Why are we suddenly hearing about the Boras-Salcedo loan story?

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Scott Boras, who was not extensively quoted in yesterday’s New York Times story about the loan he made to Dominican prospect Edward Salcedo, spoke with Yahoo!’s Tim Brown.  Boras’ side of things is that there was nothing at all wrong with the loan he extended.  “This is a goodwill story,” he tells Brown, ““We did something we’re proud of. We have a young man who’s playing baseball who otherwise wouldn’t be.” Salcedo likewise brushed off the notion that Boras’ loan was exploitative, noting that he and his family asked Boras for the loan, it was never offered.

I stand by my views from yesterday: while such loans have the potential to be abused, and while union rules certainly should be followed in these matters — and if Boras didn’t follow them he should be punished — I’m struggling to see the problem in this instance.

And let me add one more thing: I suspect that it’s no accident that we’re seeing a series in the Times about potential exploitation of Dominican players right now. Indeed, I think we’ll see more of them between now and the end of the 2011 season.

Why? Because there is an interest on the part of Major League Baseball and perhaps some others to present the Dominican Republic as a wild west in need of taming. Because if things can be portrayed as sufficiently chaotic and dangerous down there — drugs, loans, buscones, etc. — it will be much easier to sell people on the notion that more regulation is needed. Regulation that will, inevitably, lead to things that will put a lid on signing bonuses and possibly lay the groundwork for that international draft that Selig and the owners desperately want.  The time to lay that groundwork is now, in the run-up to the new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated next year.

To be clear: I’m not saying that there aren’t some ugly aspects in talent development in the Dominican. There are.* But the examples we’re hearing about aren’t exactly new and aren’t exactly egregious. I likewise believe that it’s important to ask why we’re seeing these stories now and to think about whose interest they benefit. Scott Boras has long been a useful villain for those who oppose free agency and I would not be at all shocked if he is again being used in that role with a greater agenda in mind.

*And, it should be noted, the most recent ugly aspect we’ve seen hasn’t involved agents or buscones, but employees of Major League Baseball teams themselves.

Dodgers owner Mark Walter is involved in a scandal

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The Dodgers last owner, Frank McCourt, was a mainstay of the gossip pages. The new administration has been pretty drama free since taking over five years ago. That is, until now.

Multiple outlets, ranging from the New York Post to the Wall Street Journal, have been reporting on a scandal brewing at Guggenheim Partners, the multi-billion investment firm led by Mark Walter, its CEO. Walter is also the head of Guggenheim Baseball Management, the offshoot of the firm which owns the Dodgers. Walter is the Dodgers’ named owner — the “control person” — as far as Major League Baseball is concerned.

The scandal does not directly relate to the baseball team. Rather, it involves allegations that Walter bought a $13 million Pacific Palisades home for a younger female executive named Alexandra Court:

In the past 24 hours, the company has pushed back on multiple reports that CEO Mark Walter will step down; its chief investment officer has claimed on CNBC that there’s “no tumult” at the company; and Guggenheim has denied reports on a real-estate blog and in the New York Post that Walter bought a California mansion for a younger female executive at the company.

The denial regarding who bought the mansion is a bit too cute, though, as the company only denies that Walter bought it or owns it. In fact, the mansion is owned by a holding company that also bought Walter’s personal residence in Malibu. Billionaires don’t go to closings at title company offices, of course. They buy houses through companies and LLCs and trusts and stuff. As such, the claim that Walter didn’t buy the house may be technically and legally true but entirely misleading all the same. For what it’s worth, The Wall Street Journal has reported that Walter and Court have a “personal relationship.” Walter, who is married, and the company deny this. Court is on an extended leave of absence.

Walter and Guggenheim are denying that Walter is going to step down as CEO. That remains to be seen. The question for our purposes is whether, if he steps down from Guggenheim Partners, he would necessarily have to step down from Guggenheim Baseball Management and thus relinquish control of the Dodgers. I suspect not — they’re distinct legal entities, and his departure from Partners would be unrelated to stuff having to do with the baseball team — but you never know. It’s not like he put up $2 billion of his personal dollars for the team. There are likely a lot of strings attached and contingencies involved to the arrangement.

Something to watch.

R.A. Dickey may retire

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Braves starter R.A. Dickey had a nice outing against the Nationals last night, allowing two runs over eight innings to pick up his 10th win on the year. After the game, however, he hinted pretty strongly that it was his last home start and, based on the schedule, one of the last couple of starts of his career. Dickey:

I’d be lying to say I didn’t have some emotions about it. This could be my last start ever at a home venue. But we’re going to make that decision at the end of the season and see how I feel and what goes on there.

The data points for the decision: though he’ll turn 43 next month, he’s still a useful major league pitcher. Last night’s win evened his record at 10-10 and pushed his ERA down to 4.32, which is around league average. He’s also subject to a team option for $8 million for 2018, which is eminently reasonable for a league average starter, especially one as durable as Dickey is. Last night was his 30th start and 2017 is the seventh straight season in which he’s pitched 30 games (he started 29 and came out of the pen once for Toronto last season). If he wanted to pitch, he’d certainly have a gig.

The data point against the decision. Family. Dickey:

If I did not continue to play, it would be because our family decided it wasn’t the best thing. I’ve dragged my kids all over the world playing baseball for 21 years. You know, there comes a time they deserve their dad to be around.

Dickey has four kids, aged 15, 14 and two who are younger. Based on my personal experience, once your kids are teenagers, you start to realize that your time with them is finite in ways you never really think about when they’re younger. It would be totally understandable, then, if he decided to walk away from $8 million and baseball in order to spend more time with them.

Part of me, though, selfishly wants to see Dickey keep going. He’s a knuckleballer, man. There aren’t many of them.