Frank McCourt is paying someone to read this

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As Bill Shaikin reported yesterday — and as Steve Dilbeck reveled in today — part of the some $2.34 million in legal bills thus far submitted to the bankruptcy court considering the Dodgers case is a half hour entry by an attorney for “reviewing press reports” relating to Dodgers’ $150 million loan from MLB.  It cost McCourt $330 for that half hour.*

Some may want to guffaw at that, but in almost any case that gets press coverage, some poor sod — although usually a sod who bills less than $660 an hour — is tasked with reviewing press reports and putting together a synopsis for the legal team.  Oftentimes a paralegal gets that job, but I had to do it before too.

Why do they bill for it?  It’s simple, really: everyone tries their case in the press in these matters. You gotta know what the opponent is saying, what they’re hinting at doing.  You have to assess whether there is some surface appeal to the opponents’ arguments as filtered through the press.  You have to figure that someone who matters — be it the judge or a clerk who works for him — is reading it too.  It’s just part of being prepared for the next hearing or the next brief.

But I’ll say this much: we were always told that our billing entries should not read “reviewing press reports” or anything like it.  After all, the client is gonna read those entries and they don’t want to be reminded that they’re paying someone hundreds of dollars an hour to read the paper.  Better to make it sound more legal-related: “research re: MLB loan” would be OK perhaps.  If you really want to look like you’re adding value (while still saying very little that could be later scrutinized in a malpractice action) you could try “analysis of bridge loan with special attention paid to ancillary matters re: 8/12 hearing.”

Or, you could go vague. They tell you not to do this, but I worked with a guy who would write “analysis re: issues” on his billing entries. What kind of analysis? What kind of issues? Who cares!  The client paid the bill anyway because it was the dotcom bubble years and no one ever looked at a damn bill back then.  Now though? Hoo-boy.

 

*And I’m guessing that it was more than a half hour, even though that’s all that appears on the bill.  I’m nowhere near a top news source for Dodgers bankruptcy stuff — I merely blog this junk — but I have noticed Google searches from IP addresses associated with the Dodgers’ law firms landing on my personal website.  My guess is that the lawyers there are reading some post I did and then Googling me to see just who in the hell I am.  If it took only six minutes to do it — the smallest increment normally billed — it cost McCourt $66. And that makes me feel good for some reason. 

Evan Longoria: “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.