Tag:Bud Selig
Posted on: November 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:25 pm

Draft-bonus revamp is the big flaw in new CBA

Baseball does not need a salary cap. The results show it.

The owners no longer push for it, and that's probably the biggest reason labor agreements now get done so smoothly in this sport, and why the newest deal is now on track to be formally announced early next week, according to sources.

Details of the new agreement remain somewhat sketchy, but some of what we know seems positive. The revamping of draft-pick compensation for signing free agents, in particular, looks like a big improvement; the current system had become awkward and unhelpful to either side. Realignment and expansion of the playoffs are good for the game, too.

And then there are the new rules about the draft itself. Not good.

Commissioner Bud Selig and some owners wanted hard slotting for draft bonuses. While they didn't get that, the union eventually agreed to a system that will penalize teams for overspending on draft bonuses, including taking away future picks for teams that "overspend."

Really bad idea, and here are two reasons why:

First, under the current system, the draft is the best way for mid- and low-revenue teams to keep up with the big spenders. The Rays built a contender by smart drafting and smart spending, and the Nationals, Pirates and Royals are now doing the same.

Second, bigger draft bonuses help baseball as an overall business attract the best athletes available. Curbs on bonuses (combined with a lack of full scholarships given out by college baseball) push good athletes towards football and basketball, and that's bad for baseball.

More on that in a bit, but the worst part of the new system is the potential effect on mid- and low-revenue teams that have come to understand that draft spending is more cost-efficient and productive than free-agent spending.

General managers and scouting directors understand that, and it's why they're near-unanimous in behind-the-scenes opposition to the new rules. Owners who say that they want to build teams on scouting and player development (which is most of them) should understand that, but obviously don't.

Maybe they need to go and run teams themselves.

Look at the experience of Frank Coonelly.

When he worked for Selig, he was responsible for screaming at teams that spent more than baseball recommended. When he went to work for the Pirates at club president, he started to ignore the limits himself.

"It only took for him to be in the system to understand," said agent Scott Boras, who represented the Pirates' top two picks last summer, and negotiated above-slot deals for both (for a combined $13 million). "[These new rules] illustrate that those in the commissioner's office are not in the system."

Boras has data to back up a point I've made for a long time, which is that almost all of the biggest draft bonuses turned out to be good deals. The Nationals certainly don't regret the $25 million combined they spent to sign Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Imagine how much they'd need to spend to add that kind of talent through free agency.

Imagine if the Pirates (pre-Coonelly) had paid Matt Wieters $6 million out of the draft in 2007, rather than passing on him because he wanted "above-slot" money. If they had Wieters, they wouldn't have had to give Rod Barajas $4 million to be their catcher in 2012, let alone have paid Ryan Doumit almost $9 million for the last two seasons.

Selig's backers would no doubt argue that in a true slotting system, Wieters would have accepted the slot number the Pirates were offering, because he couldn't make more money by slipping to a lower-drafting but higher-paying team.

But this new system doesn't provide for true slots. If the Pirates passed on Wieters because he was too expensive (and they didn't want to risk losing a future draft pick), a team like the Yankees could sign him for big money and say, "Forget the future pick." Their future pick is going to be lower in the first round, anyway, and it's not of nearly as much value to them as the Pirates' pick is to Pittsburgh.

It's a bad system, but there are ways to fix it.

One possibility: Allow each team one exception pick a year, where the bonus wouldn't count against draft-pick penalties. Or even allow an exception every other year.

Or, if you really want to allow the draft to serve the teams that need it most, allow an exception to teams drafting higher.

The point is, the new system already needs fixing -- and it can be fixed.

Baseball needs to allow the draft to benefit the teams that need it most, and it needs to allow the system to benefit the sport, by helping to attract the best talent.

Without significant signing bonuses, Bubba Starling is playing football at Nebraska, instead of playing baseball for the Royals. And Archie Bradley is playing football at Oklahoma, instead of playing baseball for the Diamondbacks.

Baseball is better for having signed them, and two teams that need to develop through scouting and the draft are better for it, too.

The new system isn't a disaster, but it's not good. The bigger news, though, is that baseball once again has labor peace.

And no salary cap.

Some fans, especially fans of small-market teams, remain convinced that a cap would help. But baseball has proven that it doesn't need one.

While it's true that big-spending teams enjoy an advantage, it's also true that smart management is even more important. The low-spending Rays have made the playoffs three of the last four years (same as the Yankees, and one more time than the Red Sox).

With no cap, baseball has had nine different champions in the last 11 years. And the Cardinals, one of the two repeat champs, did it without a super-high payroll.

The Yankees annually spend far more than everyone else, yet the Yankees have won just one of those last 11 World Series.

Good thing, too. Because if the Yankees were winning every year, you can bet that the other owners would have been pushing for a cap.

Instead, the owners pushed through a new deal that has some pluses -- and one significant minus.

Posted on: July 12, 2011 5:38 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2011 7:24 pm

Realignment is on the way

PHOENIX -- More and more, it's clear that realignment will come to baseball within the next two years, almost certainly resulting in a format that would see 15 teams in each league, with some interleague play on every day of the season.

In separate Tuesday sessions with the Baseball Writers Association of America, both commissioner Bud Selig and players union head Michael Weiner expressed an openness to a 15-15 plan, with Weiner saying that players have favored it for a decade or more. The players and owners have been discussing realignment, along with schedule and playoff reform, as part of negotiations for the new basic agreement.

Both Selig and Weiner ruled out what Selig called "massive realignment," which would involve multiple teams changing leagues, or a system that basically does away with the traditional leagues.

The 15-15 plan would require at least one team (almost certainly either the Astros or Diamondbacks) to change leagues.

It seems now that realignment won't come in time for the 2012 season, although Weiner said even that isn't totally impossible. But people in the game believe that realignment for 2013 is almost a given.

How would it look? Probably a lot like the plan I detailed in a column last month.

Why will it happen? Many reasons, but fairness is at the top of the list.

"Fundamentally, it's arithmetic," Weiner said. "[The players] take the competition very seriously. They want the competition to be fair. I know why 16-14 came about, but it's like the U.S. Open, if you had a different number of players on the two sides of the draw."

Under the current format, the National League Central has six teams, while the American League West has four (and the other four divisions have five teams apiece). By moving the Astros from the NL Central to the AL West, or by moving the Diamondbacks from the NL West to the AL West and then shifting the Astros to the NL West, you would have six five-team divisions, and you'd have a schedule that makes much more sense than the one in use now.

Both Selig and Weiner indicated that the details of realignment have not yet been decided, and Selig insisted that a resolution and an announcement are not "imminent." But with both sides so open to it, it's hard to believe now that it won't happen.

What won't happen, it seems, is a move to unify the designated hitter rule. Both Selig and Weiner suggested that with limited realignment and no significant increase in interleague play (most likely, each team would play no more than 30 interleague games in a 162-game schedule), the current system of a DH in one league and not in the other would not be changed.

"It would take some type of catalytic event to deal with that issue," Selig said.

While using the DH in both leagues (or in neither league), would make more sense, there's far too much resistance to that change.

"Good luck doing that," one baseball official said.

One change that could be made: A reverse use of the DH rule in interleague games, with the DH used in National League parks, and with National League (no DH) rules used in American League parks.

Another change that is coming, without a doubt: Adding one playoff team per league, with a either a play-in game or play-in series involving the two wild-card teams. The momentum seems now to be heading towards going with the one-game play-in -- and that's a good thing.

The playoff change could well happen in 2012. Realignment may wait for 2013.

But all the momentum now is in favor of it happening.

Posted on: June 20, 2011 4:59 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2011 7:14 pm

More trouble for McCourt as Bud nixes deal

Frank McCourt's slim chances of holding onto the Dodgers keep getting slimmer.

As expected, commissioner Bud Selig has turned down McCourt's proposed television deal with Fox, which means that McCourt's divorce settlement with wife Jamie is now "null and void" (meaning the divorce is back in court), and also that McCourt's money problems are neither null nor void.

The Fox deal would have provided McCourt with more than $300 million in up-front money, enabling him to keep the Dodgers running. Without that money, there's a very real chance that McCourt won't be able to meet his June 30 payroll, and that baseball will step in to pay the players, keep the Dodgers running -- and then take over the team with the intention of forcing a sale.

There's also a real chance that McCourt will respond with a lawsuit, and McCourt seemed to hint at that with a counter-statement issued two hours after Selig's official rejection. If he sues -- or even if he doesn't -- McCourt will claim that Selig's rejection of the Fox deal was unfair.

Selig, though, has in effect claimed that the proposed deal was unfair -- unfair to the Dodgers, to any future Dodgers owner and to other owners whose interest includes making sure TV rights are never undervalued.

In a statement issued late Monday afternoon, Selig said that he was uncomfortable with the "further diversion of Dodger assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt."

"As I have said before, we owe it to the legion of loyal Dodger fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future," Selig said in his statement. "This transaction would not accomplish these goals.”

According to the terms of the divorce settlement (filed last Friday), only $235 million of the $385 million Fox payment (which is described as a loan) would actually go to the Dodgers. And even out of that $235 million, as much as 10 percent ($23.5 million) could go directly to McCourt, theoretically to repay personal money that he had "loaned" to the Dodgers.

That means that $173.5 million of the $385 million (45 percent) could have been funneled directly to the McCourts and their lawyers, even though McCourt had pledged last month that 100 percent of the money would go to run the Dodgers.

The divorce settlement, of course, no longer holds. The McCourts made their settlement contingent on Selig's approval of the deal, even though it was obvious by then that the commissioner had no intention of approving it.

Without a settlement, and without the Fox money, it's hard to see how McCourt can hang on, which is why it seems more and more possible that he will eventually head back to court to try to save his ownership.

"We plan to explore vigorously our options and remedies," McCourt said in his statement Monday.

McCourt has claimed that the Fox deal would be worth more than $3 billion over 17 years, but the Los Angeles Times reported that because of the way it was structured, baseball considered it to be worth only a little more than half that. Even if McCourt actually did get $3 billion, it's very possible that he was underselling the rights for his personal gain; agent Scott Boras told the Orange County Business Journal earlier this month that baseball thinks those rights should be worth $4.5-5 billion.

"And I agree with them," Boras told the paper.

McCourt continues to claim that the deal would be good for the Dodgers and said in his statement Monday that Selig's rejection of the deal "is not only a disappointment, but worse, is potentially destructive to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball."

He said the deal would have made "the Dodgers financially secure for the long term and one of the best capitalized teams in Major League Baseball."

McCourt also repeated his previous positions, insisting that he had done everything MLB asked him to do in regards to the deal, including coming to last week's agreement with Jamie, in which she agreed not to contest the Fox deal.

In McCourt's view, baseball gives him a test, and then when he passes it, comes up with another test. In baseball's view, McCourt continues to operate with only his interests in mind and ignores the long-term interests of the Dodgers or of the game in general.

In baseball's view, McCourt was presumably willing to accept this deal because it was one of his few remaining ways -- maybe his only remaining way -- to keep the cash-poor Dodgers solvent. Even the stripped-down payment would have allowed McCourt to easily make payroll for months to come, and presumably would have taken away Selig's best case for seizing the team and forcing its sale.

Now the countdown to the June 30 payroll will resume, but it's not even clear that will be decisive. Even if baseball does take over, the possibility of a McCourt lawsuit would remain.

As I wrote last week, the circus goes on.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 6, 2011 9:32 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 9:42 pm

Selig: No 'significant changes' on plays at plate

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- In the two weeks since Buster Posey was hurt, Giants manager Bruce Bochy and others have made strong calls for rules changes on plays at the plate.

Monday night, commissioner Bud Selig said he doesn't expect the rules to be changed.

"We're glad to talk, glad to revisit," Selig said between picks of baseball's draft. "But I don't see any significant changes."

Selig said he has spoken about the play many times with Joe Torre, his new executive vice president. He said he understands the concerns the Giants have, and he praised the Giants for the statement they issued in response to general manager Brian Sabean's inflammatory comments last week.

"I appreciate the concern," Selig said. "I'm saddened by Buster Posey [getting hurt], or by anyone else."

Selig, who has pushed a (sometimes ignored) unofficial slotting system for draft-pick bonuses, said again Monday that he wants a hard-slotting system in the new Basic Agreement being negotiated this summer.

Asked if he's confident that baseball can get the players' union to agree to a hard-slotting system, the commissioner responded: "I'm confident that we need it."

Selig also called again for a worldwide draft.

Selig played down last week's Los Angeles Times report that nine teams are out of compliance with MLB's debt-service rules, saying it was not a concern because most of those teams were close to being in compliance.

For more draft coverage from CBSSports.com, click here
Category: MLB
Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:56 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 2:59 pm

McCourts take battle with MLB to Twitter

Wednesday, they dueled by press conference and press release.

Thursday, they moved on to Twitter.

If anyone doubts that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt plans to continue his fight with commissioner Bud Selig over control of the team, check out McCourt's son Drew, who tweets at @drewmccourt.

Thursday morning, Drew McCourt went to Twitter to take issue with Rob Manfred, the Major League Baseball executive vice president. Wednesday, Manfred issued a press release taking issue with Frank McCourt's characterization of their meeting.

"Recap of meeting with baseball was 100% accurate," Drew McCourt tweeted. "Manfred's comment not truthful."

Earlier Thursday, Drew McCourt told a questioner on Twitter that the McCourts "have never been much good at PR."

So now they're trying Twitter.

Posted on: April 27, 2011 7:47 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 9:11 pm

One thing we can all agree on: It's chaos

We want this all to end. We want Frank McCourt to go away.

And we wanted to think that baseball's decision last week to basically take control of the Dodgers was, as CBSSports.com's Scott Miller put it, "a beautiful sight for Dodgers fans."

Then McCourt opened his mouth. And that, I'm telling you, is only a beautiful sight for lawyers.

Some things McCourt said Wednesday seemed (to a non-lawyer, anyway) to make sense. Some things seemed (as usual) nutty.

But the worst part of McCourt's press conference/conference call was what it means:

This Dodger saga isn't over. There's a chance it's not even close to being over.

And that's bad news for all of us (except, maybe, for McCourt's lawyers).

For now, McCourt and Major League Baseball are feuding by press conference and press release.

He says commissioner Bud Selig turned down his proposed new television deal with Fox. Baseball says it only delayed a decision until it can investigate the Dodgers and their finances.

He says Tom Schieffer is coming in as a "receiver," and that MLB is trying to "seize" his franchise. Baseball says Schieffer is a "monitor," and says there has been "no seizure."

"There is chaos that's been created by this appointment," McCourt said.

I think we can all agree -- on the first three words.

There's chaos here. That's for sure.

At the same time that baseball was releasing the statement saying "no seizure," Schieffer was at a press conference in Los Angeles, saying that what Selig had done was "take control" of the franchise, and that "I am his representative."

The Dodgers are a mess. They were a mess when Frank and Jamie McCourt were together, and they've been a bigger mess since they decided to divorce. They've been a mess ever since Selig and baseball's other owners decided to invite the McCourts into their little group.

And now we know this mess isn't going away anytime soon.

"Nobody handed the Dodgers to me, and nobody is going to take it away," McCourt said, in a sentence that may be as factually misleading as it is grammatically incorrect.

McCourt's immediate problem, even more than Schieffer's presence in his town (and presumably in his front office), is that as long as Selig holds up the new television contract, the Dodgers don't have access to all that much-needed cash.

McCourt kept insisting that he's being treated different from other owners, and he kept mentioned that the Dodgers have complied with all MLB rules, and also that they haven't taken any money from baseball's emergency fund.

He didn't mention the Mets by name. He didn't need to.

For all Selig's insistence last week that the Dodgers and Mets were "clearly not similar . . . in a myriad of ways," even many people in baseball believe that the biggest difference is that Selig likes Fred Wilpon, the Mets' principal owner, and detests McCourt.

It was telling that Selig didn't show up for McCourt's meeting with other MLB officials on Wednesday in New York, and even more telling that McCourt answered a question about the Mets by saying, "I suspect that commissioner Selig calls the other 29 owners back."

Selig wants McCourt out. That's obvious.

So do a whole bunch of others, including (we'd suspect) nearly every Dodgers fan.

We want Frank McCourt to go away. We want this all to end.

And he still wants to plead his case.

It's chaos, that's for sure. And it's not done yet.

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 27, 2011 6:35 pm
Edited on: April 27, 2011 7:16 pm

McCourt vows to keep Dodgers

Frank McCourt won't leave quietly.

Maybe that shouldn't come as a surprise, but the Dodgers owner came out swinging Wednesday afternoon, insisting that commissioner Bud Selig has been unfair in failing to approve a proposed new deal with Fox for Dodger television rights, and also in appointing Tom Schieffer as the Dodgers' "monitor."

"Nobody handed the Dodgers to me, and nobody is going to take it away," McCourt said in a combination press conference/conference call, after meeting with Major League Baseball officials in New York. "I'm not going anywhere."

McCourt wouldn't directly answer a question on whether he will sue baseball, either in an effort to get his television deal approved or simply to keep full control of the team. But he made it clear he plans to fight baseball's effort to oversee the Dodgers.

McCourt described Schieffer as a "receiver" rather than a monitor, and said, "I'm not going to accept that."

He accused baseball of trying to take over the Dodgers, and called that "un-American."

"It's not appropriate for somebody's property to be seized just because they got divorced," McCourt said.

In a statement issued shortly after McCourt's call, baseball disputed two of his major points, saying that commissioner Bud Selig had not "vetoed" McCourt's new deal with Fox, and also that "there has been no seizure" of the Dodgers. Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president of labor relations, said McCourt was simply told that there would be no decision on the Fox deal until baseball finishes investigating the Dodgers and their finances.

McCourt said the new deal would have given Fox the Dodger broadcast rights for the next 17 years, and would have provided $300 million that he said would have been fully invested in the team. He said he offered to put in writing that he wouldn't keep any of that money for personal purposes.

McCourt also said that he has apologized to commissioner Bud Selig, and that he apologized to Dodger fans.

"I look forward to showing the Los Angeles Dodgers community what I'm made of," he said.

Category: MLB
Posted on: April 22, 2011 10:49 am

A vote, again, for a wild-card play-in game

No need to make this a long argument. I've made it before, and so have others.

But with Bud Selig saying again that he expects expanded playoffs in 2012, here's hoping (again) that baseball goes with a one-game play-in between the two wild-card teams in each league.

The benefits:

-- Is there anything more exciting than one game, winner-take-all? Think Game 7, but also think Tigers-Twins 2009, or Twins-White Sox 2008, or Padres-Rockies 2007.

-- By making it one game, win-or-go-home for the wild cards, you put a real premium on winning the division. You make the 162-game schedule more meaningful, and avoid what happened last September in the American League East, where the Yankees and Rays were both basically assured of making the playoffs, and didn't really care whether they won the division or not.

-- By making it one game, you give the division winners a short break (not too long), and you force the wild-card teams to use their best available pitchers to try to win that game. You put the wild-card teams at a real disadvantage in the Division Series and, again, make the 162-game schedule more meaningful by rewarding division winners.

The argument against:

Baseball isn't about one game, and after playing 162, you shouldn't face elimination in a single game.

Fine. Win your division, and you don't face a one-game playoff.

Category: MLB
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