Eight years ago this week Bob Daly, you know, the Movie Guy, joined Fox in selling the Dodgers to Frank McCourt.
“We made a horrible mistake,” says Daly. “We didn’t realize what a bad guy he was.”
Daly had been a success at CBS for almost 25 years, another 20 as head of Warner Bros. before buying an interest in the Dodgers.
He became managing partner after Fox initially floundered in running the operation. Under Daly’s four-year watch, the team finished 50 games above .500.
“When we were going through the process of selling the team, McCourt seemed like an OK guy. I sat down with him and told him people here were under contract, but they’ve been like a family and so if he wanted to make changes, do so with respect.
“As everyone knows he didn’t, so I told him off. It took five or six more years for a lot of other people to catch up to where I was with him. He did some good things, but inherently he was not a nice guy. He put himself before the Dodgers, and this is a team owned by the fans and the city of Los Angeles.”
A Dodgers spokesman, made aware of Daly’s comments and a request to talk to McCourt, said, “Thanks for the heads up,” but offered nothing more.
The Dodgers are for sale again, and many of those who submitted bids Monday talked to Daly about joining their efforts.
“Zero desire,” he says. Daly now is president of the investment firm, Rulemaker Inc. “I was torn for so long rooting for the Dodgers to win, while at the same time rooting for McCourt to lose. I’m done.”
But he remains as big a baseball fan as maybe anyone in the city, and he’s troubled by how far the Dodgers have fallen and how a deal with McCourt might go down.
“At the right price it’s a good investment,” he says. “I can see over a billion, but that’s if everything is included.”
Daly, who had more money sunk into the team owning just 10% than McCourt did in owning the entire franchise, says he hasn’t “uttered one word” to McCourt since soon after McCourt bought the team.
“If McCourt and I had a relationship I don’t think he would have had such a hard fall,” he says. “I had a great relationship with Peter O’Malley. I had such a love for the Dodgers, I might’ve helped.”
When Daly assumed control of the team before the 2000 season, former Times writer Jim Bates wrote of Daly’s extraordinary passion for the Dodgers under the headline, “Hemorrhaging Dodger Blue.”
“I was an unbelievable Dodgers fan since I was 6 and then a baseball fan; now I’m an unbelievable baseball fan and a Dodger fan,” he says. “I went to three games last year. It was like a military state with almost more police than people. It was depressing.
“Now look at the absurd deals made this off-season. They have signed a bunch of B players to two-year contracts, paying them 25% this year and 75% next year so the next owner will have to pay them and be stuck with players he doesn’t need.”
Daly calls this upcoming season a “dead year” for the Dodgers unless the team signs Prince Fielder.
“It’s probably going to take the team two or three years to get its reputation back, but it’d be such a good start giving them Fielder,” he says.
A few minutes later it’s announced the Tigers have signed Fielder.
“There’s an owner in Detroit who cares more about his fans than making a dollar,” Daly says. “That’s the type of owner we need.”
So what are the chances of finding such an owner?
“Here’s the test to see if we get a smart or stupid owner,” says Daly. “If you make a deal and allow McCourt to keep the land and parking lots, you are out of your mind.
“At some point you are going to have to rip down Dodger Stadium and move it downtown. You don’t want to deal with someone else owning the land.
“If you don’t get the land, what the hell are you buying? There’s so much to be done in that stadium; McCourt didn’t put a penny into it the last three years. Take a look at those clubhouses; they’re an embarrassment.”
As quick as he is to point out McCourt’s errors, Daly cuts himself no break. He says he will never realize his dream of having champagne poured over his head after winning a Dodgers’ championship because he wasn’t as aggressive as he should have been.
“We had a pretty good pitching staff in ’02 and needed one more hitter. I thought our minor league players were too precious to trade, and some of them turned out to not be as good as we thought.
“I put too much energy in the farm system, although I think you have to do it. If I had to do it over, I would have done more to bring a pennant to L.A. right away. The fans here are impatient and they should be. I’m impatient.”
Daly says the sales process is in the first inning, and though McCourt is under orders to complete the sale by April 30, he doubts it will happen.
“He has to pay Jamie, but if it takes more time, what’s her choice? We still don’t know what he’s selling.”
When it comes to Dodgers owners, does he have a favorite?
“Anyone but McCourt,” he says. “The man got a gift from God and unfortunately blew it, and blew it on his own personal craziness. He should be sitting here today successful and worth a lot of money.
“Now I just say, give him a first-class ticket out of town, or put him on a private jet.”
Who knew the Movie Guy and I would one day agree?