The Dodgers are the kids in a custody battle

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Normally, if you fire someone at work after you stop sleeping together, you’re going to get sued for sexual harassment. Of course, what’s going on in L.A. ain’t exactly normal:

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has fired his estranged wife, Jamie, from her position as the team’s chief executive, triggering what her attorney said would be an imminent legal response.

“Jamie is disappointed and saddened by her termination,” attorney Dennis Wasser said Thursday. “As co-owner of the Dodgers, she will address this and all other issues in the courtroom.”

OK, so this one might actually be uglier than a sexual harassment suit. Those are awful, but companies survive them and often learn something in the process. This, on the other hand, is going to wreck the Dodgers for a good long while.  Why? Because of this:

Jamie McCourt is believed to be lining up investors for a possible effort to buy her husband out and gain sole control of the team. In addition, she was believed to have started calling prominent baseball figures, with the intention of arranging meetings to discuss the direction of the team.

There have been ownership battles before, but they almost always involve fights over money and the analysis of contracts and stock certificates and stuff. With a married couple each claiming the team is community property, each is going to have to try and establish that they, in practice, are the owners of the team, just like a husband in any normal divorce would try to establish that he really and truly was entitled to the boat because he always used it or a wife would try and show that she gets the prized show dogs because she’s the one that grooms them. 

Except with the Dodgers, it’s Frank McCourt trying to show that he owns the team by firing his wife/employee.  At the same time, that “arranging meetings to discuss the direction of the team” stuff could mean that Jamie McCourt is going to try and show that she owns the team. What happens if she sends an email to Ned Colletti telling him to trade Clayton Kershaw? Or, more realistically, pledges a million bucks to some charity on behalf of the Dodgers? Based on the positions everyone is taking, it would be hard to figure out what to do.

If I were her lawyer, I’d tell her to try and show up for work this morning and see if big Frank has the stones to escort her off the premises with a security guard. If he doesn’t, it tends to show that she’s an owner too. If he does, she gets some sensational media coverage and probably no small amount of sympathy.  OK, maybe I wouldn’t tell her to do that, but I’m sure some divorce lawyer would.

But even if they avoid that kind of high drama, the Dodgers now find themselves as the kids in a custody battle.  And as any of you who have been in that position can attest, that’s not a fun place to be.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.