Schieffer candid about challenge with Dodgers

Tom Schieffer, once a U.S. Ambassador to Japan, once the president of the Texas Rangers, once a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Texas, hopes to get to Los Angeles this week, at which point he’ll get to work putting the Dodgers back together.

Called upon by commissioner Bud Selig, Schieffer said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports that he understands the resistance he might encounter, considering Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and vice chairman Steve Soboroff have voiced their displeasure with Selig’s plan to take over the team.

Schieffer chuckled, and in a drawl forged in a youth spent in Fort Worth, Texas, where he watched Duke Snider and Maury Wills play for the local minor league team, said, “Oh, I’ve had some pretty difficult jobs before. Dealing with the North Koreans is generally a pretty tough day.”

Tom Schieffer

At 63 a lawyer in the Dallas-Fort Worth firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which has an office in Los Angeles, Schieffer lately had limited his baseball involvement to games at The Ballpark in Arlington. With the Rangers, he’d spearheaded the building of that stadium, and just Monday night watched the Rangers play the Toronto Blue Jays there.

Selig contacted him last week about the possibility of monitoring the Dodgers, and on Monday morning called and offered him the position. Schieffer will oversee day-to-day operations, business and finances of the Dodgers and, according to a baseball release, “all of the franchise’s related entities.”

“He asked me if I could help,” Schieffer said. “I love baseball and I felt baseball was calling.

“I was surprised he called this morning and I was honored he did. Nobody loves baseball more than Bud Selig. I think he knows I love baseball, too.”

The job, as Selig explained it and Schieffer sees it, is fairly clear.

“He wants the Los Angeles Dodger franchise to be a model franchise again,” he said. “He’ll do everything he can to make that happen.”

So far, that’s meant the extraordinary measure of seizing control of the Dodgers and appointing a trustee – Schieffer – to run them. McCourt met the action with dismay and still might choose to challenge Selig’s authority in court. He had hoped to revitalize the Dodgers with a new television contract with Fox. Selig has yet to approve it, which those close to McCourt view as an abuse of power. McCourt has offered to stipulate that all of the money be used for the benefit of the club.

Schieffer said he has never met McCourt, but is acquainted with the team’s general manager, Ned Colletti, who was assistant general manager of the San Francisco Giants when Schieffer was president of the Rangers.

“I don’t think I should come in with any preconceived notions,” Schieffer said. “The obvious can’t be overlooked. The commissioner of baseball doesn’t take over a franchise unless there’s a problem.”

He said he intended to meet with McCourt and his lieutenants, to listen and learn about the organization.

“No. 1 on the agenda is to restore stability to the franchise,” Schieffer said. “People once talked about the Dodger way and they did that with respect. That’s what we have to return to. I think that can happen.”

Asked if he believed the Dodgers could be restored with McCourt as the owner, Schieffer said he would not address particular issues.

“I’m not going to get into that,” he said. “We’ll see what happens as we go forward. I do hope my experience in management can help there.”

Tim Brown is a national baseball writer for Yahoo! Sports. He co-authored with Jim Abbott the memoir “Imperfect: an Improbable Life”.   Follow him on Twitter.   Send Tim a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011