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Fears of a Scorched Earth Ownership
2003-12-15 09:00
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

The Dodgers might acquire Freddy Garcia from the Seattle Mariners, with the hopes of exchanging him for offensive help.

It's just a rumor. But it leads to this question:

Does Dodgers/Freddy Garcia/offensive help = Frank McCourt/Dodgers/real estate killing?

McCourt's bid for the Dodgers is almost entirely financed with loans, the Times reports today. While Ross Newhan and Jason Reid write that this could jeopardize the approval process for McCourt, they add that "because of baseball's financial relationship with News Corp.'s subsidiary, Fox Sports, which holds national TV rights and the regional rights of many clubs, it has been tolerant in regard to McCourt's financing and less inclined to challenge the possible deal."

From my vantage point, one of two things need to happen.

  • Someone in baseball needs to acknowledge that the Dodgers are a money-making activity, after years of saying the opposite, thus justifying McCourt's leveraged investment.

  • Someone in baseball needs to stop the McCourt bid before it reduces the Dodgers into a tear-down.
Dodger Stadium does not need to be replaced. Downtown does not need a baseball stadium. New housing that is built on the Chavez Ravine site of a former Dodger Stadium will not go to the people who were evicted from the area five decades ago, nor their descendants.

But at the rate things are going, the converse of all these statements may be used to justify some destructive moves.

What McCourt might do to the budget for Dodger player salaries, right now, is the least of my fears. I'm happy to eat crow if and when the time comes, but this stuff is making me more and more nervous for the fate of the franchise.

Update: I e-mailed Doug Pappas, writer for Baseball Prospectus and Doug's Business of Baseball Weblog, with today's McCourt story.

"Interesting," Pappas said. "I don't think MLB has any (predisposed) interest in McCourt - but it DOES have an interest in cooperating with News Corp., which between the national broadcast and local cable contracts is its single biggest business partner. If News Corp. wants to sell, MLB doesn't want to stand in the way."

My reply: With Fox poised to become the Dodger landlord (via financing McCourt's loans) instead of the Dodger owner, I continue to wonder if the ownership situation is going to go from bad to worse. And that's before one even confronts McCourt's likely interest in making team ownership a real-estate venture.

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