Tom Schieffer on the Dodgers: “The complexity of the situation is daunting”

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Tom Schieffer, the Dodgers’ trustee, sat for an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, and he described a situation that makes it seem impossible that Major League Baseball will truly have any sort of resolution of its investigation of Dodgers finances before their payroll comes due at the end of the month.

Indeed, he has found that there are 26 separate legal entities that make up the Dodgers empire these days — you may recall this lovely flow-chart, courtesy of Dodger Divorce — and that he’s trying to hack through them like he’s going through the jungle with a machete:

“The complexity of the situation is daunting. The way things are structured, sometimes they’re for tax purposes and sometimes they’re for liability purposes, but it does require you to try to follow the dollar through the process, and that takes a little bit of time. And some of the entities are shells that were set up maybe to do something else and that don’t really bear a great deal on it. What you’re trying to do is figure out what is pertinent … and it just takes a little bit of time.”

Pointless hyper-complexity: always the hallmark of a well-run organization.  But what’s scary is that, according to Schieffer, this structure isn’t necessarily uncommon in Major League Baseball:

He points out that the Dodgers’ complex structure – he says going through the documents “is drinking out of a fire hose” – is not dissimilar to how other clubs are set up. What is unique is the McCourts’ legal tangle: Jaime successfully persuaded a court to invalidate a postnuptial agreement giving Frank McCourt sole ownership of the franchise.

I don’t claim to be an expert on business, but this seems insane to me.  While they’re high profile operations, baseball teams aren’t necessarily complex businesses by their very nature. They put on performances, travel, have a payroll that, while big in dollars, isn’t gigantic in terms of head count, and have to answer back to a regulatory authority.  There are tons of businesses that fit that general profile that don’t require 26 levels of shell corporations and subsidiaries to make things work.

There is just an astounding lack of transparency in the way baseball teams are run. Given how much public interest — and in most cases, public subsidies — are involved in their operation, this shouldn’t be the case.

Adrian Beltre cleared for extended spring training

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Adrian Beltre has been on the disabled list all year because of nagging right calf strain, but he’s about to take a big step toward getting back to action.

Beltre has been cleared to begin playing in extended spring training games. He’ll commence them tomorrow at the Rangers facility in Surprise, Arizona. After three games the team’s doctors will reevaluate him. If things go well, he’ll likely be sent off for a full minor league rehab assignment.

Joey Gallo has filled in for Beltre all season, bringing a lot of power but not much else to the table. While Beltre is 38, his all-around game would be welcomed back on the field and his leadership would be welcomed back in the Rangers clubhouse. On a personal note, Beltre is only 58 hits shy of 3,000 for his career.

Barring a setback, he’ll be back with the big club in early June and will hit the milestone eventually.

Michael Bourn opts out of his minor league deal with the Orioles

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Outfielder Michael Bourn was traded by the Diamondbacks to the Orioles late last season and hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with them through the end of the season. While that’s not enough to outweigh the miserable season he had in Arizona, it was enough to get the O’s to give him a look in spring training with a minor league deal. They signed him to one in late February.

Then, a couple of days later, Bourn broke his finger while playing catch with a football. Unable to play, the O’s cut him. In early April, once Bourn healed, the O’s signed him again. He played 11 games for their Triple-A affiliate and went 9-for-41 with ten walks in 51 plate appearances. While that makes for a decent OBP, his lack of any sort of pop or good contact suggests that if someone throws him strikes, he can’t do much with the ball.

As such, the O’s had not called him up to Baltimore. And as a result of that, Bourn exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent.

Someone may take a look at him given that his batting eye seems to be intact and given that, in an admittedly small sample size, he still performed last season. But if he does get a look, it’ll likely be back at the minor league level.