New Dodgers boss is not playing small ball

Apr 28 2011 - 4:48pm

LOS ANGELES -- The new Dodgers sheriff came to town Wednesday. There was no gun visible, but you had the feeling there was one hidden somewhere under the expensive lawyer suit.

Tom Schieffer, the choice of Commissioner Bud Selig to protect our National League interests in La La Land while baseball figures out how to make the Dodgers franchise whole again, has already been titled several things: Monitor. Watchdog. Adviser.

There is a better term: Boss.

Schieffer was tabbed Monday by Selig and met the L.A. media Wednesday at an airport hotel. He was asked why he didn't hold this gathering at Dodgers Stadium, and he answered that he didn't want to be ambushed at the airport.

Need we hear more? This guy is slick, tough, confident and will answer what he wants to, and how he wants to.

Across the continent, Frank McCourt, with interesting timing, held a news conference after his meeting with baseball officials (not including Selig) and indicated regret, remorse and defiance. Had McCourt done that long ago, he might not be in his current fix. But a day late and several millions of dollars short seem to be a McCourt operational defect.

Much of what McCourt said seemed to imply there will be a lawsuit against baseball. McCourt has always been good at that. Suing.

Schieffer addressed the prospect of that with the best -- and only -- answer baseball thinks it needs.

"Commissioner Selig acted in the best interests of baseball," Schieffer said, "and I think he has that right."

Left unsaid, but generally known, is that McCourt and all major league owners give that power to the commissioner when they sign on to be an owner. With few exceptions, that has stood up well in court.

Schieffer didn't look, or act, like somebody coming here to help McCourt, or hold his hand. He spoke softly, but everything from his body language to inflection said he will carry a big stick.

He said he hoped he and McCourt "would have a nice chat." He added, "I hope there won't be friction, but that's his choice."

He paid proper homage to where he was.

"The Dodgers are one of the great franchises in sports," he said, saying it in such a way that he wanted it clear that he did, indeed, mean to imply that they transcended MLB. "I know how much people love this franchise."

He also said, "I am hoping my presence here will give fans confidence that the turmoil and instability is coming to an end.

"Baseball needs the Dodgers."

He was introduced as "Ambassador" Schieffer, a reference to his days as a George W. Bush appointee to that position in Australia and Japan. His first words were a cleverly borrowed image that Vin Scully, the best remaining glue to a proud and historic franchise, gives to Dodgers fans nightly.

"It's a beautiful day in Los Angeles," Schieffer said.

He said there is no deadline, no end date to his stay. He said that he hadn't even talked salary with Selig, but that he was confident "it will be taken care of fairly."

Despite McCourt's eleventh-hour desperate bleating -- fittingly in front of the East Coast media, where he has always felt more comfortable -- there is little question what has happened here and who is running the railroad now at Chavez Ravine.

"The commissioner has given me whatever resources I need to get the job done," Schieffer said.

McCourt, on the other hand, has whatever resources Fox will give him, and right now Selig has a stranglehold on those.

Schieffer smiled a lot, like a man who knew how the game is going to turn out. He said he would meet with Dodgers employees and tell them he is here to help. He said he is in a good spot because he hasn't been around for all the rumors and incidents about the Dodgers -- the poor man needs somebody to explain about the Internet -- and that "I can come in from the outside."

He was questioned about the difficulty of coming into this situation. He smiled and said, "I have dealt with North Korea."

Then came the $64,000 question.

"At this moment, if you are in one office at Dodger Stadium and Frank McCourt is in another office there," a reporter said, "who is in charge?"

Schieffer didn't even twitch.

"The commissioner of Major League Baseball," he said.

There are many twists and turns still possible. With bankers and lawyers and TV executives and self-entitled rich men doing battle, you never know.

But one phrase comes to mind about McCourt's chances.

Game over.

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