Dodgers begin uncertain future

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers drove home Wednesday night in the still-settling dust of one of most chaotic days in franchise history, not sure of how anything would look in the morning.

They returned early Thursday to a field bathed in tradition. Big-band music, throw-back Brooklyn Dodgers uniforms, and a rare 12:10 p.m. start time.

It was an odd juxtaposition on a day when that past felt further away than ever. It was a reminder of the grand history of the franchise on the first day of what promises to be a strange, new era.

At the end of the day, the only thing settled was the game on the field as Matt Kemp closed the eight-game homestand with a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning to give the Dodgers a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves.

The rest of it? ... The future of the franchise? The way it will be run while Major League Baseball exercises day-to-day control? Who will exercise day-to-day control? What that means for the players? Whether Frank McCourt will sue the league?

All of that was still settling.

Selig's decision to seize control of the club's operations Wednesday had come as too big of a shock for anyone to process it fully by the next morning.

Dodgers officials were given only a 30-minute "heads up" on the announcement.

McCourt didn't see it coming at all.

"That letter was not expected. [It] was a shock," said Dodgers vice chairman Steve Soboroff, who was hired just a day before Selig seized control of the team.

The former mayoral candidate is one of the few reputable voices in Los Angeles to stand beside or behind McCourt over the past few years.

Although he was speaking Thursday as a Dodgers official, his affection and friendship for the embattled owner could not be suppressed.

"I think he deserves a chance," Soboroff said. "You know what happened? He's had a life-changing event that would change the way people act.

"Although some of it is extravagant and ridiculous, divorce is sad. He's had an experience that he's gone through ... that has changed him.

"If my decision would've been based on his history, I wouldn't have done this. I don't disagree that they've made mistakes. ... He's made mistakes in the past, but he isn't making mistakes right now."

It was a brave and lonely position on a day when history had already shifted in the opposite direction.

"People say, 'Why am I doing this?'" Soboroff said. "I'm doing this because I think it's the best thing for me to do for L.A. I think Frank McCourt is a different person now moving forward than he was before, or I wouldn't risk having people of your quality looking at a guy like me, who has spent my life helping big brothers and all these things, saying, 'What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?' "

A few doors down, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti watched the game against the Braves from his private suite.

He'd moved quickly and quietly through the stadium before the game, stopping to talk to a few players and coaches, but declining to comment to the media.

A day before he had stood in front of the television cameras and tape recorders and said what he could, which wasn't much.

"It's certainly a historic day," Colletti said Wednesday. "You never like to see things like this happen. But I don't think I know everything and I'm assuming the people that make these decisions know far more than I do."

At that point, he hadn't spoken to McCourt or anyone from Major League Baseball. His job, his role, his boss was unsettled.

By Thursday he'd been contacted by baseball officials and told enough to be "conducting business as usual with the payroll he was given at the beginning of the year," he said through a team spokesman.

Colletti's silence, his reticence to do anything more official than option relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso back to Triple-A Albuquerque after the game, said more than enough.

Wednesday might've been a historic day at Dodger Stadium and cause for celebration among Dodgers fans who had come to loathe McCourt.

But Thursday was a sad day as anxious employees and club officials waited for their futures to come into focus.

"I'm concerned about the people who work and whose families work here," Soboroff said. "For those people, these are a very difficult four days. You don't know when the Wizard of Oz shows up, whether he's going to say 'You go and you go and you go.' "

It was against that solemn backdrop a game was played Thursday, the home team playing in the jerseys of its proud past.

"I'd have to say that I am really hurt," said legendary Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda. "I feel bad about the situation.

"And I just don't know what's going to happen."

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.