Frank McCourt pleads poverty. Relatively speaking.

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Frank McCourt — who owns a baseball team worth close to a billion dollars, multiple luxury homes and eats out at fancy schmancy restaurants seven nights a week — claims that he’s got a cash flow problem:

Mr. McCourt’s filing paints the picture of a man who, relative to
his lifestyle, is operating without much of a cash cushion. In the
filing, Mr. McCourt said his liquid assets consisted of a bank account
with less than $1.2 million.

His filing said Mr. McCourt wouldn’t see any significant income
until next year — possibly as late as March — when he expected a
quarterly payment of as much as $1.25 million from the partnership that
owns the Dodgers. He said payments from the partnership were “my only
source of personal cash flow” other than checking-account interest. Mr.
McCourt said his liquid assets recently fell as low as $167,000, after
paying about $700,000 in expenses for his wife, who filed for divorce
last month. He said the Dodgers don’t pay any of his personal expenses.

Jamie McCourt’s lawyer says that’s “baloney” and says that Frank should “be ashamed of himself” for pleading poverty like this.

I think the truth is somewhere in between. Even if you believe Jamie McCourt’s previous filings which seek to paint the couple as loaded (and her as entitled to much of that wealth) they also show severe indebtedness.  Indeed, the McCourt’s whole empire, the Dodgers included, is based on leverage, much of it tied up in homes that aren’t likely worth what they paid for them, and the bills continue to come due.

It’s exactly this sort of situation — minus the divorce, mind you — that has led to Tom Hicks’ ownership of the Rangers to near damnation. Throw in the divorce and you have Padres’ owner John Moores.

The more I see of this case, the more certain I am that the Dodgers will be sold in the not too distant future, and that until that sale comes, they’ll be cutting expenses wherever they can.

And hey, look! Higher ticket prices!

Wild Card, Division series umpires announced

Angel Hernandez
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Major League Baseball just released the umpire assignments for the Wild Card Game and the Division Series. As always, the basis for these assignments is a proprietary, scientific calculation undertaken by Major League Baseball, mixing in (a) skill; (b) seniority; and (c) trolling of baseball bloggers who, unlike 99% of the rest of the world actually know the names and track records of various umpires and who are easily riled.

Which is to say that, while we have no Joe West in the early playoff rounds this year — too obvious, perhaps? — we do get an Angel Hernandez.

Here are the assignments. The asterisks represent the crew chief of each unit. Guys with little up arrows next to their names are regular season crew chiefs in their own right. Print this out and keep it near your television so you know who to yell about before the broadcasters tell you who to yell at:

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Which teams improved and declined the most in 2015?

Joe Maddon

I was curious about which MLB teams changed their fortunes the most this season compared to last year, so I crunched the numbers.

First, here are the biggest win total improvements from 2014 to 2015:

+24 Cubs
+21 Rangers
+16 Astros
+15 Diamondbacks
+13 Twins
+11 Mets
+10 Blue Jays
+10 Cardinals
+10 Pirates

The top five teams on the biggest-improvement list all had managers in their first season on the job, led by Joe Maddon joining the Cubs after tons of success with the Rays. Also worth noting: Of the nine teams with the biggest win total improvement, eight made the playoffs. Only the Twins improved to double-digit games and still failed to make the playoffs.

Now, here are the biggest win total declines from 2014 to 2015:

-20 Athletics
-16 Tigers
-15 Orioles
-14 Brewers
-13 Nationals
-13 Angels
-12 Braves
-12 Reds
-11 Mariners

Not surprisingly, a whole lot of those teams have changed managers, general managers, or both. And a couple more may still do so before the offseason gets underway. Oakland retained manager Bob Melvin despite an MLB-high 20-win dropoff and just promoted Billy Beane from general manager to vice president of baseball operations.