Thursday, April 21, 2011
Updated: April 22, 1:55 PM ET
Steve Soboroff rips Bud Selig
New Los Angeles Dodgers executive Steve Soboroff came to the defense of embattled owner Frank McCourt on Thursday, blasting commissioner Bud Selig's decision to have Major League Baseball assume control of the team.
Soboroff, the Los Angeles civic leader and former mayoral candidate whom the Dodgers hired Tuesday as vice chairman, said Thursday the Dodgers are in good shape financially and Selig's move was "irresponsible" and came as "a shock."
Soboroff cited the Dodgers' potential 20 year, $3 billion television deal with Fox as evidence McCourt has sufficient funds to operate the team.
"All this momentum is building and then all of sudden this letter comes in and says, 'You don't have any money. You don't have this or that.' I think it was irresponsible," Soboroff said.
He added: "That letter was not expected. [It] was a shock. ... Let us show the exciting things that we can do, that Los Angeles can do for Major League Baseball."
The television deal, which McCourt reportedly presented to MLB representatives on April 5 as a long-term solution to the team's financial problems, has yet to be approved by Selig.
"Frank has money in the bank," Soboroff said. "He has a $3 billion deal with Fox. Not on [the credit card]. He's got it on [the ATM card]. The only thing [preventing] him from sticking [the ATM card] in the machine, is this letter.
"Can't we talk to the commissioner? Can't we talk to the people that are going to vote on this?"
Soboroff said he was unsure of McCourt's plans to challenge Selig's decision. Soboroff spoke with the owner Wednesday after the letter had been delivered and said McCourt had a "mature" response.
"He was mature," Soboroff said. "[He said:] 'What are my options? How can we get the truth out?'
"This man loves his children. This man loves Los Angeles and he loves his team. And knowing that there is this current to blow him out of town is hurtful to him. It would be to anyone."
Seven hours after Selig made his announcement Wednesday, McCourt issued a statement expressing puzzlement.
"Major League Baseball sets strict financial guidelines, which all 30 teams must follow," McCourt said. "The Dodgers are in compliance with these guidelines. On this basis, it is hard to understand the commissioner's action today."
McCourt was preparing to sue MLB, a baseball executive familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday after the news of MLB's takeover broke.
Soboroff also expressed frustration Thursday with the way Selig handled Wednesday's announcement and the lag time before appointing an overseer.
"To me, if you're going to send somebody out here to take something over, you don't write a letter that says, 'Gee whiz, here's all these problems with you and here's everything else, but don't worry, later on in the week we're going to send somebody else out,'" Soboroff said. "You do it the same day. ... What are you supposed to do for four days?"
Noting that the Dodgers' ability to operate required MLB permission, Soboroff said that "any expenditure over $5,000 has got to be approved."
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said, through a spokesman, he is "conducting business as usual with the payroll he was given at the beginning of the year." Colletti declined to say whether anyone from MLB had contacted him, but MLB vice president of public relations Pat Courtney said Thursday a conversation had taken place.
Selig's move came after the Los Angeles Times reported this week that McCourt had arranged a $30 million loan from Fox, the team's television partner. Selig has not approved a $200 million loan from Fox to the club, which was first proposed by the Dodgers last summer, and the Times said was needed to make payroll.
Baseball officials were worried money coming to the Dodgers from a deal with Fox would be redirected to McCourt personally and would not be used for team operations.
The messy divorce between McCourt and wife Jamie, the team's former chief executive officer, has been a cloud hanging over the 121-year-old franchise, though it wasn't the sole factor in Selig's decision.
"It wasn't one thing," a high-ranking baseball executive said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because only Selig was authorized to speak on the situation. "It was a series of things that just kept building."
Selig said Wednesday he will appoint his representative within a few days. Former Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals chief executive Stan Kasten is a possible candidate, as is Corey Busch, a former San Francisco Giants executive vice president, a source told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark on Thursday. Despite speculation MLB executive John McHale Jr., whom Selig appointed to monitor the Texas Rangers last season before Tom Hicks sold the team, could be a prime candidate for the position, a source close to McHale said that is unlikely. He and his family are based on the East Coast, so it would be difficult for him to assume a position that would require him to spend much of his time in California.
Former Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he talked with Selig about the move, and he hopes it produces a healthy franchise.
"It's obvious the organization needed to be tended to, paid attention to, and I know it wasn't easy for the commissioner to come up with the decision that he did," said Torre, who now serves as MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations.
In the meantime, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Thursday it's business as usual on the field for Dodgers players and coaches.
"From my standpoint, it doesn't really change anything as far as getting guys ready to play, doing the same things," Mattingly said before Thursday's 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. "Nothing's really changing as far as on-field stuff. I'm sure Ned will have to be dealing with off-field stuff. I'm not sure if that ends up working its way downhill towards the ballclub and stuff. But right now, it seems like it's business as usual for us. Going out and getting ready to play, trying to win a game."
Soboroff was brought on by the Dodgers on Tuesday with responsibility for "leading efforts to improve the fan experience at the stadium" amid security concerns at Dodger Stadium after the beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow on Opening Day. Stow remains in a medically induced coma.
Soboroff was quick to defend McCourt, whom Soboroff supported in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times last Sept. 26.
"He has made a lot of mistakes in the past," Soboroff said. "He and I are not the same person. He's made mistakes in the past, but he isn't making mistakes right now."
Soboroff is board chairman of both the Weingart Foundation and the EXPO Center in Exposition Park. He is a former president of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission, was senior adviser to former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan and made a mayoral run in 2001.
Soboroff said he thinks he can help Los Angeles by working with the Dodgers.
"I'm doing this because I think it's the best thing for me to do for L.A.," he said. "I think Frank McCourt is a different person now moving forward than he was before, or I wouldn't risk having people of your quality looking at a guy like me, who has spent my life helping big brothers and all these things, saying, 'What are you doing? Have you lost your mind?' I don't drink. I don't use drugs. I don't use steroids. I have one wife. I have five kids. I'm bald, I got stitches in my nose. I'm not doing this for any reason than to help L.A. And I'd love to show the commissioner what's going on here.
"This should be the model for other baseball teams. But Frank is being picked out. He said, 'We meet these requirements.' Other teams, like in New York, don't. He's being picked out and selected."
Soboroff added: "How do you single him out when you don't single the Mets out? Come on."
The Mets have reportedly borrowed $25 million from MLB to keep baseball operations afloat as the Wilpon family looks for someone to buy a share of the team. Ownership needs to raise funds as it battles a lawsuit by the Bernard Madoff trustee that could potentially cost the team $1 billion.
Selig bristled Thursday when asked if he sees any similarities between the Dodgers and the Mets.
"The only thing I'm going to say is that there are a lot of differences," Selig said, according to multiple media outlets. "The situations are clearly not similar, and that's in a myriad of ways. ... So if you ask me is the analogy is a proper one, I say no.
"Anyone who portrays that as the case ... is incorrect. Very incorrect. That's based on the facts, as I know them."
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and Tony Jackson, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark and The Associated Press was used in this report.