"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

I Don't Want To Be Part Of Any Club That Has Jeffrey Loria As A Member

photo from laobserved.com

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.

Categories:  Baseball  Bronx Banter  Emma Span  Games We Play

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8 comments

1 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Jan 10, 2011 3:49 pm

For those interested Brad Snyder's A Well-Paid Slave, as much as it is a Curt Flood biography, is also an excellent history of baseball's anti-trust exemption and the challenges to it, of which, to my knowledge, Flood's was the last to go as far as the Supreme Court.

I say that as the books "unbiased" editor, and with no disrespect to Alex's Flood biography linked in the right-hand sidebar, which is more about the man than the legal history behind his case.

2 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 10, 2011 4:43 pm

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.

Because Lord knows, we definitely need another representative for the extraterrestrials in that bunch besides Mark Cuban...

3 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 10, 2011 10:29 pm

Baseball teams are considered franchises, and business do have the right to set guidelines for who gets to own their franchies (of course, those guidelines are financial, not personal).

Also, Selig can't force McCourt out, but he can choose to not help him. I don't see why that isn't fair, especially when you consider Selig works for the owners, and it's their money that would used to provide the "help".

Finally, I am pretty confident that if transgender eskimo offered to buy the Oakland A's and build them a new stadium, the white male ownership group would be more than happy to take the money.

4 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 10, 2011 11:23 pm

[3] "Nothing below the belt, boys!"

5 Emma Span   ~  Jan 11, 2011 12:33 am

[3] Have to disagree with you here. I think the problem is that there are NO clear, set guidelines at all for who gets to be an owner. Obviously you need to be wealthy, but then the highest bidder isn't always chosen (see: that fiasco of a sale of the Expos/Nationals a few years ago). Strings get pulled to ensure that certain people get to own franchises, maneuvering that would never stand up to a lawsuit if we were talking about, say, Subway franchises.

I wish you were right about the transgender eskimo because that would make for some fun blogging, but they wouldn't even let Mark Cuban buy a team. This is not a group that welcomes iconoclasts.

6 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 11, 2011 10:01 am

[5] The "highest" bidder isn't always chosen, but the mitigating factors are usually financial related (i.e., the highest bidder may not always be the most financially sound). That's not to suggest that MLB doesn't have special privileges, but it certainly doesn't have the authority to discriminate on the basis of race or sex. If MLB turned down a higher offer from a female or minority owner, I am sure they would face intense legal scrutiny.

As for Cuban, it's my understanding that his bids for the Cubs and Rangers weren't the "highest". While MLB has certainly been selective, I think the bottom line is still the bottom line.

7 Shaun P.   ~  Jan 11, 2011 10:50 am

[6] MLB has proven that it will go to any lengths to have sales of teams only to those it approves of. Look no further than the duplicitous and illegal sale of the Red Sox by the Yawkey Trust to Henry et al. The immediate bottom line (i.e, highest bidder) did not get the team, but the ultimate bottom line (contract two teams, which became sell the Expos for a fortune) was certainly the reason why.

The late, great Doug Pappas summarized it best.

Of course, given all that's happened since Henry et al. bought the Sox, no one in Massachusetts ever complains.

8 Emma Span   ~  Jan 11, 2011 8:18 pm

[6] I agree that they aren't discriminating on race or gender -- and it's not like a lot of minorities or women are trying to buy teams, which is not MLB's fault. But it's definitely a club and as Shaun points out, they do pull strings to make sure that anyone who buys a team is the person that Selig and the owners want to sell to.

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