BOB: Dodgers in bankruptcy?by Brian Borawski
May 11, 2011
Dodgers drama continuesIn April, Frank McCourt received a loan from Fox in order to meet the operating expenses of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It looks like that money is going to be able to carry the Dodgers through the first payroll in May, but not the second. If they're short when it's time to pay their bills, MLB will give them the money to cover it but that leaves the door open for them to take over the team. McCourt insists that a pending television deal would solve all of the team's problems, but the league is still looking into the Dodgers financials. That means McCourt either has to find outside financing (and it looks like Fox is less of an option this time around), give up the team or—the more likely option—file a lawsuit against the league.
In other Dodgers news, even if McCourt loses the Dodgers, he might not have to give up Dodger Stadium. When he bought the team, the ballpark was part of the deal. Since then, he's split everything up into separate legal entities. One snag in this is that the league's constitution says MLB has the right to take over “a team and its stadium.” This might leave McCourt with some surrounding land, such as parking areas, in the worst case scenario.
And then there was the story that just broke yesterday and that presents a scenario in which Frank McCourt files for bankruptcy. This would leave the fate of the team in the hands of a judge, but would give McCourt at least a fighting chance. Between MLB and Frank's ex-wife Jamie, it would be interesting to see whether this route works or not. Both could stake a claim on keeping the team out of the judgement.
Miami stadium updateBuilding a new ballpark, especially using public funding, can be a contentious issue. As seen with the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins, eventually the government needed a work-around in order to get by the general public. And stadium advocates always talk about the pros of a new ballpark being built in the nearby area.
The Marlins new ballpark is being finished this year but the question now becomes—were some of the reasons given for building the park valid ones? Neil deMause does a good job of separating the wheat from the chaff and in a recent piece, he talks about a recent Miami New Times story that lists the six big lies behind the Marlins' stadium project. These include the myth of new jobs coming to the area and whether the new ballpark will revitalize the local area.
Mets look to end of the May to sell minority stakeI speculated about this in the comments of my column last week, but Bud Selig has come out and said that he doesn't think the issues surrounding New York Mets' owner Fred Wilpon are as bad as those surrounding McCourt and the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are still four groups in the running to buy a minority stake in the Mets, and they're using this interest as validation that the Mets are on at least somewhat firmer footing than the Dodgers. This New York Daily News article discusses how hedge-fund manager Steve Cohen appears to be the front runner to buy into the team.
A closer look at the recent pension agreementA couple of weeks ago, I discussed how an agreement was reached between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association to begin giving pension benefits to players who retired prior to 1980 and who played less then four years. The story seemed innocent enough, but in a nice piece at the New York Times, George Vecsey delves deep into how this is going to make the lives of some of those formers players at least a little bit better. He profiles Jim Qualls, who played parts of three seasons and who is a beneficiary of the agreement. Qualls was a tenant farmer and he uses him as an example as to how this is was good deal for everyone.
Minor League attendance is upMinor League Baseball pulled in 5,756,547 fans in the month of April for an average of 3,817 fans per game. That average is the second highest figure ever for the month. The Florida State League has seen a nice jump with a thirteen increase and the Pacific Coast League is also up from 4.7 percent from this time last year. The Louisville Bats lead in attendance at the moment with an average of 8.222 tickets sold in the month of April.
Brian Borawski is a member of SABR's Business of Baseball Committee and writes about the Detroit Tigers at his own website, TigerBlog. He welcomes comments, questions and suggestions via e-mail.