Rangers bankruptcy judge absolutely reams Chuck Greenberg

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As I said this morning, the bankruptcy judge presiding over the Rangers case had initially set the hearing for July 9th, switched it to July 22nd, but then today switched it back to July 9th after Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan moved him to do so in order to make sure they can own the team before the trade deadline rolls around.  Schedules just kind of jump around like that in litigation, and as I said before, it’s not of great consequence.  What can be of great consequence, however, is the machinations behind the changing of the schedules, and on that score Chuck Greenberg may have just shot himself in the foot.

According to Evan Grant, when the judge initially pushed the schedule back to July 22nd, Chuck Greenberg said, audibly, and in open court, “Rome is burning.”  See, that was really stupid, because rather than merely to serve as a means of voicing his displeasure at the schedule, it served to directly insult the judge. That phrase does not say “but we need to move more quickly.”  It says “you, judge, are like Emperor Nero. You’re a careless tyrant who does not care that the city is burning down while you sit and fiddle.”

This is not mere speculation on my part. You see, I once filed a brief in court in which I made reference to “Rome burning” in an effort to get the case moved along more quickly.  It wasn’t really my choice — higher ups and the client inserted the phrase and demanded that it stay in there — but my name was on the brief and I was responsible for its contents. I should have deleted it, though.

Why? Because the day it was filed I was called down to the judge’s chambers and was torn a new one. The judge saw it as his integrity and his character being called out. Saying “Rome is burning” to a judge is like using the magic words on an umpire (See “Bull Durham” for what those words are). He also told me that if he really thought I was the one who wrote the phrase — which he didn’t, because he was basically aware of who was really calling the shots — he would have held me in contempt. As it was, it was a pretty stark lesson in professional decorum.

While the Rangers judge ultimately moved the hearing date at Greenberg’s request, he clearly felt the same way about the motion and, in all likelihood, the “Rome is burning line” as my judge did. Just listen to what he said today:

“You need to understand that this court will decide whether to
approve this plan . . . and will not decide based on what the fans want . . . what the media wants . . . what Mr. Nolan and Mr. Greenberg want . . . or what Bud Selig wants. If the
plan fails to meet (the requirements of the bankruptcy code), I will deny
confirmation and we will be back to square one, and it will be on the
head of those who supported this motion . . . For the sake of the Rangers, I do not want to
see this team stuck in Chapter 11 until this fall. You guys
— not me — you guys are the ones who pushed for this date.”

Does that mean that the judge won’t ultimately approve the plan and let the team get sold?  No. But based on those comments I think it’s clear that the judge will be much more critical of it than he would have been otherwise.  What he said was, without question, a warning to that effect.  And you can probably bet the farm that if there are minor differences between the creditors and the Rangers following the mediation, the judge will be inclined to rule in the creditors favor, potentially costing the Rangers some money and maybe some time. 

But even if it doesn’t, what does this say about Chuck Greenberg? I understand his sense of urgency here, and Rangers fans should be
pleased that he’s fighting hard to get this done. But he’s a lawyer, remember. One with far more experience than I have and who should therefore know far better than I do about how one should and one shouldn’t talk to a judge. By forgetting that these past few days he and his team really got under the judge’s skin here, and did so needlessly.

Despite doing so, he won the battle over the case schedule.  But did he unnecessarily risk losing the war?

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.