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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.