The Dodgers deny that McCourt wants to sell; call me irresponsible

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UPDATE: So this morning, I wrote the bit way down below, passing on a rumor I heard that Frank McCourt would like to sell the Dodgers once all of the McCourt v. McCourt litigation blows over. I trust my source on this, but the Dodgers took issue.  A few minutes ago they sent me the following statement in response:


“The NBC report is completely erroneous, inaccurate
and irresponsible journalism. The Dodgers are not for sale. Mr. McCourt has
made it abundantly clear that he is the long-term owner of the Dodgers and he
looks forward to the day when his four boys will own and operate the team.”

I’ll grant them the irresponsible stuff, but they should know that saying such a thing about me is only gonna make the women want me even more. Regardless, I told the team that I’d run their denial of my report, and dadgummit I did. But a couple of thoughts:

  • It’s worth noting that no one ever said the team was for sale. My source — and then I — said that McCourt was thinking about selling once the litigation was done. I’ll grant, however, that the above denial covers it all, so take that as the official line of the Dodgers. McCourt isn’t interested in selling. He will control the Dodgers for as long as he lives, and one day a statue of him will stand in Chavez Ravine, with a visage of cold command, declaring that he is Frank McCourt, King of Kings, and that we should all look on his works, ye Mighty, and despair. To the extent I was wrong about that in my report, apologies;

  • It’s also probably worth noting that, if McCourt were thinking about selling, he’d be all but required, due to his current litigation posture, to say
    that he wants to own the team forever, lest he be cross examined about
    his intentions by his wife’s divorce lawyers, cajoled into an unfavorable
    “hey, you said you were going to sell anyway” settlement by the judge or some other legal unpleasantness. So while I have no choice but to take the denial at face value, understand that McCourt’s lawyers would probably suggest that he say something like that even if it wasn’t true.
  • Finally, it’s totally possible that McCourt’s four sons could own the Dodgers one day even if McCourt isn’t the owner two years from now. He could lose the case, Jamie could get the team and she could pass it on to the boys!  How fun would that be!

So I’m sorry for being irresponsible. On the bright side, however, I made a new friend in the Dodgers’ communications department, and you can never have too many friends in this world.

12:21 P.M. This isn’t first person reportage or anything, but there is buzz coming from some insiders and writers close to the Los Angeles Dodgers that, while Frank McCourt is going to go to the mat to beat his wife Jamie for ownership of the team, he wants out sooner rather than later and will look to turn around and sell within a year or two of the conclusion of the litigation.

The divorce papers that were made public last fall showed just how leveraged the McCourts truly are. It’s no wonder McCourt wants out. After battling his wife to the death
and making the crushing debt service on his team, he’s going to be
broke. Or at least broke in that weird,
relatively-insolvent-but-still-eating-out-at-fancy-restaurants-and-living-in-nice-houses
kind of way rich people who call themselves broke can get from time to
time.

And even if Dennis Mannion denies it, the divorce has greatly impacted the way the Dodgers typically do business on the field.  They refused to take a chance on their best pitcher in
arbitration and they have not been
a player on any free agent or trade target of note. The big offseason moves: Jamey Carroll, Vicente Padilla and Brad Ausmus. 

Between this and everything that has happened in Texas under Tom Hicks’ watch — the latest news: MLB’s virtual receivership of the Rangers essentially prevented them from signing their top draft pick last summer — one would hope that Bud Selig and his gang would start to favor owners who are more financially sound and less dependent on debt as opposed to owners who, because of that debt are pliable to the whims of the Commissioner’s Office.

Yankees, Aroldis Chapman avoid arbitration at $11.325 million

Aroldis Chapman
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees and closer Aroldis Chapman have avoided arbitration, settling on an $11.325 million salary for the 2016 season. It is the lefty’s third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

Chapman had filed for $13 million while the Yankees countered at $9 million, so he gets slightly more than the midpoint between the two submitted figures.

With the Reds this past season, Chapman posted a 1.63 ERA with 33 saves and a 116/33 K/BB ratio over 66 1/3 innings. The Reds have opted to rebuild, so they traded him to the Yankees this offseason in exchange for four minor leaguers. Chapman, who turns 28 at the end of February, will make for a fearsome 1-2-3 punch in the back of the Yankees’ bullpen along with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

Indians sign reliever Tommy Hunter to $2 million deal

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that right-hander Tommy Hunter has agreed to a one-year, $2 million contract with the Indians. It’s a major-league deal, so Hunter gets a spot on the 40-man roster and will be in the Opening Day bullpen if he’s fully recovered from core muscle surgery.

Hunter split last season between the Orioles and Cubs, totaling 60 innings with a 4.18 ERA and 47/14 K/BB ratio. He had a sub-3.00 ERA in both 2013 and 2014, and has generally been a setup-caliber reliever since shifting to the bullpen full time.

He has good control and a mid-90s fastball, but Hunter has never missed many bats despite the big-time velocity and often struggles to keep the ball in the ballpark. He’ll likely fill a middle relief role in Cleveland initially.

“YER OUT!” Jenrry Mejia permanently suspended for a third positive PED test

Jenrry Mejia
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You knew someone would be dumb enough to do this eventually, you just didn’t know who. Now we do: MLB just announced that reliever Jenrry Mejia has been permanently suspended after testing positive for Boldenone. That was his third positive test and under the Joint Drug Agreement that means his career is more or less over.

Mejia’s three strikes came in pretty rapid succession. On April 11, 2015 it was announced that Mejía had been suspended for 80 games after testing positive for use of stanozolol. On July 28, 2015 it was announced that Mejia had failed a test for Stanozolol again and Boldenone to boot, giving him a 162-game suspension, which he’d still be serving at the beggining of the season. Now this third test.

Mejia has played five seasons in the big. He started with so much promise, looking like a great prospect coming up. His performance only matched the promise in fits and starts, however, resulting in a 9-14 record with a 3.68 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 162/76 in 183.1 innings, all with the Mets.

Per the rules of the Joint Drug Agreement, Mejia can apply for reinstatement after being banned for two years. But it would obviously require him to spend two years doing a lot of smart things he hasn’t been doing in the past year. And it would also represent a near-unprecedented comeback. It could happen, I suppose, but it’s a far safer bet that his career is over.

I’m going to break it to you: some teams will stink this year. Like every year.

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.45.53 PM
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There’s an AP story out today talking about how — brace yourself — some teams are going to be bad this year. It’s true. There are some teams, such as Atlanta, Philly, Colorado, Cincinnati and probably Milwaukee who seem certain to lose a lot of games.  The article’s author notes that, while a lot of money was spent in free agency this winter, not everyone was spending. He says “for some clubs, 2016 is basically over before it starts when it comes to contending.”

That sort of framing sounds pretty familiar, doesn’t it? Isn’t it exactly the sort of thing we heard back in the early 2000s when people were still stumping for salary caps? Boston and New York were outspending everyone, the low money teams couldn’t keep up and, as spring training dawned, the season was over before it even began for half the league at least. There were scads of articles like that written 10-15 years ago. Bud Selig and others even used that exact construction — teams going to spring training already knowing they couldn’t compete — as points of rhetoric in the leadup to the 2002 labor battle with the players. Indeed, here’s the exact language from the 2000 Blue Ribbon economic report that Bud Selig commissioned which, by the way, should be read as a piece of labor propaganda, not as an actually useful or illuminative report:

What has made baseball’s recent seasons disturbing, and what makes its current economic structure untenable in the long run, is that, year after year, too many clubs know in spring training that they have no realistic prospect of reaching postseason play. Too many clubs in low-revenue markets can only expect to compete for postseason berths if ownership is willing to incur staggering operating losses to subsidize a competitive player payroll.

Different circumstances, obviously, but the same general bogeyman: some teams have no chance to compete!

Using that as the concern for whatever ails baseball has never made much sense to me as there will always be teams that are bad. Really, go look at any year’s league standings going back to the 19th century and there will be bad teams. It’s sort of the other side of the coin of good teams. Hard to have one without the other. And it’s probably a good thing to have some good and some and teams. Who wants a total crapshoot every year? What is this, Lake Woebegone, where every team is above .500? God, how boring.

The real issue is not that some teams will be good and some will be bad. It’s why they’ll be good and why they’ll be bad and whether the dynamic which creates good and bad teams is itself positive or negative for the game.

In the 40s and 50s, almost the entire American League knew that it had no chance to compete with the Yankees but they kind of liked that because they were making a lot of money not fielding competitive clubs. That was bad. In the late 1990s maybe some felt the same way too and it was because of no revenue sharing or incompetent management. Not great, and a lot of tweaks were made. Now a small handful of teams can’t compete because they’re doing wholesale rebuilds which some people call “tanking” and others think is not an issue.

As I recently wrote, to the extent people do think “tanking” is a problem, it’s important to (a) put it in perspective; and (b) look at the incentives teams have to tank and talk about whether they should be adjusted. As far as the perspective part goes, I’d say that only having five or six out of 30 teams with no realistic shot is actually pretty good compared to other points in baseball history. There’s a lot more parity now than there used to be. As far as the incentives: look at the dumb draft rules which were imposed to save owners a buck when it came to paying amateurs but which GREATLY increases the importance of picking high and thus losing.

The AP article touches on that, but it’s buried fairly deep down, well after the hand-wringing about teams entering spring training with no chance to win. As spring training progresses, there will likely be a lot of talk of just how bad some of these rebuilding teams will be as well. Most of that analysis will stop at the current state of the team and the hopelessness the fan bases are supposed to be feeling.

As a critically-minded fan, don’t let it stop there. If your team stinks, think about why it does and why it’s pursuing the course it is. Twenty years ago you could probably be safe in saying “well, my team’s GM is dumb and the owner is cheap.” That’s not really the case for most teams now. Now, I think, it’s far more about the incentives in play which make putting a lousy product on the field in the short term preferable to not doing so. Call it tanking, call it whatever you want, but if this is concern for you — and if this is a problem for Major League Baseball — the focus needs to be on the incentives.  Not on the fact that some teams are going to stink. Because teams will always stink. The important question is why.