Friday, April 22, 2011

MLB Takes Over Dodgers (and that's a good thing)

This week, baseball commissioner Bud Selig took the extraordinary step of wresting control of the Los Angeles Dodgers from owner Frank McCourt. In an April 20th press release Selig issued the following statement:

"Pursuant to my authority as Commissioner, I informed Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt today that I will appoint a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations of the Club. I have taken this action because of my deep concerns regarding the finances and operations of the Dodgers and to protect the best interests of the Club, its great fans and all of Major League Baseball. My office will continue its thorough investigation into the operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities during the period of Mr. McCourt's ownership. I will announce the name of my representative in the next several days.

"The Dodgers have been one of the most prestigious franchises in all of sports, and we owe it to their legion of loyal fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future."

This is a huge deal.

McCourt is in the midst of a fierce divorce battle which has put a spotlight on his financial woes and threatens the stability of the Dodgers. He recently turned to Fox Sports for a $200m loan which Selig vetoed. Last week he managed to borrow $30m from Fox to cover payroll and other expenses. Personally, I think this prompted Selig to act against the Dodgers owner, who unlike the Wilpon family who own the New York Mets--and whose own financial mess led them to borrow $25m from MLB this past November in order to meet payroll--McCourt went outside baseball to obtain that money and Selig may have feared the Dodgers could end up in the hands personas non gratas to MLB. Imagine, if you will, McCourt missing a couple of payments on a loan obtained from shady characters and losing the team to them; Selig and the other owners would have a conniption to say the least.

I have my issues with Selig, but at first glance I agree with his decision regarding the Dodgers. (And I am not alone: in L.A. he's been hailed a hero for doing so, believe it or not.) Granted, there is more info to surface concerning this mess to be sure. I also think this is a wake up call for the Wilpons. As my Dad used to say, "When you see your neighbor being shaved, it's time to lather up." We'll see how this one pans out, but at least for now Selig has taken a solid step towards correcting a screwup he helped initiate by ushering McCourt into MLB ownership and turning a blind eye to his subsequent financial shenanigans.

Monday, April 11, 2011

MLB Realignment: Could it Happen?

This is a suggestion proposed by anonymous baseball insiders and published a few months ago in an article by the NY Daily News' Bill Madden, not an idea actually approved by Major League Baseball:













Not feelin' it.

As you can see, this scenario would eliminate the Oakland A's and the Tampa Bay Rays, both of which are in dire straits in terms of operating in their current locations. The A's want to move to San Jose but the San Francisco Giants have some sort of territorial rights that MLB has not wanted to address. Meanwhile, the Rays want to move from St. Petersburg to Tampa and build a domed stadium there but, allegedly, St. Pete bureaucracy and a bad Florida economy stand in their way.

Another option, and one which both A's and Rays ownership are said to be partial, is a buyout. The other 28 teams would have to cough up aprox. $25 million each to cover the aprox. $700 million both teams are worth. Not only do I not want to see both of these teams disappear--especially a storied franchise like the A's--I hardly see revenue sharing beneficiaries like the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates each coming up w/$25m. No dice.

Obviously both teams need to move: The A's situation in Oakland has become untenable and bringing big league baseball to a state that only cares about football was a huge mistake to begin with, despite the Marlins' two World Series championships (1997, 2003) and the Rays' pennant in '08 and winning their division last year. But getting rid of them would be stupid. So is eliminating geographical rivalries and the identities of each league.

And as for that other rumored development--the disappearance of the DH--on a personal level, I'm quite opposed. When I watch a National League game and witness the uncomfortable awkwardness and even downright clumsiness in the vast majority of pitcher at-bats and their occasional, subsequent base running, it makes me give thanks for the DH in the AL and lament that Connie Mack--who first came up with the concept--did not live to see it implemented.

Let's hope the A's and Rays' respective situations are resolved in a way that benefits each team and their fans. If not, the best case scenario would be a variation of the Montreal Expos mess all over again. The worst? Well, you see that monstrosity above, you tell me.