Among the many issues facing the team right now is ticket sales, as attendance at Dodger Stadium thus far is down considerably. Can that be reversed this season?

SCHIEFFER: I hope that people understand that the commissioner and MLB appreciate the iconic nature of this franchise. This is one of the great jewels of baseball. Everybody wants a healthy Dodgers franchise. This is, after all, the franchise that Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson used to change the face of baseball and change the face of America. You want that kind of franchise to be a model for what happens in the rest of baseball. Hopefully, we can bring it back to that sort of situation.

How then do you anticipate dividing your time between day-to-day matters such as ticket sales, sponsorship, security, and building operations, and so forth, and the larger issues that have put you there?

SCHIEFFER: I think the people in the organization have got to run the organization. But I think the experiences that I’ve had should be helpful to people, and hopefully we can get a handle on what the financial condition of the team is pretty quickly. We’ll obviously have to figure out what can be done to make this a more viable franchise. This is a difficult problem that needs to be addressed. And hopefully people there will have suggestions, too.

Is that your way, then, of saying you’ll be more focused on the big-picture issues?

SCHIEFFER: That’s right. I think I’m in a big-picture situation. But the people there want to make the Dodgers successful. There are people there who have worked for the Dodgers for decades. They’re good people. They’re wonderful people. And we want them to know this is not a franchise in decline. It’s a franchise that should be a model for the rest of baseball. People take pride in working for the Dodgers, and they should.

In terms your personal situation, will you be in Los Angeles every day for the foreseeable future? Are you going home to Texas on weekends? How will all that work?

SCHIEFFER: My wife asked the same questions. I told the commissioner I would stay with this as long as it needs to get done. And that’s my attitude. Now, I’m not going to move here, because I don’t think this is a life-changing job. I think it will be over, hopefully sooner rather than later. But we’ll put in whatever time is necessary to get the job done.

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