The Battle of Dodger Stadium Just Getting Started
Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days at Dodger Stadium.
On Wednesday we were treated with dueling press conferences between Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt in New York City and Major League Baseball representative Tom Schieffer who was appointed by Commissioner Bud Selig to oversee finances and operations of the Dodgers. At the end of the day nothing seemed to be what it was.
To start things out McCourt spoke to the media after his meeting with MLB representatives regarding the proposed 17-year television rights deal with Fox. The deal is a reworking of the three years that remain on the current contract on top of 14 years which requires Fox to make an upfront payment of around $300 million and could net as much as $3 billion depending on valuation forecasts. The deal also gives the Dodgers an equity stake in the regional sports network Prime Ticket.
“It’s a great, great transaction for the Dodgers,” McCourt said. “Ultimately we learned that Commissioner Selig vetoed the deal. He was not in attendance at the meeting, but the message was delivered by Rob Manfred.”
Manfred, MLB’s Executive Vice President of Labor Relations, disagreed. Not 30 minutes after McCourt’s press conference was over, MLB issued a press release refuting McCourt’s allegation.
"It is unfortunate that Mr. McCourt felt it necessary to publicize the content of a private meeting,” Manfred said in the release. “It is even more unfortunate that Mr. McCourt's public recitation was not accurate. Most fundamental, Commissioner Selig did not 'veto' a proposed transaction. Rather, Mr. McCourt was clearly told that the Commissioner would make no decision on any transaction until after his investigation into the Club and its finances is complete so that he can properly evaluate all of the facts and circumstances.”
So that’s the first waft of rotting fish underfoot.
McCourt then explained how un-American this usurpation was: “What I was saying was un-American was somebody’s property being seized unlawfully.”
While McCourt is correct that this is un-American, he is forgetting that the fraternity of owners of MLB operate with an exemption to anti-trust laws - something as un-American as the hammer and sickle. While that would tug on whatever heart strings are left for him by the fans, that won’t fly in any court of law.
In pleading with the public he did acknowledge his faults.
“I think I made some mistakes. I’m sorry about that, and I’m definitely committed to doing things differently moving forward.”
As an Irish Catholic one would think he would enumerate his sins as if going into a confessional, but none arose.
“I’m no PR genius,” he told us. No shit.
That’s why everyone cheered when they heard news of this takeover on April 20. However as with Fox selling the Dodgers back in 2004 people need to be careful what they wish for.
In comes former U.S. ambassador to Australia and Japan under the George W. Bush administration Tom Schieffer. A lawyer and life-long Democrat, he comes to the Dodgers with experience of being part owner of the Texas Rangers with Bush and Rusty Rose from 1989 to 1998.
And on Wednesday Schieffer’s aw-shucks Texas demeanor was on full display.
“I felt as if baseball had called and I was willing to do my part,” Schieffer said. “To the citizens of Los Angeles and Dodgers fans around the world, I know how much you love this franchise, and I’ll do everything I can do be of help.”
When asked whether his arrival will bring chaos to the organization and if he was a monitor or receiver, as McCourt alleged, Schieffer deflected, “Well, I’m just Tom Schieffer. I’m the Commissioner’s representative. I look forward to talking to Mr. McCourt. Hopefully we can have a nice visit and see exactly what it is he’s concerned about.”
On his job as the liason, “we want to be sure of things. We want to know more about the financial transactions that are occurring.”
But something seemed ominous especially when asked what he thinks of the situation as an outsider, “My opinion at this point and time is not something that should be shared with the public.”
Only one thing is certain in all of this: there is going to be one hell of a fight for control over the Dodgers. As McCourt repeatedly said, “Nobody handed the Dodgers to me, and nobody’s going to take it away.”
Schieffer was just as ominous and humorous when talking about any hostility between him and McCourt in the future: “I’ve dealt with the North Koreans.”
Let the fight begin!