The settlement proposed by the mediator in the McCourt case was interesting

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Like I said last week, it’s a bit of sucker’s game to try to predict an ultimate ruling in a case based on what a court-appointed mediator proposes. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to try to predict such things.  And there is one fact in the proposed settlement, reported by Bill Shaikin, that I find to be pretty interesting:

As the mediator in the Dodgers’ divorce case prepared his settlement proposal, he consulted not only with Frank and Jamie McCourt but with representatives from Bingham McCutchen, the firm that employs the lawyer whose actions could determine who owns the team. The mediation process is confidential, but analysts said the mediator likely invited Bingham to help fund a settlement now rather than risk a potentially more costly malpractice suit later.

The malpractice, you’ll recall, is related to Frank’s lawyer switching out the exhibit to the post-nuptial agreement that had Jamie getting the Dodgers and switching in the one that showed her being cut out.  Which, I still believe, is what the parties intended, by the way. Problem is, if you were going to try and unfairly screw Jamie out of her stake in the Dodgers, that would be an excellent, albeit obvious way to do it, and the court is going to have  a hard time overlooking that behavior. If you want to make such clerical changes, you get both parties on the horn and have them re-execute the deal. You don’t pull the old switcheroo.

If the court ultimately rules for Jamie, Frank will have a righteous malpractice suit against the Bingham firm as a result of all of this. By having them kick in money now, as the proposed settlement does, it softens that blow and heads off an ugly litigation in which many of the same issues that happened in the divorce case would be dredged up.  No one wants that.

So the question is this: does the mediator — who is himself a judge, by the way — know that the judge presiding over the case is going to rule for Jamie and wants to try and wrap it all up now? Does he merely suspect it? Or is this just a belt-and-suspenders kind of thing?

I have no idea. I do know this, though: if someone tells me that they want to make my future malpractice case against my lawyers easier, I’m not going to feel very good about the case I actually have pending at the moment.  Frank, I would assume, is not a happy man at the moment.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

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Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.