June 30, 2011
The weird ownership situation with the Los Angeles Dodgers got even weirder this week. Two months after Major League Baseball took over operations of the financially shaky franchise, principal owner Frank McCourt filed for bankruptcy, to stay in business and make payroll while fending off creditor demands. This was precipitated by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's refusal to allow the Dodgers to enter into a new broadcast contract, which McCourt said would have solved his liquidity problems. Selig said it would have exposed the franchise to undue financial risk and would have a harmful effect on the sport in general. Frank McCourt is going through a very messy divorce, and his wife demands half of the franchise equity value. He bought the Dodgers for $355 million in 2004, in a highly leveraged transaction that was a perfect example of what is wrong with professional sports these days. See MLB.com. Maybe they can make more money by moving back to Brooklyn! (Just kidding.)
Everybody in baseball says this will not affect the Dodgers' playing, and that certainly seems to be the case: On [Monday] they beat the Minnesota Twins, 15-0.
This situation has been brewing for many months, in part as collateral damage from the September 2008 meltdown on Wall Street. As Pete Toms at bizofbaseball.com explained in February,
The exponential growth in franchise values, which Selig deserves some credit for, also has resulted in clubs comprising an ever greater share of their owners' overall financial worth. Going forward, some say it is essential and imminent, that MLB will attempt to implement new rules to protect franchises from the debt troubles of their owners.
In other words, by their very success at raising their net worth by coercing state and local governments to pay for new stadiums, the owners have become dangerously exposed to the ups and downs of the baseball (and pro sports) market. Many of them are now in over their heads. In a way, I guess it's poetic justice.
Prompted by this scandal, David Schoenfield lists "The top 10 worst owners in MLB history" at ESPN. (Wouldn't that be bottom 10"?) He ranks Frank McCourt just behind the worst of the worst: Harry Frazee, who owned the Red Sox from 1916 to 1923 and whose signature "accomplishment" in life was trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees. Of the Dodger's owner, Schoenfield writes:
McCourt has wrapped up all the bad things about an owner into one sad situation: He's turned off the fans, hasn't won, doesn't really have the money to own a team and has become a public embarrassment and a disgrace.
Strangely missing from that list: Peter Angelos, owner of the Orioles. One of the commenters ("Jhimmibhob") suggests a reason for that omission...
So much for their hot streak! The Washington Nationals reverted to their old losing ways in sunny southern California this week, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim beat them in three straight games. It wasn't a very auspicious beginning for the team's new manager, Davey Johnson. On Monday,[John Lannan] had a mediocre outing, but good defensive performances at least kept the game close. The Nats had three home runs -- by Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, and Danny Espinosa -- but no runners were on base, and no other Nationals scored. The Angels scored in the bottom of the tenth to win it, 4-3. The next day was a total meltdown, as an awful performance by [Jason Marquis] as well as the relief pitchers allowed 11 runs to score, five of which were in the eighth inning. The Nats committed five errors, but a couple of those may have been caused by poor infield conditions; the Angels also booted a couple hard ground balls. On Wednesday, Jordan Zimmermann had the finest outing of his pitching career, going eight innings without giving up a single earned run. An error allowed one run to score, however, so Zimmermann "lost" the game, 1-0. What a shame. Credit is due to the Angels' starting pitcher, Dan Haren.
So now the Nationals are below .500 again, with a 40-41 record. It's not bad, but it could have been better. For the month of June, the Nats won 17 and lost 10, tied for their second best month ever. (Their best month? June 2005, when they went 20-6.) The team returned to Washington today and rested, in preparation for another lengthy home stand, against the Pirates, Cubs, and Rockies. (I'm hoping to be there for the Fourth of July game!)
After watching the Nationals-Angels games on TV this week, I was motivated to update the Anaheim Stadium (a.k.a. Angels Stadium of Anaheim) diagrams. It's mostly small corrections and a more accurate profile, yielding a taller height, just like with the recent Astrodome update.
"I talked to Jim before the season and have emphasized since that no decision would be made on his extension until after the end of the season." See MLB.com. If it's true that Rizzo made his decision crystal clear, and Riggleman agreed to serve under those conditions, then he deserves most of the blame. I sure hope he didn't ruin his career as a manager.
I learned from Matt Ereth that there will be an outdoor hockey match next January at Progressive (a.k.a. Jacobs) Field, as the Ohio State Buckeyes host the University of Michigan. See MLB.com. I supposed I'll have to do a hockey version of Progressive Field now, as I did for Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.