Selig to seize Rangers; creditors to force team into bankruptcy

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What was merely suggested a week ago now appears all but certain. In response to Major League Baseball’s warning that it was going to seize the Texas Rangers from Tom Hicks and invalidate the debt that held by the creditors to Hicks Sports Group, the creditors have voted to reject the deal, reports Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.

The result of this is that when baseball makes its move — which should happen following the owners’ meeting scheduled for later this week — the creditors will sue, forcing the Rangers into bankruptcy court and potentially opening the sale up for other bidders.  It would be up to a bankruptcy judge to determine whether that comes to pass or, alternatively, if Selig is within his powers to kick the creditors to the curb.

Which seems like a lose-lose for baseball.

If the creditors prevail it quite obviously delays the sale of the team and possibly takes Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan out of the owners’ suite in favor of a higher biddder, should one emerge.  This is clearly not what Selig wanted, inasmuch as everyone seems pretty pleased with the Greenberg/Ryan team.

But say baseball wins the battle, is able to shrug the liens off the Rangers, and pays them a pittance to go away, thereby paving the way for the sale. If that happens, isn’t every bank and investment fund who ever considered lending money to a sports team going to freak out? Why on Earth would any of them give money to a sports team if they have good reason to believe that the debtor could simply refuse to pay up and then have the league come in and invalidate the debt in the first place?

Sure, there’s a lot to be said for team owners being forced to operate within their budgets and not rely on so much debt.  I’ve said plenty on the subject in the past. But I don’t think most team owners agree with me on that score, and they can’t be all too happy about the prospect of having all sources of credit dry up.

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.