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,
kind of way rich people who call themselves broke can get from time to

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.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.