John Weinbach of FanHouse reports some more unseemliness from the land of Frank McCourt and the Dodgers:
Over the past 18 months, the Los Angeles Dodgers paid nearly $4 million
in “consulting services” to [the John McCourt Company], an entity that
has done virtually nothing for the club, even as the team has made a
concerted effort to raise ticket prices, trim payroll and acquire
players on the cheap. Moreover, the club paid two of Frank and Jamie
McCourt’s adult sons large salaries — $400,000 and $200,000 per year,
respectively — for services that are undefined and could not be
described by either Frank or Jamie McCourt, according to court documents
filed in the couple’s divorce case.
Jamie McCourt’s attorneys call the John McCourt company a “slush fund” which Frank uses to hide money. My guess is that she’s less critical of the big salaries her kids make for apparently do-nothing jobs.
In addition, there are apparently two limited partners in the Dodgers — guys no one ever knew about, but who provided considerable funds to the McCourts to buy the team — whose debt gets converted into “sizable equity” in the team if the McCourts default on the loans.
On the one hand this is shocking — and Josh Fisher does his excellent-as-usual job breaking down all of the implications, complete with an apt comparison to the Texas Rangers, who are poster children for what happens when good teams go into bad debts like the McCourts seem to have done.
On the other hand, I would not be at all shocked if multiple teams in Major League Baseball operated in just the same way, complete with family jobs, slush funds, silent partners and all manner of vehicles which, either intentionally or by happy accident, work to conceal the amount of cash a baseball team really earns and where its money is spent. Baseball teams are almost all purely private companies, most of which are family owned. Despite their antitrust exemption and all of the tax money they consume in the form of public stadiums and the like, we know just as much about their operations as we do the corner gyro shop, and that’s just the way they like it.
The only difference here: we have a divorce case in which these machinations are laid bare. And however distressing it is for Dodgers fans to see where all the money that should be going towards starting pitching is going, these revelations are educational and useful.
There’s certainly never a bad time to hit a home run, but when you get the opportunity to crush a triple-deck, 493-foot shot off of Tyler Duffey, you should take it. With the Mariners down 2-0 to the Twins in the fourth inning, Cruz hammered a fastball to deep left field for his 39th long ball of the season — and the second-longest home run hit in 2016, to boot.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners are 1.5 games back of a playoff spot, although they’ll have to oust the Blue Jays, Orioles, or Tigers to get a wild card. They’ve gone 3-3 in the last week, dropping two consecutive series to the Astros and Blue Jays and taking their series opener against Minnesota 10-1 on Friday night.
Cruz, for his part, entered Saturday’s game with a .299/.337/.610 batting line and six home runs in September. According to ESPN.com’s Home Run Tracker, Cruz sits behind Edwin Encarnacion and Mike Napoli with 13 “no-doubt” home runs in 2016, third-most among major league sluggers. It’s safe to say he can add Saturday’s moonshot to that list.
Marlins’ outfielder and undisputed home run king Giancarlo Stanton remains untouched at the top of the Statcast leaderboard with a 504-ft. home run, and it’s difficult to envision any slugger reaching beyond that before the end of the season. Even so, Cruz won’t need to clear 500 feet to extend an impressive hitting record. One more home run will put the 36-year-old at 40 on the year, making 2016 his third consecutive season with at least 40 homers, and his second such season doing so in Seattle.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.