MLB Commissioner Bud Selig speaks during a news conference in New York

Nine of 30 teams in violation of MLB’s debt rules


On the one hand, this sounds alarming: Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times reports that nine of baseball’s 30 teams are in violation baseball’s debt service rules. The teams: Dodgers and Mets — duh — as well as the Orioles, Cubs, Tigers, Marlins, Phillies, Rangers and Nationals.

On the other hand, it’s hard to say what this truly means. Sure, former commissioner Fay Vincent calls this “troublesome,” but he thinks everything that has happened since he left office is troublesome.  What we don’t know, however, is how any of these teams outside the Dodgers, really, arrived at their currently-reported out-of compliance status and if it’s really a serious thing.

Is it short term debt or long term debt? A temporary blip of being-out-of-compliance, or something chronic?  Generally, the rules limit a team’s debt to 10 times its annual earnings.  How badly out of whack are, say, the Tigers, compared to where the Dodgers are? Doesn’t it matter that the Tigers owner has more money than Croesus, while the Dodgers’ owner does not?

Finally, Frank McCourt claims that he was given exemptions on his debt limit at times. If that’s the case (i.e. the game’s most train wreck of a financial case can be in technical compliance) doesn’t that render the concept of compliance a rather fluid one?

I don’t like that so many ownership groups are leveraged and baseball needs to be sure that the Frank McCourt/Tom Hicks examples are exceptions and not the rule.  But I’m not sure that this report, in and of itself, tells us much.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.