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April 20, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Selig Seizes Dodgers

by Neil deMause

The official word from Bud Selig is that he's appointing "a representative to oversee all aspects of the business and the day-to-day operations" of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the New York Times headline cuts to the chase: "Baseball Takes Over Control of Los Angeles Dodgers." What the commish has done, in essence, is to tell Frank McCourt that while he's still technically Dodgers owner, he's being relieved of command for dereliction of duty—in this case, running so short of cash thanks to his endless divorce proceedings that he had to get a $30 million loan from Fox to meet payroll, this after Selig disallowed a $200 million advance from Fox over the winter. (That, plus now possibly a rumored IRS investigation.)

McCourt could be ex-owner soon enough, though. According to the Times (citing "two people with knowledge of the situation"), Selig is "strongly considering" getting a three-quarters vote of MLB owners to take control of the team itself, and force a sale on McCourt's behalf. This would, presumably, look a lot like the Texas Rangers sale from last summer that ended up with the team being handed to Nolan Ryan and (briefly) Chuck Greenberg, only hopefully without the accompanying trip through bankruptcy court.

As for what this means for the Dodgers' on-field situation, Jay Jaffe chimes in that so long as the sale process moves along quickly (and McCourt doesn't try some kind of last-ditch legal challenge), there shouldn't be too many speed bumps to a quick recovery: "Future payroll commitments are manageable ($46-47 million the next two years), and Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both have another year of club control and Clayton Kershaw three years, so new ownership will have time to do long-term deals if they want."

The other big question raised by Selig's sudden move is what this means for the owners of the Mets, who have similarly had to take out loans (in this case, directly from MLB) over the past few months to stay afloat. Presumably Selig thinks that Fred and Jeff Wilpon's moves to sell off part of their ballclub will be enough to raise needed capital, has calculated that their Madoff-related lawsuit is less serious than McCourt's legal woes, or just likes them better. Either that, or there could be another big shoe to drop later this summer.

Neil deMause is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Neil's other articles. You can contact Neil by clicking here

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Good info. I referred back to this article this morning when I got to work.


It was great foreshadowing.

Apr 21, 2011 07:25 AM
rating: 0

Selig is one of the all-time great commissioners, though he likely won't be recognized as such until after he's gone..

Apr 21, 2011 08:19 AM
rating: -1

Selig is doing this to cover the Wilpons' asses. The Wilpons may not be able to avoid a huge judgement for their witless involvement in the Madoff scam, but they can avoid utter ruin if the valuation of the Mets franchise stays up. It is exactly this which would align three-quarters of the other owners against Frank: they cannot afford a signature franchise to sell at a fire sale price.

Apr 21, 2011 09:02 AM
rating: 0

There are significant differences between the Mets and Dodgers. The Mets have been mismanaged in the baseball sense, which Selig addressed long-term by giving them Alderson and company. The Dodgers have been mismanaged in the economic sense, and as baseball's flagship team in Los Angeles (the Mets are not that in NY, in case you haven't noticed), this is troubling to Selig. Not having a director of security, then having someone nearly killed in the parking lot, is a disaster. A 40% drop in season ticket sales is horrifying. Then there is the incestuous relationship with Fox, which sold McCourt a team he couldn't afford in the first place, lending him money to make a payroll, then trying to lend him more with the Dodgers' TV rights as collateral. The Mets have maximized their economic base by financing a new stadium and creating their own TV network, while the Dodgers have trashed their stadium and have tried to mortgage their TV rights to get up-front money to settle McCoourt's personal debts. That is why Bud moved on the Dodgers and why he doesn't have to do something similar with the Mets.

Apr 21, 2011 12:14 PM
rating: 2

I know that Bud and the rest of "The Old Boys Club" owners detest Mark Cuban, but does this pave the way for Mark Attanasio, the Brewers owner and lifelong Dodger fan, to buy the Dodgers, with Cuban buying the Brewers?

Apr 21, 2011 13:19 PM
rating: 0
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