Last week Dodgers owner Frank McCourt met with MLB executives, per the LA Times — though not with Bud Selig personally, who presumably was too busy writing Petrarchan sonnets about Abner Doubleday – and discussed his plans to keep the Dodgers, after a judge tossed out the post-nuptial agreement between him and his ex-wife Jamie that would have given him full control over the team. The LA Times article points out that Selig has the power to veto any kind of TV deal, financing plan from MLB, or partenership agreement that McCourt might come up with — and the Dodgers owner will likely need one of those things to hang onto his team and pay off his former wife.
Which brings up once again the MLB Commissioner’s baffling power when it comes to deciding exactly who gets into baseball’s 100% male, 96.67% white, 100% non-Mark Cuban ownership club. In how many other industries do a group of competitors get together and decide who else gets to compete against them? Let me rephrase that – in how many other industries do they do that legally? As much as I love baseball I can’t think of any rational justification for why they still have an anti-trust exemption. Not the NFL, not the NBA – but baseball, see, is not a “commercial enterprise”. Right.
Not that I can blame Selig for being irate at McCourt, a man who, with his ex-wife, spent millions on the Rasputin-esque Russian “mystic”/”physicist” Vladimir Shpunt (and if you somehow haven’t read about Shpunt before, please, do yourself a favor and dig in – it warms these cold winter days), among many other less amusing screw-ups. It might in fact be in the Dodgers’ best interest if Selig forced McCourt out, but how is that right or fair? I’m particularly skeptical since it was Selig and the owners who decided to let McCourt buy the team in the first place. Don’t you just hate it when you screen someone carefully to make sure they belong in your exclusive country club, and then they go and have a messy public divorce! The nerve! And after all you did for them…
It’s safe to say that the country has bigger problems at the moment, and baseball has gotten along all right — more or less — for this long with its rigged ownership system in place. But something so blatantly unfair can hardly be good for the sport long term. Every once in a while you get a iconoclast like Bill Veeck who manages to get into the club and shakes things up from the inside – you could even say Steinbrenner did that, in his own way and for better or worse – but those guys are few and far between and getting fewer, as the amount of money needed to buy a team gets staggeringly high. Baseball deserves better than to be entrusted to a closed-off group of crusty old multimillionaires who vote like sheep on who gets to join their ranks. I am not advocating Vladimir Shpunt for Dodgers owner — although actually that would be completely awesome, but… right, no. But this is a system that’s about 100 years out of date and ripe for some modernization.