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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Another Valuable Comment On The Manny-Or-Kids Non-Choice

I was going to say something about this earlier but for whatever reason forgot to link to it (all emphasis, as usual, mine):
I've said this before, and I will say it again. Allowing McCourt to purchase the Dodgers was done solely to appease Rupert Murdoch who wanted to sell the team and who also gave a lot of money to MLB through the "Saturday Game of the Week" and playoff coverage (Fox's TV contract was set to expire in one year). Baseball thought more about Murdoch than McCourt, who should have never been allowed to be an owner.

McCourt got a bunch of parking lots in South Boston, which has since become prime real estate. When courting Selig and MLB, Frank talked a big game about renovating South Boston along the waterfront as well as a new stadium for the Red Sox. In the 25 years that McCourt owned these parking lots, they have remained parking lots.

Outside of the parking lots, McCourt financed his $421 million purchase of the Dodger with debt. According to this article, the transfer of ownership of the Dodgers was most commonly reported as a sale. However, after closer inspection, it seems more like a foreclosure. McCourt owed Fox $145 million within two years after the transfer of ownership, but instead gave Murdoch his parking lots.

In March 2005, McCourt refinanced his $250 million short-term debt used to purchase the Dodgers (now a 25-year loan). The refinancing pays off the debt to Bank of America and the $71 million of seller financing by Murdoch. That's right, McCourt had to be loaned money by the person selling the team in order to complete the deal. This should have been a red flag right there.

Because of his questionable finances, McCourt has been raising ticket and parking prices. Now, ST ticket prices will be as high as $90. McCourt refused to take on any payroll at the deadline last season, which means he gave away some good prospects that he could have kept. Now there is this whole mess about donating money for public baseball fields. I would bet that if McCourt donated some money to charity, there would be some hefty tax breaks. Not only that, but an article yesterday at BTF said that there was another company who would be willing to match any money donated by McCourt up to a certain limit. Bottom line, if McCourt can get a mandate from the fans to improve the communities by means of these ballparks, he stand to save a lot of money than if he were to invest money in the Dodgers.
Update: There's always been an argument that for various reasons that happened to mesh, neither News Corp. (Rupert Murdoch) nor MLB (Bud Selig) wanted a strong Dodgers franchise; the former because they have all the negotiating leverage over the lucrative TV broadcast rights, and the latter because baseball ownership collectively doesn't want to see a well-financed powerhouse team driving up salaries. The problem with this theory, at least on the Murdoch end, is that Fox ended up increasing their fees to the Dodgers after the sale (reportedly by $10M per year). As to Seligian plans to keep salaries low, the McCourts have done about the worst thing imaginable from an ownership perspective, and overpaid for mediocrity or worse.

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As a fan, I really don't care how much the team costs. I want them to have an understandable strategy to compete. If they'd gone into the '08 season saying they were trying to win with pitching, defense and speed on the base-paths that would make some sense. It isn't the strategy that is popular right now, but the Dodgers have won with it in the past. So, they could've shown up with:
C: Russell Martin
1B: James Loney
2B: Alex Cora
SS: Caesar Izruris
3B: Blake DeWitt
RF: Andre Ethier
CF: Matt Kemp
LF: Juan Pierre

I'd be perfectly happy with that group of everyday players behind a rotation featuring Johan Santana, Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw. It is a group of players that make sense together. What makes me crazy is the wasteful trades, the over-paying for mediocrity and the random stupid cheapness.
That would be painfully weak up the middle except for Martin and Kemp; you'd have to look at 2B and SS as stopgaps for something else. I'd as soon send Hu out there and take my chances on a stopgap 2B (who knows, Ivan de Jesus, Jr.).

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