The Los Angeles Dodgers may not be America's team, but as of Wednesday, they are Major League Baseball's team. Last week, owner Frank McCourt took out a personal loan of $30million to make payroll, the latest in a long line of embarrassing events tied to the ownership of the once proud franchise.
Even before owners Frank and Jamie McCourt announced their intentions to file for divorce over 550 days ago, the Dodgers' ownership was far from perfect. Since the commencement of divorce, Frank McCourt has been a constant source of vexation for commissioner Bud Selig. See a timeline of the McCourt drama here. With the issues showing no no evidence of getting better, Selig seized control of the Dodgers Wednesday. Think of it like a repossession. From now on, any financial moves made by the Dodgers require direct approval from MLB.
The move isn't unprecedented by any means. Just last year, MLB oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Texas Rangers, even approving an increase in payroll necessary to trade for Cliff Lee. Nine years ago, MLB assumed operational control of the Montreal Expos and moved them to Washington. The Dodgers situation is more likely to mirror the Rangers situation, as Selig's chief concern is finding new competent ownership.
So why the power move? After all, the Mets borrowed $25million to make payroll in February themselves. Other organizations have suspect ownership. Are the Dodgers getting a strange bit of special treatment? As Buster Olney wrote, in a way, yes.
The franchise is a monument of baseball, a team that should represent all that is great about the sport...These are the Dodgers of Jackie Robinson, and of Pee Wee Reese, the Southerner who put an arm on Jackie's shoulder in 1947...These are the Dodgers, who should be treasured. And we should all be stunned by the disparity between what the franchise is supposed to represent and its decay under Frank McCourt.... Major League Baseball wants the Dodgers to be great; it needs for the Dodgers to be great.
While the Rockies and the rest of the NL West have benefited in recent years by the McCourt drama hamstringing the front office, the Dodgers are getting ushered back to stability with the help of Major League Baseball. A couple more years of McCourt ownership could have opened the NL West a little more in the next couple years, but MLB's desire to keep its prized franchise from running into the ground has saved them.
But don't think it is over. As Tim Brown wrote Wednesday, Frank McCourt won't be going down quietly and is likely to sue Bud Selig and MLB. Fox has a tentative 20-year $3billion television deal set with McCourt. So MLB has essentially overtaken control of the franchise while Frank McCourt has enough money to keep the Dodgers in operation now. And if Selig approved the Fox TV deal, McCourt would have more than enough in the future. So McCourt could be financially stable, yet Selig is still taking the Dodgers from him. Obviously, this is about more than money. As Craig Calcaterra wrote "That kind of claim - baseball is interfering with our right to make money! - is the stuff of a tort action." I am no lawyer, but the claim seems to have legs.
Bud Selig's maneuver wasn't a result of feeling surly after a night of too many brandies. It was measured, calculated and planned to the letter. I have no doubt Selig considered the possibility that McCourt would go down fighting, but what remains to be seen is whether Selig would win such a lawsuit. A cornered serpent with nothing left to lose is dangerous indeed.
In case you are curious, there is actually an anecdotal precedent for such a lawsuit, though it cannot officially be used as legal precedent. Calcaterra, a former lawyer, suggested this morning that a McCourt vs. MLB lawsuit could jeapordize MLB's anti-trust exemption, which allows MLB to approve which ownership group is awarded a franchise, regardless of their bid.
This has happened before, as Calcaterra notes. In 1993, a group of hopeful business owners were blocked by MLB from buying the Giants, even though then-owner Bob Lurie agreed to the sale. The reason? They wanted to move the Giants to Florida. The businessmen sued, and the court actually agreed with them:
"The trial court agreed with the would-be buyers during the preliminary stages of that case, ruling that the antitrust exemption didn't apply to the purchase of teams... Having seen that its antitrust exemption was in peril, baseball settled with the plaintiffs, paying them $6 million for their trouble." - Calcaterra
Six million? I'm guessing it would take more than that to make Frank McCourt swallow his pride and move on. While the baseball operations for now are stabilized financially, the immediate future of the Dodgers off the field will be incredible to watch, as Jonah Keri writes. In my opinion, there is no way McCourt wins a lawsuit. MLB would settle if that looked to be the verdict to protect their anti-trust exemption as they did with the Giants. I do think the lawsuit has potential, so it will be worth monitoring, aarguably more so than the divorce was.
I almost feel sorry for Dodgers fans, who have seen their storied franchise wrapped up in nonsense of bad ownership for a long time. Then again, they are used to it. As Eric Stephen wrote for SBNationLA:
Dodgers fans are fine with that uncertainty. Bring on the devil they don't know over the devil they are all too familiar with.
Don't forget to click past the jump to catch up on all the news from your least favorite division rivals.
NL West Report
Arizona (8-9, 4th, L1, 4.5 GB)
Last Week: 3-3. 1-2 vs Giants. 2-1 @ Reds. Half of the Diamondbacks' wins so far in 2011 have come against the Reds. They are 4-7 against the rest of the National League.
You Should Know: Ian Kennedy has a 5.64 ERA....which ranks first in the rotation.
Divisional Change: Fell out of third place tie into sole possession of fourth place. Held steady at 4.5 games behind first place Colorado.
This Week: 3 game road series @ Mets. 3 game home series vs. Phillies. 1st game of 4-game home series vs. Cubs. Arizona catches a break and won't face Roy Halladay. Of course, that means they draw Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
News: This past offseason, Kevin Towers put Justin Upton on the trading block, which came as a bit of a shock. He was selling low on a 23-year-old ultra-talented outfielder with 60 career HR and five years remaining on a contract. Several teams lined up, yet Towers wasn't satisfied with the offers. According to Nick Cafardo, any trade involving Upton with the Red Sox would have required Adrian Gonzalez or Clay Buchholz in return. The irony is that Towers pledged to purge the clubhouse of malaise, laziness and poor attitudes, and Upton is considered by many to have various levels of each.
#10 / Right Field / Arizona Diamondbacks
Aug 25, 1987
|2011 - Justin Upton||17||67||13||18||3||1||4||10||9||13||2||1||.269||.351||.522|
AZSnakePit's soco wrote a fantastic piece detailing the split opinions on Upton, often split within the individual fan. It isn't the first time Arizona had a talented 23-year-old outfielder whose attitude was in question. Last time, they succeeded in trading him.
Former top prospect Brandon Wood was DFAed by the Angels last week, and the Diamondbacks are weak at the position. Geoff Blum is hurt, so the hot corner is manned by a hobbled Melvin Mora and Ryan Roberts. Still, Nick Piecoro reports the Diamondbacks don't have room on their roster for Brandon Wood.
Tim Dierkes mercilessly twisted the knife into Diamondbacks fans by reconstructing the Arizona roster if the Dan Haren / Carlos Gonzalez / Brett Anderson plus trade never happened.
The Diamondbacks appear to be targeting LHP Danny Hultzen with the 3rd overall pick in the June amateur draft. They selected the southpaw in 2008, so they would need his permission before drafting again, but Hultzen plans to extend that permission. All draft sources unanimously tab Hultzen as Arizona's pick, for what it is worth.
After deciding to build a roster with better clubhouse guys, the Diamondbacks have again decided to follow the lead of Dan O'Dowd and the Rockies. According to Nick Piecoro, Arizona has made a concerted effort to upgrade their player development system.
Transactions: Recalled RHP Josh Collmenter from AAA Reno.
Injuries: RHP Aaron Heilman (shoulder tendinitis - 4/15) placed on the 15-day DL. Geoff Blum (knee swelling) will undergo surgery next week and will miss 6-8 weeks. LHP Zach Duke (broken hand) will begin a rehab assignment next week. 3B Melvin Mora has a swollen foot and is day-to-day.
Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries
Los Angeles (10-10, 3rd, W2, 4.0 GB)
Last Week: 4-3 1-2 vs. Cardinals. 3-1 vs. Braves. After losing five straight, Matt Kemp hit a walk-off two run home run off Ryan Franklin for a 2-1 victory Sunday, which would ignite the Dodgers into winning four of five. Kemp went on to hit a 2-run walk-off home run yesterday as well.
You Should Know: Courtesy of TrueBlueLA's Eric Stephen: Dodgers starting pitchers, last time thru rotation: 8.39 ERA, 1.865 WHIP, 4.9 IP/start, 0-5; next time through: 1.38 ERA, 0.846, 7.8 IP, 4-1.
Divisional Change: Gained sole possession of third place and gained 0.5 games on first place Colorado.
This Week: Final 3 games of a 4 game home series vs. Cardinals. 4 game home series vs. Braves.
News: Matt Kemp is really really good. After a disappointing 2010, he was a very good candidate for a rebound, and he has. Currently, Kemp is 4th in MLB in WAR with 1.3 (Votto/Tulowitzki/Rasmus) and 2nd in wRC+ with 208 (Votto). He hit two walk-off home runs in the last week. His resurgence is legitimate too. A .493 BABIP aside, his 26.3% line drive rate is well above the 20% league average, he is walking nearly twice as often as he used to and is below MLB in strikeout rate. The monster has awoken.
#27 / Center Field / Los Angeles Dodgers
Sep 23, 1984
|2011 - Matt Kemp||20||73||14||30||5||0||4||15||11||16||8||3||.411||.488||.644|
The bad news for Los Angeles is that another 26-year-old hitter has almost completely undone Kemp's work. James Loney is going all Garrett Atkins on the Dodgers, hitting .171/.190/.224 in 79 PA in 2011 and a -0.9 fWAR. Yes negative. Ouch. And before you scream SSS, consider his production since the All-Star Break in 2010: .202/.258/.306. Yowzers. I have never been a fan of Loney, but I never thought him capable of that level of ineptitude.
Loney was tendered a contract this offseason, and Tim Dierkes points out Russell Martin was non-tendered. In his place, Ned Colletti signed Rod Barajas to the richest contract for a catcher in the division. Martin has rapped out four home runs and a .314/.375/.608 line for the Yankees with four home runs. Barajas has three longballs himself, but has otherwise been a liability at the plate: .190/.266/.345.
Partly response to Loney's issues, the Dodgers called up top prospect Jerry Sands, a right-handed power hitter who plays first base and corner outfield. The 25th round pick in 2008 slugged 69 home runs in 266 career minor league games, including five in his only ten games in AAA in 2011. So far, he has two doubles, a walk and five strikeouts in 15 plate appearances.
Transactions: Optioned OF Jamie Hoffman to AAA Albuquerque (4/15). Recalled RHP Ramon Troncosco (4/16) and optioned Troncoso back to AAA (4/22). Called up LF/1B Jerry Sands (4/18) from AAA Albuquerque and designated OF Xavier Paul for assignment.
Injuries: Activated RHP Jon Garland from the 15-day DL on April 15. LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (back - 4/16) was placed on the the 15-day DL retroactive to 4/14. Activated RHP Vicente Padilla (forearm)from the DL today. C Dioner Navarro (oblique) started his rehab assignment Tuesday and is due back mid-May. LF Jay Gibbons is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday.
Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries
San Diego (8-11, 5th, L1, 5.5 GB)
Last Week: 3-4. 2-1 @ Astros. 1-2 @ Cubs. 0-1 vs. Phillies. The Padres won 5-4 Wednesday against the Cubs in a game James Russell (career: 58 IP, 5.43). In their other three games since Monday, San Diego managed just one run in 30 innings.
You Should Know: Aaron Harang is the first Padres pitcher in franchise history to win his first four starts with the team. (h/t Steve Berthiume)....Meanwhile, the ace Mat Latos is 0-3.....The Padres offense has scored 3 or less runs in 12 of 21 games.
Divisional Change: Lost 0.5 games to division leading Colorado.
This Week: Final 3 games of a 4 game home series vs. Phillies. 3 game road series @ Braves. Currently, San Diego's fifth starter is lined up to face Roy Halladay. The sacrificial lamb has not been announced.
News: The name Jeffrey Hammonds is probably familiar to Rockies fans. The former outfielder hit three home runs in one game on May 19, 1999 at Coors Field as the Reds beat the Rockies 24-12. After the season, he was traded for Dante Bichette and became an All-Star with Colorado, hitting .335 with 20 home runs in 2000. Hammonds was hired as a scout by the Padres last week.
Mike Adams is really good. Seriously.
#37 / Pitcher / San Diego Padres
Jul 29, 1978
|2011 - Mike Adams||0-0||10||0||0||0||0||0||10.0||2||1||1||1||0||8||0.90||.20|
Tim Dierkes neatly presented the contract situations for the Padres' roster for this off-season. Only Heath Bell, Jorge Cantu, and Ryan Ludwick are eligible to be free agents.
Gordon Edes reported that the trio of prospects acquired for Adrian Gonzalez have started off strong in the minors this season.
San Francisco (10-8, 2nd, L1, 3.0 GB)
Last Week: 4-2. 2-1 @ Diamondbacks. 2-1 @ Rockies. The Giants had won 6 of 7 and 9 of 12 before getting trounced at Coors Field Wednesday.
You Should Know: The Giants have won four consecutive series. They have scored 50 runs in those 12 games....and they have allowed 50 runs in those 12 games....Tim Lincecum tied Christy Mathewson Monday for most 10+ strikeout starts in a Giants uniform with 29.
Divisional Change: Gained just one game on 1st place Colorado.
This Week: 3 game home series vs. Braves. 3 game road series @ Pirates. With Barry Zito on the disabled list, the Giants have elected to use this upcoming Monday's off day to skip their fifth starter spot. Ryan Vogelsong will not need to start a game until Saturday, April 30.
News: Brandon Belt practically cried when he was told he made the team barely three weeks ago. It is doubtful he thought that on his birthday, April 20, Belt would be demoted. The first baseman was struggling in 60 PA, though some of that was bad luck on batted balls. He had an exceptional walk rate and was taking solid at-bats. As of yet, he has not appeared in a game with AAA Fresno.
#9 / First Base / San Francisco Giants
Apr 20, 1988
|2011 - Brandon Belt||17||52||7||10||1||0||1||4||8||13||2||0||.192||.300||.269|
In truth, the Giants might have been okay with letting him play out of it, but OF Cody Ross came off the DL Wednesday. That necessitated a roster move, and optioning Belt was seamless. Additionally, Aubrey Huff was having misadventures playing right field, and the Belt demotion allows Huff to move back to first base.
Ross feels 100 percent. Says Huff, erstwhile right fielder, texted him this morning: "Thank God you're back." - Andrew Baggarly
Ken Rosenthal speculates that Mark DeRosa is a prime trade candidate.
Guillermo Mota apparently received five contract offers this offseason, but Mota decided to return to San Francisco after winning the World Series with the Giants.
NBCSports.com's Tony DeMarco opined about the Rockies/Giants rivalry last night.
Transactions: Recalled CF Darren Ford. Called up RHP Ryan Vogelsong. Optioned 1B Brandon Belt to AAA Fresno (4/20).
Injuries: Placed CF Andres Torres (achilles - 4/15) and LHP Barry Zito (foot - 4/17) on the 15-day DL. Activated Cody Ross (calf - 4/20) from the 15-day DL. Pablo Sandoval is day-to-day with a mild triceps strain.