The bankruptcy court gave the Dodgers something no other team has

Leave a comment

Bill Shaikin has a report up today that, while dealing with the often murky and confusing world of TV revenue and media rights, suggests that the big settlement of the litigation between Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball, the new Dodgers owners have benefits no other team has. Specifically: to hold back media money from revenue sharing that no other team would get to hold on to.

The Dodgers’ new owners could reap hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits from the confidential terms of a U.S. Bankruptcy Court settlement between former owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball …

Guggenheim Baseball, the Dodgers’ new owners, can negotiate a new television contract as soon as this fall, with Fox Sports, Time Warner Cable and perhaps CBS expected to bid. If the Dodgers accept an annual rights fee, they would simply pay 34% of whatever money they receive into the revenue-sharing pool.

However, the Dodgers are expected to pursue a regional sports network, on their own or in partnership with Fox, TWC or another television outlet. Guggenheim could establish a media company separate from the Dodgers, then have the company pay the team in accordance with the proposed Fox contract and keep the remaining revenue.

The difference here between what the Dodgers are doing on the one hand, and what the Yankees do with YES or the Red Sox do with NESN, is that 34%. In their cases, they pay that 34% of media rights fees — plus a surcharge if the team is getting lowballed by its sister regional sports network.  With the Dodgers, their new Fox deal is charged at 34%, but even if a new Dodgers cable network pays them tens of millions  more a year, and that money is not touched by MLB.

Shaikin suspects that this will cause some tensions within the ownership ranks, as the Dodgers — by virtue of litigation with an irresponsible former member of their ranks — got something they didn’t. Worth watching.

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

Getty Images
2 Comments

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.