Jeff Moorad withdraws his application to take over the Padres

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Former agent Jeff Moorad agreed to purchase the Padres from John Moores several years ago. The sale was to be in phases, with Moores maintaining control of the team until Moorad’s stake grew to where he would eventually be approved as the controlling party in the eyes of MLB.

Back in January, however, the owners delayed a vote on Moorad’s application, angering Moores and Moorad. There was no official explanation, but some reports suggested that Major League Baseball was concerned about the financial viability of Mooard’s ownership group. Specifically, his minority owners.

Today, Bud Selig released this statement:

“I have spoken with San Diego Padres Chairman John Moores and Vice Chairman/CEO Jeff Moorad.  They have informed me that Jeff is withdrawing his control transfer application of the Padres at this time in order to focus on completing the club’s local television contract.  I am pleased that John and Jeff are working on ensuring that the club’s games will be televised this season and beyond, and I know that they are acting in the best interests of Baseball, the franchise and the great fans of San Diego.”

Smells like a cover story. For one thing, most reports had that TV deal being done, so what the heck is Moorad needed for in that capacity?  But more generally, it sounds like the league was going to continue to give Mooard’s application grief, and that this is a nice way for him to bow out without being formally rejected.

What to make of this?  Well, if this is really a case of the league being skeptical of the finances of Mooard’s group, I suppose it’s a good thing insofar as it could signal the end of the era in which guys like, oh, Frank McCourt are allowed to buy in even if they don’t have the dough to do it.  It would be frustrating, sure, because the league has had years to consider Moorad’s bid, but if it’s about finances, it’s defensible.

The cynical part of me wonders if something else is going on. If Moorad’s history as a super agent — and thus, by definition, a former adversary of several of the guys who still own major league teams — played a part.  Could they be that petty and not be willing to give the benefit of the doubt to a guy who used to be on the other side in the old, warring labor days? We’ll probably never know for sure. Baseball keeps this business close to the vest.

All we do know is that, as of now, we can add the Padres to the growing list of major league teams with some sort of strife in terms of ownership and future.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?