Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Fans at Mercy of Owners’ Greed

There’s no question that there are major flaws in the world of American professional sports, especially when it comes to ownership. From Peter Angelos of the Baltimore Orioles to Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, there are numerous examples of teams that have organizational chaos as a result of their owner’s actions. Today, we can safely add another team to that list: the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The first signs of danger appeared a couple years ago with the divorce of the family who had owned the Dodgers. Soon, fans began to speculate about the team being dragged into the legal wrangling of the McCourt family, which would put any future plans in jeopardy. Although this never occurred and the problem was seemingly resolved, fears and worries soon returned.

This season, the Dodgers have been overcome with logistical, organizational and — according to Major League Baseball and its commissioner Bud Selig — financial problems. It began on Opening Day, when a San Francisco Giants fan was brutally attacked in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium. As the Dodgers lacked a head of security and necessary fan safety protocols, this set off numerous alarms. Less than a month later, MLB appointed former Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer to run the day-to-day operations of the team. Clearly, the Dodgers have major problems that they need to address.

Despite whatever Frank McCourt might say, Selig was right to have MLB take over the day-to-day operations of the Dodgers. Despite commissioner Selig’s intervention, the financial picture is still extremely grim for the Dodgers. A week ago, McCourt had to take out a $20 million loan from Fox. There are even talks about a possible $200 million loan needed to keep the club afloat. To provide some perspective, the Dodgers were bought by McCourt in 2004 for a price of $430 million.

To some extent, it might be considered permissible to let a failing MLB franchise sort its own problems out. However, if that team continues to spend excessive amounts of money that it doesn’t have on its payroll — as the Dodgers were doing — then something more drastic is needed. As professional baseball is composed of privately owned teams, there are bound to be flaws. Cases like the Dodgers illustrate this reality. However, there is a safety net in the overall organization of Major League Baseball.

As those in charge of maintaining America’s national pastime, MLB has not only the ability but also the duty to step in and prevent teams from going under. Beyond the direct economic impacts, the modern-day failure of a baseball franchise could have drastic effects on a devoted fan base. No loyal fan wants to see his or her team struggling to survive. I’m sure that the Dodgers would rather see their team suffer through a few Pittsburgh Pirates-esque years of on-field failure than see the team leave town or disintegrate due to financial chaos and confusion. The latter was a real possibility under the Dodgers’ financial circumstances.

Thankfully, the commissioner stepped in and appointed an MLB executive to save the team. Although there might be some conflict between McCourt and the new management team, in the end, the team will be stronger because of this move. I doubt that MLB would follow such a drastic course if it wasn’t completely necessary.

Unfortunately for Dodgers fans, McCourt seems like he won’t go down without a fight. As the owner claims that he won’t let Selig take the Dodgers from him, rumors have begun flying about a possible lawsuit on behalf of McCourt against Major League Baseball. Hopefully the courts will side in favor of Bud Selig and MLB, but if not, this raises a dangerous precedent for the future of baseball.

We’ve seen numerous past examples when an overly reckless manager willingly endangers a professional sports team. Luckily, at that point, the league usually steps in and voids trades, prevents excessive spending and in this case, takes over day-to-day operations. However, recent events in the world of sports might signal a shift in the normal owner-league relationship.

With NFL and NBA lockouts looming, owners are redefining their roles. Although the lockouts deal with player-owner relationships, they do prove that owners have become increasingly willing to endanger their teams to promote their own financial gains and benefits. Just like Frank McCourt, owners seem to have no problem risking it all, as long it benefits their wallets. Just ask the Maloof brothers, the owners of the Sacramento Kings, who might end up relocating to Anaheim for greater spotlight and, of course, increased revenues. This is a new age for owners, and unfortunately, a new age for fans as well.

Steven Keithley is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. After the Whistle appears in every other Friday edition of Hoya Sports.

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