Opinion Brief

Major League Baseball's 'extraordinary' takeover of the L.A. Dodgers

Citing owner incompetence, commissioner Bud Selig essentially seizes the storied franchise. Is this justified?

On Wednesday, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig took the sports world by surprise when he made the "extraordinary and historic" announcement that he would appoint a trustee to oversee the day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have been in precarious financial shape for years — owner Frank McCourt, who took over the team in 2004, originally financed his purchase by taking out tens of millions of dollars in loans, and has been deep in debt ever since. His high-profile divorce, meanwhile, became a public spectacle that threw the franchise's future into doubt, and his public-relations nightmare continued when two Dodgers fans brutally assaulted a visiting Giants fan last month, putting him into a coma. When the owner took out yet another huge loan — $30 million — Selig intervened. The league will now "essentially foreclose on Frank McCourt," says Dave Cameron at FanGraphs, and search for a more financially responsible owner. Was this the right move?

Good riddance to a terrible owner: Thanks to Frank McCourt's inept leadership, "Dodgers fans have been wandering through a desert of uncertainty and dismay" for a long time, says Jon Weisman at ESPN. His tenure has been marked by "rising parking fees," "inconsistent spending on players," and "appalling revelations of greed in court documents related to McCourt's divorce." The beating of a Giants fan was just another last straw in a long series of last straws.
"The irredeemable Frank McCourt"

McCourt wasn't breaking the rules: The Dodgers' owner claims his team was already abiding by the "strict financial guidelines" set forth by Selig — and he's right, says Mike Ozanian at Forbes. McCourt may be broke, but he's not violating baseball's rule that teams "cannot have debt that exceeds 10 times operating income." The Dodgers are in less than $300 million debt and have an operating income of $33 million. Selig seized the team by invoking the "best interests of baseball" clause, which apparently can mean whatever he wants it to mean.
"Frank McCourt is right but will still lose Dodgers to Bud Selig"

And what about the bankrupt Mets? The lovable losers from New York are $450 million in debt, says Tom Weir at USA Today, and the team's owners needed an emergency loan from baseball to stay afloat last year. If Selig was so indignant about McCourt's business dealings, how are the Mets' chiefs allowed to hang on given their ruinous business relationship with Bernie Madoff, "someone who perhaps qualifies as the biggest thief in U.S. history?"
"Selig seizes Dodgers, but why not Mets too?"

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