Dodgers’ executive blasts Selig’s decision to have MLB assume control over team

A Los Angeles Dodgers batting helmet in the dugout before the Dodgers 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on April 20, 2011. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced Wednesday the league office is assuming control of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in the wake of a report team owner Frank McCourt is struggling to pay bills. UPI/Jonathan Alcorn

A day after Bud Selig announced that Major League Baseball would assume control over the Los Angeles Dodgers, club executive Steve Soboroff has come to the defense of current owner Frank McCourt.


Soboroff, the Los Angeles civic leader and former mayoral candidate whom the Dodgers hired Tuesday as vice chairman, said Thursday the Dodgers are in good shape financially and Selig’s move was “irresponsible” and came as “a shock.”

Soboroff cited the Dodgers’ potential 20 year, $3 billion television deal with Fox as evidence McCourt has sufficient funds to operate the team.

“All this momentum is building and then all of sudden this letter comes in and says, ‘You don’t have any money. You don’t have this or that.’ I think it was irresponsible,” Soboroff said.

Soboroff also expressed frustration Thursday with the way Selig handled Wednesday’s announcement and the lag time before appointing an overseer.

“To me, if you’re going to send somebody out here to take something over, you don’t write a letter that says, ‘Gee whiz, here’s all these problems with you and here’s everything else, but don’t worry, later on in the week we’re going to send somebody else out,'” Soboroff said. “You do it the same day. … What are you supposed to do for four days?”

I’m not going to pretend that I know even half of what’s going on with this situation with Frank McCourt, Major League Baseball and the Dodgers. It’s not like I’ve been in a room with the McCourts over the past decade and taking diligent notes on their spending habits. I just can’t know everything about everything – even if I pretend to. (And trust me, I do pretend to.)

That said, it’s not like Selig isn’t within his rights to want to know what the hell is going on with one of his teams. Thanks in large part to the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers have had some recent success under McCourt (not World Series success mind you, but success nonetheless). But there are some ugly reports out there about McCourt’s spending, which include the fact that he gave himself a $5 million salary and his ex-wife $2 million (which is according to evidence at their divorce hearing). There was also a report that they gave a six-figure free to Vladimir Shpunt, a self-described scientist and healer in Boston, to send positive energy across the country to the Dodgers. (Shpunt might want to check the coordinates on that positive energy, because he may have mistakenly sent it to the Giants last fall.)

So while I don’t blame Soboroff for coming to McCourt’s defense, I don’t think Selig is off his rocker in wanting to do a little investigating into the Dodgers’ financial books. As baseball’s commissioner, he owes it to the game and to the fans in L.A. to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up and that McCourt does have his club’s best interests at heart (financially speaking).

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Are Dodger fans protesting against the McCourts?

Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times observes that all the empty seats at Dodger Stadium might be due to fans protesting against Frank and Jamie McCourt.

Whether it’s over their extravagant lifestyle, not paying taxes for six years, a shrinking team payroll or just their nasty divorce, many have seemingly turned against Frank and Jamie McCourt.

And the only way for people to ultimately protest is to stay away. To punish the McCourts by withholding funds.

The cost of a ticket, of course, is only the beginning of the revenue generated off those in attendance. There is parking and food and beer and souvenirs.

That’s a lot of missed revenue on nights when stadium seats seem half empty.

Dodgers fans have been historically — some would argue ridiculously — loyal through the years. The Dodgers have drawn over 3 million fans for 14 consecutive years.

But when a stadium that big is barely half full, it gets noticed. And if it continues, the lack of revenue will have an impact.

Lion fans talked of boycott for years during the Matt Millen regime, but not even they stayed away. It’s unrealistic for fans to conspire together on one massive protest against any sports ownership. Losing is usually the only thing that keeps people away and in the case of the Lions and Cubs, not even that works sometimes.

It’s a logical thought by Dilbeck, but I think it’s a stretch to think that fans are actually staying away from games because of the McCourts. The economy and high ticket prices make more sense than a protest.

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Dodgers inquire about Lee and Oswalt, but are they serious about making a move?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers have asked the Mariners about starter Cliff Lee and the Astros about ace Roy Oswalt, although a trade of any sort seems unlikely at this point.

Even if the Dodgers were to agree to take on salary, the chances of a trade could depend on how deeply the Mariners and Astros wish to rebuild. The Dodgers’ top prospects are at the lower levels of the minor leagues, so the team would be an unlikely trade partner should the Mariners or Astros want a trade package to feature talent ready for the major leagues.

The Mariners might demand a more attractive prospect package because a half-season of Lee would come at $4.5 million. That would be one-fifth the cost of Oswalt, who is signed through 2011 — or one-ninth, if Oswalt asked the Dodgers to pick up a 2012 option in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, for a total financial commitment of $39.5 million.

Even if a trade is unlikely to go down, it’s amazing to think that the Mariners could trade Lee this year. When they acquired him from the Phillies last winter, the hope was that he and Felix Hernandez would form the best 1-2 punch in baseball. But the M’s offense has been so bad this year that not even Lee or King Felix can do anything to help the club. Seattle has scored the least amount of runs in the American League and the second least in baseball. Only the Astros have scored fewer runs in the majors this season.

Getting back to the Dodgers, I wonder if this is their way to appease their fans after a lackluster offseason. Due to Frank McCourt’s ongoing battle with Jamie McCourt, the team didn’t break out their checkbook this past winter and fans weren’t too pleased with that given how close the club was to competing for a World Series last year. But if the Dodgers make it public that they’re interested in Lee and Oswalt, then it gives their fans the impression that they’re still willing to make a big move in order to win.

It’ll be interesting to see whether or not L.A.’s name comes up again if/when the Mariners and Astros put Lee and Oswalt on the market.

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Frank McCourt to owe Jamie $637,159 a month

Carla Hall of the Los Angeles Times has confirmed that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will owe estranged wife Jamie $637,159 a month in temporary spousal support, as per a ruling by a local Superior Court judge.

The amount that Judge Scott Gordon decided upon falls short of the $988,845 that Jamie McCourt requested. More than half that requested amount ($568,829), her lawyers said, is needed to pay the costs, including mortgages, of seven homes and an eighth piece of property in Mexico that are listed in her name. Her lawyers argued that spousal support should include those costs since her estranged husband used to contribute funds to the housing.

The judge specified that $412,159 of the monthly total should go to payment of costs associated with the properties, but ordered the property in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to be sold.

Josh Fisher of Dodger Divorce did the math and concluded that, with retroactive fees from December, Jamie will end up receiving $6,371,590 from Frank through September.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are not the Pittsburgh Pirates, and nowhere is this more evident than in their fans’ lack of patience. Given the team’s last place record of 13-16 in arguably MLB’s weakest division, things are already getting nasty. Also, when the area’s leading publication is constantly ripping the both the team’s play and its ownership, it isn’t a good sign for one of the country’s two largest sports markets.

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Dodgers owner Frank McCourt still spending during divorce

Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has assured the team’s fans that his impending divorce with his wife, Jamie, won’t discourage offseason transactions.

From the Los Angeles Times:

“I talk to fans too,” McCourt said in his first interview with The Times since it became public that he and his wife and former club president, Jamie McCourt, planned to divorce. “They’re very excited about the team. They’re very supportive of what we’re doing.”

McCourt declared the Dodgers are “headed in the right direction,” pointing to how they have reached the postseason in four of the last six seasons and settled on an organizational philosophy of building around a group of homegrown players.

McCourt said that his team’s lack of activity in the free-agent market should not be interpreted as a sign that his team is facing financial difficulties as a result of his personal situation.

“My divorce has no bearing on the club whatsoever,” he said.

McCourt’s statements come on the heels of two important transactions. Yesterday both Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Chad Billingsley avoided arbitration by signing contract extensions. Kemp will make $10.95 million over the next two years while Billingsley’s one-year deal is worth $3.85 million. Prior to the deals the Dodgers had only signed second baseman Jamey Carroll to a two-year, $3.85 contract this offseason.

Dodgers fans are definitely skeptical about the entire situation. If Jamie McCourt gets what she wants, she’ll walk away with half of the the team’s worth, making spending increasingly difficult. With things as they are, I’m amazed the Dodgers got Kemp that cheap. He’s easily the best outfielder (both offensively and defensively) in the National League and is entering his prime. However, the Dodgers now have to work with Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton, James Loney, Russell Martin, George Sherrill, and Hong-Chi Kuo, whom all filed for arbitration on Friday. With this money tied up, I’m sure they’ll have to part with a couple of these players.

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