April 20, 2011
Selig Seizes Dodgers
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.