Tom Verducci for Sports Illustrated yesterday:
4. The Dodgers are a drag on the game.
Through May 1, the Dodgers alone accounted for 63 percent of the decline in MLB attendance. They are down 95,843 fans through 15 dates, or 14.5 percent. One scout said before the Dodgers hired Los Angeles police to address security issues, Dodger Stadium was “the most dangerous ballpark in baseball — 30th out of 30.”
According to baseball sources, Selig seized operational control from owner Frank McCourt for issues that have been “ongoing” and harm franchise value, including the ballpark security problem and accrued debt. Baseball is concerned that McCourt’s plan to take payments from future television revenues will leave the next owner without proper operational funds. McCourt appears positioned for a protracted fight with Selig, which leaves the franchise, which hasn’t played a World Series game in 22 years, which has none of the 20 most popular players in the game according to 2010 jersey sales, in a state of uncertainty.
I feel bad for Dodgers fans. There’s nothing worse than seeing your historic, promising team get ruined by a horrible owner. It makes me happy that I wasn’t around to watch George Steinbrenner ruin the Yankees two decades ago.
MLB attendance has been down since the recession started, and its been getting worse every year. That explains a lot of the decline. But two of the biggest market clubs in the game – the Dodgers and the Mets – have declined especially hard, and a lot of it has to do with ownership. We all know at this point that the Dodgers are under MLB control in part because Frank McCourt’s divorce and poor debt practices, and the Mets are in this spot because a lot of the team’s money was invested with Bernie Madoff. Their poor decisions are a drag on the league in general.
MLB ownership is structured in silly, antiquated ways. So many teams, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, are owned by either one family or a small group of owners. This isn’t the case in all sports leagues – I know that many NHL teams are owned by corporate ownership groups, partnerships of investors, etc. MLB actively discourages such large ownership groups, or owners that would bring some competitive change to the league like Mark Cuban. One of these days, MLB is going to wake up and realize that the whole league would be a lot more valuable if it were run as a diversified, transparently accountable set of businesses, with shares owned by many people. Until that happens, we’ll continue to have ownership standing in the way of baseball.