From: Maury Brown
To: MLB's 30 owners
Subject: An open letter to Major League Baseball preaching fiscal responsibility
Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to allow me to bend your ear. I’m sure Commissioner Selig has been figuratively standing behind you on this topic, a man that wields a phone like a weapon, the baseball god’s burning bush. But, it’s worth repeating after the mess that Frank McCourt has gotten himself into: sports leagues are under siege by being negligent with the books.
Think about it: the Dodgers, Rangers, and Cubs have all fallen into bankruptcy over the last 3 years. You have to go back almost 18 years to the last bankruptcy that occurred in MLB (the Orioles when Eli Jacob as at the helm), and 23 prior to that with the Seattle Pilots (Bud, if you’re reading, I’m certain you’ll remember that event).
But let’s forget about the Cubs, a bankruptcy that was done as a technical move to facilitate the sale. The Rangers and Dodgers situations should make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. You know it does with most everyone at 245 Park.
In these two instances the powers of the commissioner are coming under fire. It’s not just baseball that this scares; it’s every sports league in North America.
At stake is nothing less than whether leagues have the right to control matters such as owners that are part of a collective that pushes an industry forward (Rangers) or whether leagues have the right to say that TV money can be used to make their franchises healthy or as a personal fallback plan when you’re completely irresponsible with club finances (Rangers and Dodgers).
You’re all looking out for your own self-interests, which is fine. Capitalism and baseball go hand-in-hand. But, some of you are playing Russian Roulette with holding companies and debt. Here’s a safety tip: stop it.
With the trajectory of these two cases, isn’t it just a matter of time before an owner, in his infinite arrogance and ego, would rather have MLB’s anti-trust exemption be challenged than to own up to the errors of their ways? Frank, are you so driven in your attempt to hold on to the keys of the castle that you can’t see the walls tumbling around you?
In the end, this is about the opportunity for setting precedence. Once you get into the legal sphere, you set up capacity for the courts determining how your league might be run. “Powers?” That’s relative. The courts can change self-imposed “laws” pretty quick.
You don’t need me to tell you this. I’m sure Commissioner Selig has done so at every opportunity. Still, it’s worth adding another voice to the mix. Don’t blame me for being the messenger… Blame Frank McCourt.
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Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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