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

Leave a comment

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.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
14 Comments

On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.