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.
The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.
Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).
A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.
The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:
A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.