Jan 25

Wow, where did all these links come from?

A bundle of clickable goodness today …

  • Andre Ethier had some interesting comments in an interview Tuesday with ESPN AM 710.

    … Asked about wanting to be with the Dodgers long-term, Ethier said, “It comes down to the security part, too, but it also comes down to unfinished business and I feel like, yeah, I’m facing that decision now where hopefully it doesn’t come down to me having to leave and [I can] be a part of this team when we start rebounding and getting back to where we need to be.”The ownership limbo seemingly affected the Dodgers’ ability to deal in free agency this offseason, with general manager Ned Colletti saying earlier this month the team was essentially done with its offseason acquisitions because “we’re at our payroll.” So when news broke Tuesday of the Detroit Tigers nearing a deal with marquee free agent Prince Fielder, it wasn’t lost on Ethier.

    “Why can’t the Dodgers be doing that? Look at the markets those two teams are, and the stability you see through the front office and the team being able to operate … on the level it should be,” he said, adding, “you don’t try to think of it too much as a player, but obviously if you’re not going after the big fish like other teams are, like our partners are down there to the south of us, the Angels [who acquired Albert Pujols], it’s tough to go out there and keep competing year after year if you’re not going out there and making your team better every year. “I think that’s the situation we’ve been in. Obviously it’s going to get better from here on out because of the sell and getting new people in there.”

    Ethier, who hit .292 with 11 home runs and 62 RBIs in 2011 before ending the season with a right knee injury, said he’s aiming for a “strong, solid” 2012.

    “I’ve kind of dealt with this knee thing for the past two years, put it off for one off-season and then last season it just became a thing where a lot of things started multiplying and getting worse and something where I couldn’t quite get back my swing … It was very frustrating and I learned a lot from that.”

  • Ethier participated in a prank on Dustin Pedroia for a Boston radio station. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy has more.
  • Matt Kemp’s new contract looks even more valuable in the wake of the Prince Fielder signing, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports offers up a wintertime preview of their 19th-ranked MLB team, the 2012 Dodgers.
  • Former Dodger co-owner and managing partner Bob Daly had even more to say Tuesday (in an interview with T.J. Simers of the Times) than Ethier. Daly is highly critical of Frank McCourt, critical of the Dodgers’ offseason signings and critical of himself for not trading prospects for a bat in the middle of the 2002 season — though I would say that was a period in which the Dodgers didn’t have a whole lot of trade value in the system.
  • Steve Dilbeck of the Times wonders if the potential interest of St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke in buying the Dodgers could be the first domino that leads to Frank McCourt becoming an NFL minority owner.
  • In a separate post, Dilbeck also offers why the Dodgers might win the National League West, despite all their uncertainty.
  • Just when I think I can’t read any more Hall of Fame voting insight, here comes Lewie Pollis of Behind the Boxscore with a new take, about what he calls “a mistaken assumption about the balloting process: that writers’ own observations of players were expected to be primary factors in their votes.”
  • Daryle Ward, who infamously batted .183 and slugged .193 at age 28 for the 2003 Dodgers, received a 50-game suspension from MLB for testing positive for a banned amphetamine. Ward, who has a .768 lifetime OPS, hasn’t played in the majors since 2008.
  • Former Dodger infielder Wilson Valdez, who ended up the winning pitcher for the Phillies over the Reds in a 19-inning game last May, was traded to the Reds today.
  • There’s speculation about whether Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns 4.5 percent of the Lakers, will get involved with a Dodger ownership bid, such as Magic Johnson’s. Bill Shaikin of the Times addresses it today. Soon-Shiong bought Johnson’s share of the Lakers in 2010. Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com interviewed Soon-Shiong in November.
  • The Left Field Pavilion blog has invited all prospective Dodger owners to come out to the Dodger blogs softball tournament February 11 and “meet the bloggers and fans of the team you are trying to purchase.”
  • Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, 26, is about to become a free agent that MLB teams can bid on. More on Cespedes at Baseball America. The Dodgers are not rumored to be pursuing him. “Projections based off his Cuban numbers show a good but not great hitter with 25-homer power and poor strike-zone control,” writes Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk.
  • Sam Miller of the Orange County Register is quickly emerging as a baseball writer of the highest order. He has two new freelance pieces: an account of Scott Boras’ beginnings as an agent for Baseball Prospectus, and a pitch-by-pitch account of how the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson for ESPN the Magazine.
  • Kevin Kaduk at Yahoo! Sports blogs about a law in Florida “that any ballpark or stadium that receives taxpayer money shall serve as a homeless shelter on the dates that it is not in use.”
Jan 23

Bidness time


Initial bids for the Dodgers officially have been made. Tony Jackson covered it for ESPNLosAngeles.com, while Bill Shaikin was on it for the Times. Not much in the way of surprises in a process that still has some time to develop. From Jackson:

… Although the passing of the deadline represents a significant step in the sale process, it isn’t necessarily a major one. For one thing, additional bids are still welcome even with the deadline having passed, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. For another, even the groups that placed initial bids aren’t set in stone, as there could be merging of groups, individual movement between groups and individual additions or subtractions within a specific group.

Two bidders said talks about possible group mergers were ongoing. They both spoke on condition of anonymity because Blackstone Group made them sign nondisclosure agreements.

“It would be a shock if they don’t start talking merger,” said Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based consulting firm Sportscorp, which is not involved. “I think we’ll get a half-dozen parties that are actually in the bid, plus or minus one.”

What the passing of the deadline does mean is that the weeding-out process can now officially begin. This initial phase will involve eliminating candidates whose bids simply aren’t competitive. Once that process is complete, Blackstone will submit its list of remaining candidates to Major League Baseball for a vetting process that already is underway in a preliminary sense — MLB already is looking at all candidates who were given bid books — but at that point will intensify.

There is no deadline for the submitting of those candidates to MLB, although the April 30 deadline for completing the sale — and the April 1 deadline for selecting the owner and ownership group that ultimately will get the team — necessarily means the process will move comparatively quickly.

One source in the Dodgers camp said McCourt views the April 30 deadline as rigid, but baseball commissioner Bud Selig said two weeks ago at MLB’s quarterly owners meetings that he feels confident the sale will be completed on time and that “I think we’re on track,” both characterizations that seemed to allow for some wiggle room. …

* * *

  • Mike Piazza said it’s “no question” he would like to go into the Hall of Fame as a Met (Mets Blog via Baseball Think Factory).
  • Mike Silva’s NY Baseball Digest has this story of close a 20-year-old Tom Seaver came to being a Dodger.

    … “He was born to be a Dodger,” Travers said. “Born and raised in California, went to USC, had season tickets to Dodger games because his uncle has season tickets in Los Angeles, and he would use them every fourth and fifth day to see Koufax and Drysdale.”

    As luck would have it, Seaver was drafted by the Dodgers in the 10th round of the 1965 draft. Seaver wanted $50,000 to sign; the Dodgers offered $2,000 along with advice from a scout by the name of Tommy Lasorda. “Good luck with your dental career,” Lasorda said. This was in reference to the fact that Seaver was a pre-dental student at USC.

    Seaver would sign a contract with Atlanta the following year, only to see it voided by the commissioner’s office because his college team played some exhibition games. He couldn’t return to school since he was now considered a “pro.” The league responded by setting up a lottery with interested teams. The Dodgers tried to get involved once again, but ultimately failed to follow through, which led to the Mets winning Seaver’s rights in the lottery over Cleveland and Philadelphia. …

  • James Loney is now the dean of the Dodgers in service time, writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. No. 2, if you go by signing date, is Ramon Troncoso, followed by Matt Kemp.
  • The gang’s all there: Eric Stults, Delwyn Young and Hector Gimenez signed minor-league deals with White Sox, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
  • John Sickels of Minor League Ball put the Dodger farm system in the bottom 10 of the majors, while the Padres’ kids were first in the National League.
  • Jon SooHoo passes along this vintage photo of Dodger beat writers from the 1990s.
  • New Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is considering a change in the nickname and uniforms of the erstwhile Colt ’45s, reports The Associated Press. I trust the next Dodger owner isn’t thinking similarly.
Jan 19

Moyer better blues

This post is dedicated to a real ’49er …

  • Jamie Moyer, who turns 50 on November 18, signed a minor-league deal with the Rockies with an invitation to Spring Training. Not that my expectations would be sky high, but I would have been curious to see Moyer, recovered from Tommy John surgery, in a Dodger uniform in March.
  • Here, The Platoon Advantage needs only four degrees of separation to connect Moyer to Babe Ruth and makes the case for six degrees between Moyer and Cap Anson.
  • Want to know what potential Dodger bidder Mark Cuban is up to this week? Just trying to change the business model of TV distribution.
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com spoke to Cuban this week about why he’s interested in the Dodgers. “It’s an iconic team,” Cuban said. “There’s only a few franchises like that. And it’s always better to buy a team like that when they’re down.”
  • Bill Shaikin of the Times does the most thorough look of anyone yet at the threat of Frank McCourt keeping possession of the parking-lot-infused land surrounding Dodger Stadium. Because McCourt’s agreement with MLB doesn’t require him to sell that land, he can use it as a bargaining chip to extract more purchase money, hang on to it and draw millions in lease revenue from it, or do the very thing we imagined he’d do when he first bought the Dodgers eight years ago, develop it.

    As I’ve said in the past, though there’s a risk that some group will buy the Dodgers without the land, no one with the sense of a bullfrog should be willing to take the risk of remaining beholden to McCourt after the sale. Pay the man up front and get him out of Dodge.
  • The Miami Marlins appear to be the choice to succeed the San Francisco Giants as the featured team on Showtime’s baseball documentary series, “The Franchise,” Jon Weisman of Variety reports.
  • Still more from the TV front: John Ourand of Sports Business Journal explores how long MLB Advanced Media will keep its digital operations separate from TV rights sales. Stakes are high.
  • Renowned baseball historian Robert Creamer gave a lengthy interview with Graham Womack of Baseball Past and Present. His biography of Babe Ruth was one of the first serious baseball books I ever read. Here’s a small Dodger-related tidbit from the interview:

    … I first became intensely aware of big league baseball in the summer of 1931, when I was nine. My big brother, who was six years older than I, took me to my first major league game, or games — it was a doubleheader between the old New York Giants and the old Brooklyn Dodgers in the old Polo Grounds on the banks of the Harlem River in New York, below the steep hillside known as Coogan’s Bluff. John McGraw was still managing the Giants and Wilbert Robinson the Dodgers, who were generally known as the Robins. Headlines would sometimes refer to the Robins as “the Flock, as in flock of birds. I’m not sure if team nicknames were technically formal at that time. If not they soon were. Both McGraw and Robinson ended their managerial careers in 1932, and the Robins nickname soon disappeared as “Dodgers” returned. The new manager was Max Carey, whose real name was, I believe, “Canarius.” One sportswriter, Tom Meany, bowing to Max, suggested the team’s new nickname be the Canaries, but it didn’t take. …

  • “Moneyball” won approval across the pond, nabbing nominations for Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and the screenplay by Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin from the British Academy.
  • Our good friend Bob Timmermann wrote a terrific piece at L.A. Observed’s Native Intelligence about “L.A.’s Hall of Fame basketball coach who faded from memory,” Alex Hannum.
  • Timmermann also passes along this note: “RIP Patsy Tombaugh, wife of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto. … She was also the great-aunt of one Clayton Kershaw.” Tombaugh was 99.
  • Dioner Navarro, who got a guaranteed $1 million from the Dodgers after finishing 2010 with a .528 OPS and an awkward departure from Tampa Bay, will go to Spring Training this year on a minor-league contract with the Reds after finishing 2011 with a .600 OPS and an awkward departure from Los Angeles. (Remembering 2011: Dioner Navarro.)
  • Vagabond former Dodger draft pick Preston Mattingly has hooked a minor-league contract with his dad’s former team, the Yankees. Mattingly, 24, reached base 50 times in Single-A last year.
  • Vicente Padilla signed a minor-league contract with Boston. He will compete for a spot in the starting rotation but could end up in the bullpen – health permitting, of course. (Remembering 2011: Vicente Padilla.)
  • Diamond Leung, former Dodger beat reporter for the Press-Enterprise, has been blogging on college basketball for ESPN.com but now will cover Michigan State hoops for MLive.com.
Jan 10

Dodgers to honor Fox contract, ending legal battles

We are headed to the finish line.

The Dodgers have settled their legal differences with Fox, agreeing to honor the network’s cable rights deal with the team that runs through the end of 2013. Fox, in turn, has withdrawn its opposition to the settlement between Major League Baseball and Frank McCourt. Here’s a chunk from my piece just posted at Variety.

Fox Sports and the Los Angeles Dodgers have settled their legal differences, enabling Fox to retain exclusive cable rights to the Dodgers for the remaining two seasons of their contract and removing the final impediment to the sale of the baseball franchise.

The settlement comes 2 1/2 weeks after Fox earned a favorable ruling from a U.S. District Court, overturning a federal bankruptcy court decision that would have accelerated the sale of the Dodgers’ post-2013 cable rights.

”We are pleased that these matters between our two organizations have been resolved,” Fox said in a statement. ”We were never in favor of litigation, but it was imperative that we protect our exclusive media rights. Under the terms of the settlement, Fox’s media rights remain in place and we look forward to working with new ownership on future television rights discussions.”

Fox will now have an exclusive window to negotiate for a rights extension with the Dodgers through Nov. 30, well past the sale of the team by Dodger owner Frank McCourt that has a stipulated April 30 deadline.

”This agreement is a significant step towards a successful sale of the Los Angeles Dodgers,” the bankrupt baseball team said in its statement. ”It resolves all of the parties’ differences relating to the telecast rights agreement with Fox. This consensual resolution of all disputes between the debtors and Fox will enable the sale of the Dodgers to proceed forward, free of any uncertainty relating to the various issues under dispute, with the continued objective of maximizing value for the debtors and their estates.” …

Writes Bill Shaikin, who first reported the news for the Times:

… That leaves a new owner free to launch his own Dodgers cable channel starting in 2014, or leverage that threat into a bidding war between Fox and Time Warner Cable.

Under the settlement, Fox and the Dodgers agreed to withdraw the lawsuits each had filed against the other. Fox also agreed to end its various legal challenges to the Dodgers, including its motion to dismiss the team from bankruptcy for abusing the process and its claim to damages for the team’s alleged violations of the current television contract.

Fox did not, however, release McCourt from his obligation to repay a $30 million personal loan provided by the company in April so that he could meet the first payrolls of the season.

That loan is secured by McCourt’s malpractice claim against Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based law firm responsible for the faulty marital property agreement upon which McCourt relied to establish his sole ownership of the Dodgers. The agreement was invalidated, and ultimately McCourt agreed to settle his divorce by paying his ex-wife $131 million by April 30.

Fox retained the right to challenge any sale of the team, in part or in whole, to Time Warner Cable. The settlement also clarified that Time Warner Cable is bound by a provision of the TV contract that hampers the ability of ESPN, Comcast or Time Warner to hold a share of a Dodgers’ cable channel.

The path is now clear for McCourt’s sale of the franchise to be completed by the stipulated April 30 deadline. It’s not as if there can’t be any more hiccups, but things are falling into place.

Jan 05

Why Time Warner Cable is no lock to buy Dodgers

Without Tom Lehrer to poke holes in the New Math, I’ll take a stab at it.

Lately online, I’ve seen a rash of speculation that Time Warner Cable will buy the Dodgers, based on the following algebra: Why would Time Warner Cable pay up to $4 billion for 20 years of Dodger cable television rights when it only needs to spend an estimated $1 billion or so to buy the team (and in turn control of the TV rights) and be home free?

Well, I’m here to tell you why.

The main thing is that the math above doesn’t compute. Sure, TWC would be committing less money initially if it bought the team, but it still has to operate the team. You can’t simply ignore the cost of that, and it’s going to be considerable.

So while TWC wouldn’t pay the TWC-owned Dodgers $4 billion for broadcast rights, it would have to pay them a big dollar amount nonetheless. How much will Dodger player payroll alone be over 20 years? I’d say $3 billion (not adjusting for inflation) is hardly outlandish. Then there’s stadium improvements to be made, etc., etc. And TWC would be paying out all that whether the Dodgers made money or lost money.

That leads into a second but not insignificant point. Operating a sports franchise is a big headache, and the Dodgers, with all their on-field and off-field needs, are no different. It takes a lot of manpower, and if you’re not doing it right — if it’s not your top priority — it can be a public relations disaster.  And the odds are that lots of fans will find decide TWC doesn’t know how to run a baseball team.

Fox essentially has every reason to try to buy the Dodgers that TWC has — as we’ve discussed here repeatedly, the fate of Fox-owned Prime Ticket probably depends on keeping the Dodger’ TV rights — yet with the benefit of previous ownership experience, Fox is not going to bid on the franchise. Despite the New Math, Fox doesn’t want the hassle, even if it means risking astronomical sums in the event of a Prime Ticket collapse.

Then, finally, there is Frank McCourt himself. He will decide which of the MLB-approved ownership groups will get the team. No doubt, he will go for the richest bid, and secondarily, an owner he isn’t personally affronted by. But if the competition is close, he’s likely going to feel more comfortable, in terms of doing what little he can to salvage his legacy, selling to a group that has a friendly face, be it Magic Johnson or Joe Torre, than a group that has no face at all.

I’m not saying TWC won’t bid on the Dodgers — I mostly expect it to. Owning the Dodgers eliminates the risk of Fox retaining the TV rights, and heck, maybe TWC can learn from Fox’s mistakes (not to mention the very different mistakes of the McCourts) and make the Dodgers’ day-to-day operations themselves purely lucrative.

But it’s worth remembering that there are no free rides. Buying the Dodgers has great reward potential but is also a bonafide risk, more so if the bidding becomes heated. The ultimate prize for TWC right now is the success of its upcoming new cable channels dedicated to the Lakers. Those are the real revenue generators, and if TWC is confident it can acquire the Dodgers’ TV rights to support those channels (without the angst of running the Dodgers themselves), or even if it isn’t confident, TWC might let Dodger ownership be someone else’s problem. 

Jan 04

Torre enters Dodger ownership fray

Once a Dodger (no matter how late), always a Dodger?

Joe Torre has resigned as MLB executive vice president of baseball operations to join a group pursuing ownership of the Dodgers. ESPNLosAngeles has more.

The group Torre is joining was not immediately named, though Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that it was one led by real estate developer Rick Caruso. (Update: Torre and Caruso subsequently confirmed in a joint statement, and Bill Shaikin of the Times tweeted that the banker is Byron Trott of BDT Capital in Chicago, “called by Warren Buffett ‘the only banker he trusts.’”)

Former Dodger executive Kim Ng will be part of a trio splitting Torre’s MLB duties on an interim basis. If Torre’s group prevails in acquiring the Dodgers, it’s natural to wonder if Ng would be the team’s next general manager.

Dec 29

The perils of manifest destiny: What happens after new ownership arrives

I’m as guilty as anyone as believing that the arrival of new ownership next year portends a rebirth for the Dodgers, but of course, a new foundation is still only a foundation. You can’t do without it, but so much depends on what you do with it.

The Dodgers should have a vast upgrade in resources in the coming years, from future owners and dramatically rising TV dollars. Will that lead to increased greatness or increased waste? It’s a real concern, and it all depends on the execution originating from the offices on the Club level down the left-field line.

One of my big frustrations in the technological age — and keep in mind, I’m as layman as they come with this stuff — is that on the few occasions over the past 25 years when I have gotten a new computer with increased capacity, I can’t fully enjoy it because so many new programs expand to eat up that capacity, sometimes with little purpose. Efficiency rarely seems to be a priority with home computers. The goal instead seems to be to devour the frontier as fast as it appears.

That kind of sloppy largesse is not in my vision of the Dodgers. I want them to spend, but to spend wisely. This franchise has so many needs, on and off the field, that new leadership can’t afford to be irresponsible.

I believe the next Dodger era can be a great one, but I don’t think greatness comes with a bulldozer. It should come, no matter how many tools are available, with surgical precision.

Dec 23

A new knot in a non-binding story

I continue to maintain that it’s mostly much ado about nothing whether or not Frank McCourt can try sell the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights ahead of schedule, because we’ve been told over and over again that any agreement on those rights is non-binding for the next Dodger owner.

Nevertheless, today’s ruling by a a U.S. District Court judge that halted, for the time being, McCourt’s attempt to begin that sale process (first reported by Bill Shaikin of the Times), does make sense to me. Here’s what I wrote two weeks ago:

… I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. I’m not predisposed to have any sympathy for Fox, but I have tried over and over again to wrap my head around today’s decision and I haven’t figured out how it helps the Dodgers’ maximize their sale value, and therefore why it served the court any purpose to nullify Fox’s right to keep exclusivity on the Dodgers’ post-2013 rights until next fall.

McCourt can’t negotiate a binding deal with Fox before the sale, so there’s no incentive for Fox to make a real offer. Any valuations of the Dodgers’ TV rights that come before the team is sold will more accurately come from independent sources. …

Shaikin himself tweets: “In reply: Ruling shouldn’t much impact sale. Any prospective Dodgers owner knows over-under for next TV contract is $4 billion. It was unlikely that any new owner would take this TV deal anyway. Far more likely that new owner would wait to negotiate own deal.”

Dec 23

Extremely loud and incredibly McCourt

Often when you read TV or film criticism, you see the word “manipulative.”  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what this word means in the two weeks since I saw a screening of “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which officially opens Christmas Day, because if any film is manipulative, this one is.

What I concluded is that a manipulative film is one crafted to make you feel a certain way in a given moment, with little regard to the film’s own internal logic and sometimes any logic at all. A plotline, a character or a scene doesn’t have to make sense, because if it generates a strong enough feeling, the audience won’t stop and ask questions.

That works except for the audience members who find the whole thing preposterous, as I did with “Extremely Loud.” (And I don’t appear to be alone.) The way the characters behave in this movie, the way the story unfolds, is so obviously phony that I was gritting my teeth through almost the entire enterprise.

For example — trying to avoid spoilers here — there’s a major plot element in the movie that defies belief. And then, in an effort to explain that element, the film introduces an even more insane element. All of this happens so that you can undergo this theoretically cathartic experience, but the minute you question it, the entire film falls apart.

Another word you’ll see in TV and film criticism is “forgivable,” when a viewer is willing to let some things go because the ride is worth it.  Some will feel differently, but for me, what happened in “Extremely Close” was unforgivable. Extremely and incredibly so.

I would say it was calculated, except I don’t doubt the filmmakers’ sincerity. I don’t doubt that it all made sense to director Stephen Daldry and screenwriter Eric Roth, who adapted the novel of the same title. But I think they were suckered by their own emotions. It felt right, so they didn’t really examine whether it made sense. They meant well. Not that I don’t doubt they want their film to succeed financially, but I’m willing to believe they saw their path to financial success depended chiefly on making the best possible film.

I find myself asking whether the same could be said about Frank McCourt. Did he have the best intentions but severe blind spots, as he now would have you believe? Or was he extremely proud but incredibly lame.

I’m not willing to say that McCourt didn’t care at all whether the Dodgers won or lost. His ultimate goal was personal wealth, but that doesn’t make him unique — far from it. However, McCourt’s priorities did conflict in a harmful, cynical way. He didn’t operate as if the Dodgers’ success was a path to his own success. The Dodgers were something to exploit. And he’s always tried to tell us otherwise.

How phony and manipulative can you get?

If you looked at their past eight seasons as a movie, the McCourt Dodgers are actually worlds better than “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” But as the man behind the camera, the man who has put the franchise at such a disadvantage, Frank McCourt deserves the figurative tomatoes that are thrown his way.

Dec 21

Debt of a salesman

The bid book designed to detail what potential Dodger owners are actually buying has been sent out, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times. Some details:

… The Dodgers generated about $240 million in revenue last season, according to the book. That figure would be essentially even with 2006 and down 17% from a record $289 million in 2008, according to records filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The Dodgers’ revenue has declined every year since then.

The Dodgers turned a profit of about $2 million last season, but before debt payments that almost assuredly turned that small profit into a double-digit loss. The Dodgers’ profit before debt service dropped about $27 million from the 2010 season.

The Dodgers’ debt exceeds $599 million, according to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court testimony of the investment banker leading the sale on behalf of McCourt, the outgoing owner.

The bid book also reminds prospective owners of an annual $14-million payment the Dodgers must provide as rent at Dodger Stadium to another McCourt entity not included in the sale and says that figure is scheduled to increase as soon as 2015.

Also, Forbes has more on the bid book revelations. Meanwhile, Dodger creditors are concerned about the potential liability in the Bryan Stow lawsuit against the franchise, writes Shaikin.

Dec 17

Saturday, out of the park

Catching up today on some news new and old. Many of these items were tweeted by me over the past several days – don’t hesitate to follow.

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times explains why Frank McCourt won’t renege on selling the Dodgers.
  • Here’s a great piece by Chad Moriyama on the lazy comparisons baseball folk have been making between potential big-leaguer Yu Darvish and other pitchers from Asia.
  • Roughly 40 percent of the 2012 Dodger roster will be at least 33 years old next year, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Vance Lovelace and Rick Ragazzo will have greater influence in the Dodger front office, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

    … Lovelace, previously a special assistant to the GM and director of player scouting, is now director of professional personnel. Ragazzo, previously a special assistant to the GM, is now director of pro scouting. …

    … Logan White remains assistant GM in charge for amateur (Draft) and international scouting and DeJon Watson remains assistant GM for player development (Minor Leagues). Tony Howell and Ken Bracey remain as special assistants to Colletti. …

  • More than five years ago, I wrote about the legal action over payment of former Dodger Paul Shuey’s 2004 salary. Amazingly, as Shaikin notes at the Times, the battle is still going on.
  • Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Mike Scioscia, Tommy Lasorda, Walter Alston and Fernando Valenzuela will all be featured in one way or another among the Dodgers’ 2012 bobbleheads.
  • Rubby De La Rosa’s injury was costly to the Dodgers in more ways than one, notes Mike Newman of Fangraphs.
  • Edwin Jackson is a better sign than C.J. Wilson, writes Joe Sheehan at SI.com.
  • Dodger hitting guru Dave Hansen is holding a baseball camp for kids ages 7-15 beginning December 19, according to Roberto Baly at Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • From Steve Dilbeck at the Times’ Dodgers Blog: “INK BLUE.”
  • Change in the National League West: San Diego traded Mat Latos to Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger, while Colorado signed Michael Cuddyer for three years and $30 million. John Sickels has more on the Padres’ pickups at Minor League Ball, and there’s more reaction compiled at MLB Trade Rumors.
  • The Arizona Diamondbacks are going to recoup millions through a buyback of stadium construction bonds, reports Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal.
  • Kirk Gibson: The NL’s most untraditional manager? Maybe so, says Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Boxscore.
  • USC grad Jason Lane, 35 this month, is returning to his pitching roots to try to keep his baseball career alive.
  • Dwight Evans was one of my favorite non-Dodgers of my younger years. Here’s a nice piece on him by David Laurila at Fangraphs.
  • Harrison Ford has been cast as Branch Rickey and newcomer Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the film “42,” reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • “Moneyball” received four Golden Globe nominations from the decidedly unsporty Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the latest sign of appreciation for the film from a non-baseball audience.
  • A post at Variety’s On the Air blog by me extolls the virtues of “Bosom Buddies.”
Dec 02

The Dodgers’ other No. 32? Magic joins potential ownership group


Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesMagic Johnson of the Los Angeles Dodgers?

From Buster Olney of ESPN the Magazine:

At a time when Major League Baseball wants to restore the Los Angeles Dodgers’ brand following years of damage under the ownership of Frank McCourt, Earvin “Magic” Johnson — arguably the most popular athlete in the city’s history — is a major player in a group that wants to buy the team.

“I’m a big baseball fan,” Johnson said by phone Friday, “and you think about what the Dodgers have meant to baseball and to Los Angeles, and that part’s a no-brainer. … I’ve been to that place [Dodger Stadium] hundreds and hundreds of times, every year.”

Johnson was approached about a month ago by Stan Kasten, the former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals — someone Johnson has known for about 30 years, and who once offered him a job to coach the Atlanta Hawks. Mark Walter, the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a private global financial services firm, is the money muscle behind the group, which is called Guggenheim Baseball Management. According to a fact sheet about the group, Guggenheim Partners has more than $125 billion in assets under management.

As Johnson described it, their ownership of the Dodgers — if it happens — would work this way: Walter would write the big checks; Kasten would oversee the baseball operations; and Johnson, who recently sold his ownership share of the Lakers, would work as a president or vice president on both the business side and in recruiting players, when needed.

“I want to win,” said Johnson, who met with six different groups of potential bidders for the Dodgers before joining forces with Walter and Kasten. “We want to win. Not only do we have the guy who can write the check to buy the team, but we have to have somebody who can acquire quality people and talent, and Stan knows how to do that better than anybody. … We’ve got a great plan.”

Major League Baseball has shaped ownership groups in the past, picking someone from one bidding group and coupling that person with another. With the Dodgers going through bankruptcy court, though, the process for purchasing the club is expected to be more draconian, and based more on financial might than the whims of MLB. After a small group of potential buyers is selected for auction, the winner is likely to be based on which group submits the highest bid.

The sale process for the Dodgers could begin as soon as next week, when financial details of the team will be released to prospective buyers. The Los Angeles Times reported in Friday’s editions that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban intends to bid for the Dodgers. …

Don’t underestimate the importance to this group of Kasten (for the baseball experience) and Walter (for the cash that interests Dodger owner Frank McCourt). Johnson adds a nice touch, one that would galvanize fan feelings toward the group with his personality and emphasis on winning while also bringing some understanding doing business with the local community, but his presence won’t make or break the deal.

Nov 26

Memo to Dodger buyers: Don’t give in to McCourt

By the end of April, five months and four days from now, Frank McCourt must complete the sale of the Dodgers and also pay ex-wife Jamie McCourt a $131 million settlement.

This means, Dodger buyers, that you hold the cards.

Yes, at the end of it all, McCourt will be the one to select one winning ownership group (or combination of groups). But he can only pick from what’s in front of him.

I assume you know not to do this, but here’s a reminder: No one should present any offer that allows McCourt to retain any portion of Dodger operations, specifically the parking lots, much less future TV revenue. I can’t imagine any buyer doesn’t agree with this, but in case someone thinks it might provide an advantage in the bidding, put that shortsighted thought out of your mind. This is not the time for anything but a clean break.

Nov 11

This one goes to 11-11-11


Getty ImagesManny Mota Mota Mota …

There has still been no contact from the kidnappers of Washington catcher Wilson Ramos, more than a day since he was abducted. But Venezuelan authorities have said they are confident they will find him.

I can’t tell that this story is getting the coverage it deserves, although it is mostly just a painful waiting game. I’m thinking my best thoughts.

* * *

Catching up on some Dodger ownership news and notes:

  • Orel Hershiser tells the skeptics his group will have the dough, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Shelburne writes that the new owners, whoever they are, need to look toward the future to be successful, not the past.
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought Magic Johnson’s minority stake in the Lakers last year and reportedly the richest man in Los Angeles, has been approached by at least one Dodger ownership group, reports Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • One ownership candidate who has the money is former Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano, write Craig Karmin and Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal. However, the Journal says “he has never attended a game at Dodger Stadium and is a lifelong New York Yankees fan.” That’ll go over well.
  • Jill Painter of the Daily News has a solid interview with Peter O’Malley. “First, I’m blessed with good health,” O’Malley said. “Second, the challenge. Thirdly, I do believe I can do it better than anybody else. Maybe that doesn’t sound right, but I don’t know how else to say it.
  • Dodger sale news combined with a reduction in prices has boosted Dodger season-ticket sales 30% compared to this time last year, writes Bill Shaikin of the Times. Season-ticket sales dropped from 27,000 four years ago to 17,000 this past season.

* * *

Elsewhere …

  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness writes about the early signs that 2012 free-agent contracts will be insane.
  • Related … Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports writes that the Phillies’ four-year, $44 million offer to reliever Ryan Madson might be so high that it has Major League Baseball concerned and might be slowing locking down the next collective bargaining agreement.
  • Might Rod Barajas’ ability to frame pitches be a reason he deserved a $4 million deal from the Pirates? Matthew Pouliot of Hardball Talk thinks it’s possible.
  • Former Dodger executive Derrick Hall of the Diamondbacks had successful surgery to remove his prostate in response to cancer.
  • Former Dodger outfielder Mike Marshall has been named manager of the independent San Rafael Pacifics, notes Dave Allen of the Marin Independent Journal, and his wife Mary will be assistant general manager. The Marshalls had the same roles with Chico.
  • Jim Breen of Fangraphs says that hard salary slotting for MLB draft picks would be bad for the game, and uses the Dodgers’ Zach Lee as a reason why.
  • Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus and Gabe Kapler have joined forces to try to guide Israel into qualification for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. “While it remains unclear if the recently retired players will take the field themselves, their involvement provides an immediate boost to Israeli baseball, which remains a niche sport in a country where soccer and basketball reign supreme,” writes The Associated Press.
  • Clayton Kershaw and Roy Halladay tied for the SB Nation National League Cy Young vote. Kershaw got 14 first-place votes to Halladay’s 13, but Kershaw also received a fifth-place vote from Padres blog Gaslamp Ball, which provides an unimpressive explanation to say the least.
  • No Dodger connection here, just wanted to pass this along – Norwegian film “King Curling” is “a hilarious take on the mock-heroic sporting-underdog genre,” writes Leslie Felperin of Variety.
Nov 08

Nitty-gritty details about Dodger sale process emerge

Bad news, good news: Frank McCourt will have “close to the final say” on who buys the Dodgers, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, but only from a group of candidates approved by Major League Baseball.

McCourt’s choice would then have to be approved by the other MLB owners, but since that choice would have been pre-approved by MLB already … you get the idea. Writes Jackson:

… It also isn’t immediately clear whether there is a minimum number of applicants that MLB must approve and submit to McCourt and Blackstone, but one source said it would be a “reasonable” number, meaning MLB couldn’t simply handpick the next owner by approving only one applicant. Although several individuals and groups already have gone public with their interest in buying the club, that list of applicants figures to dwindle to no more than a handful — perhaps five, one source estimated — who actually file applications because of the tremendous amount of money that must be secured in order to submit a worthy bid. …

Jackson has more detailing the intricacies of gaining MLB approval in this November 5 background story. Meanwhile, Ramona Shelburne addresses my issue of Dodger-based groups competing against each other in her latest piece, calling for them to work together as much as possible.

And then there’s this from Bill Shaikin of the Times, who writes that McCourt will still seek to profit from the Dodgers’ post-2013 TV rights, noting this Matthew Futterman report in the Wall Street Journal:

… In the auction, Mr. McCourt and his advisers at Blackstone Group, which is managing the Dodgers sale, will solicit separate bids for the team and its media rights, and then will try to arrange a partnership between the highest bidders for each before a final deal is struck. Ultimately, only the winning bidder for the team would have the right to execute a new media-rights deal.

If they prefer, bidders also will be allowed to submit a combined offer for both the team and its media rights. …

The Journal also said that McCourt could “maintain a stake in the parking lots at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles that are leased to the team for use on game days.”

I’m still of the hope that a clean break from McCourt will be a condition of any offer that MLB approves.

* * *

  • The Kansas City Royals are reportedly going to sell the naming rights to Kauffman Stadium. Will the new Dodger owners risk the wrath of public opinion and do the same?
  • Talk of David Wright coming to the Dodgers should be ignored, writes Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy found a rare picture of Sandy Koufax in Palm Springs in 1964 with Donna Douglas, Andy Williams, Pat Boone and, would you believe, Don Adams?
  • Dodger players spent over 400 more days on the disabled list in 2011 than Diamondbacks players, according to Baseball Prospectus.
  • Learn more about “the jock tax,” courtesy of Eric Seidman of Fangraphs.
  • This Fangraphs chart shows the highs and lows of the 2011 Dodgers relative to the other 29 teams. Read more about it here.
  • The defensive flaws of Jose Reyes and Aramis Ramirez are explored by Katie Sharp and Mark Simon of ESPN.com.
  • The late, inimitable, Jim Healy got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Monday. Here’s a tribute page to Healy. (News via L.A. Observed.)
  • Farewell, Joe Frazier.
  • Update – The Hiroshima Carp have made an offer to Hiroki Kuroda.