Friday, April 29, 2011
Tom Schieffer won't deny trades
By Ramona Shelburne
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt still has the ability to approve or veto trades, according to Tom Schieffer, the former Texas Rangers president whom baseball commissioner Bud Selig appointed this week to oversee the franchise.
Schieffer said that he explained to general manager Ned Colletti that he should follow the same chain of command he always has, and operate within the same budget he was given by McCourt at the beginning of the year.
Under the conditions imposed by Selig's decision, Schieffer must approve any transaction over $5,000, so he ultimately holds the final word in every major decision the club makes. Still, he made it clear that McCourt still has a voice in team decisions.
"What I explained to [Colletti] is, 'You go through exactly the same process you're going through right now. You're working on a budget. You get everybody else to sign off that they're willing to do something beyond that. And then that's when you come see me,'" Schieffer said. "But I'm not the person that you'll go around everybody else to come see. I'm not here for that."
Asked if one of those people Colletti would get to "sign off" on a trade is McCourt, Schieffer said: "It's whoever they want to. I don't have any objection to that."
And if McCourt vetoed that trade, could Colletti then ask Schieffer for approval?
"No," Schieffer said. "He doesn't go to me. It's 'No.' What I'm saying is that everybody has to sign off on it, within the organization, and then they come to me if it's outside the budget. If it's inside the budget, it's inside the budget and they go forward."
Since being appointed to oversee the Dodgers on Monday, Schieffer has only been able to do a preliminary analysis of the club's financial situation and meet with key club officials.
He met with McCourt on Friday and described the meeting as "fine."
One of his first orders of business was to sign checks for this week's payroll, which he finished in a couple of hours on Friday.
He declined comment on whether the Dodgers will be able to meet their payroll obligations in the future, as McCourt has suggested could become an issue if Selig doesn't approve a $3 billion television rights deal with Fox.
"I don't want to get into that right now," he said.
"This is a pretty complicated situation, as often is the case when you get into difficulty like this, so you have to get from here to there, but we don't know how far there is right now."
Schieffer said his investigation into the Dodgers' finances would be limited to the franchise and not McCourt's personal life.
That task is complicated, however, by the way McCourt has structured his holdings. As such, Schieffer said he was likely to employ a group of accountants to help him understand the Dodgers' financial situation before determining a course of action.
"It's very complicated," Schieffer said. "It's something where you have to follow the dollar from place to place."
Thus far, McCourt has been "cooperative" with him, even if "he doesn't think there's a need for major league oversight," Schieffer said.
That seemed to be a marked improvement from the potentially hostile working relationship portended by McCourt's contentious remarks on Wednesday, which held up Schieffer's introductory news conference in Los Angeles for 30 minutes.
At the time, Schieffer dismissed any potential conflict by saying that "I've dealt with the North Koreans" as United States ambassador to Japan and Australia.
Friday he joked that his meeting with McCourt was "easier than the North Koreans. But they set a pretty high standard."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist ESPNLosAngeles.com.