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McCourt won’t let Dodgers become free spenders

by Tracy Ringolsby
February 14, 2004

DENVER—The sale of the Dodgers to Boston businessman Frank McCourt was a relief for the rest of the National League West.

Major League Baseball had concerns about his lack of financial resources, and McCourt was forced to keep News Corp., as a minority owner to make sure MLB’s debt-ratio formula was met.

The four other teams in the NL West are happy to see an ownership group with limited financial resources take over the Dodgers.

The biggest nightmare for the rest of the division was the potential of a free-spending owner in a rich market like Los Angeles.

No one else in the division has the ability to spend freely. Consider that San Francisco has to ante up $20 million a year to pay off debt on its stadium. Colorado is limited by smaller radio-TV-rights potential than most big league cities. Arizona is faced with paying off nearly $200 million of deferred money. And San Diego is in a limited enough financial region that even with a new stadium in 2004, general manager Kevin Towers couldn’t budget past the upper $50 million payroll range.

McCourt can’t come in and buy his way out of the financial mess the Dodgers are in. His finances will be committed to plans to build an NFL stadium adjacent to Dodger Stadium.

Not Going Anywhere

The search has only just begun for new ownership in Milwaukee, where commissioner Bud Selig, whose interest in the team has been in a blind trust since he became commissioner, has decided to divest his family’s interest in the franchise.

Selling the team enhances Selig’s ability to remain commissioner when his current term expires. And despite Selig saying a year ago he didn’t intend to serve a second term, those who have known Selig over the years have been convinced since day one that Selig would remain in the job as long as he physically is capable.

Remember, Selig is the man who, after Fay Vincent was forced out, told then-Rangers owner George W. Bush that he wasn’t sure the game could afford a commissioner with direct ownership ties, which prompted Bush to run for governor and then President.

And while he was serving as interim commissioner during the search for Vincent’s replacement, Selig initially professed no interest in assuming the job on a permanent basis. Truth is, Selig wanted the job and he’s been the right person for the job.

Nobody ever really believed the commissioner was an independent voice.

Around The Leagues

Baseball lost one of its best international ambassadors in mid-January. Angel Vazquez died in his adopted home of Mexico from cancer. Vazquez spent nearly 50 years in baseball, beginning in his native Cuba with the Havana Sugar Kings in 1950. After Fidel Castro took over Cuba, Vazquez moved to Mexico, where he served as general manager of the Mexico City Tigers and eventually owned the Mexico City Reds.

Vazquez sold the Reds in 1981, joining the White Sox as their director of Latin operations. That’s where he became acquainted with Dave Dombrowski, who took Vazquez with him first to Montreal and later to Florida.

Vazquez was the ultimate gentleman, and a great promoter. Among his many non-baseball endeavors was bringing the Ice Capades to various cities in Mexico.

• Several readers have hit on a key part of the argument for Pete Rose not being enshrined in the Hall of Fame. They are quick to point out that Rose is a part of baseball history for being the game’s all-time leader in hits. His accomplishment is duly noted in black and white, and in fact many items that Rose used in his career are displayed in the Hall of Fame. Rose does not need to be enshrined to be given recognition.

• No doubt Boston is a baseball town. Not only are the Red Sox threatening to have every seat in Fenway Park sold before the season starts, but Game Seven of the American League Championship Series with the Yankees, a Thursday night game that lasted past midnight, had a bigger TV rating in Boston than the Super Bowl, which the New England Patriots won. The Red Sox-Yankees game had a 53.9 rating compared to 52.2 for the Patriots-Panthers Super Bowl.

• With the sale of the Dodgers, three corporate ownerships remain in baseball: Atlanta (Time-Warner), Toronto (Rogers Cable) and Chicago Cubs (Tribune Co.).

Tracy Ringolsby is the national baseball writer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. You can contact him by sending e-mail to tracyringolsby@baseballamerica.com.

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