The Brooklyn Dodgers shocked the baseball world by moving to Los Angeles after the 1957 season. The storied franchise is now causing shockwaves by struggling to survive the costly, headline-grabbing, Hollywood-style divorce of owner Frank McCourt and his wife.
In May, one month before the Dodgers declared bankruptcy, Boston Red general counsel Ed Weiss opined on the team's freefall during a freewheeling discussion during reunion weekend on the economics of baseball that also covered the expiring collective bargaining agreement (CBA), digital rights, and the state of the minor leagues.
According to reports, as of June, the Dodgers owed $75 million to 40 creditors, including Manny Ramirez and other players and legendary broadcaster Vin Scully. The team was reportedly in danger of defaulting on its payroll.
"I don't think the commissioner is going to allow anything to happen that will cause a substantial day-to-day disruption," said Weiss L'91, referencing the Texas Rangers' bankruptcy filing last year that satisfied creditors and resulted in a successful $590 million bid, led by Nolan Ryan, to buy the team.
Baseball has prospered in recent years through higher attendance and lucrative television deals and has achieved a measure of parity through revenue sharing. But this period of peace could be tested when the collective bargaining agreement expires in December.
Weiss said he expects the next agreement to contain reforms to increase competitive balance, as well as spell out ways to improve the draft and set rules for the signing of international players. He also thinks owners and the league might agree to add another wild card team to the playoffs.
There have been eight strikes in the history of major league baseball. The last one, in 1994, was damaging, as the league cancelled the postseason including the World Series.
Marv Goldklang W'63, L'66 knows something about strikes, even though he once hit four batters in a row as a pitcher for the Penn Quakers. Operator of four minor league franchises and minority owner of the New York Yankees, Goldklang benefited from the last baseball strike as attendance spiked in the minors.
However, he said, "the minor league side of me is not rooting for a strike."
He wants to see major league baseball stay healthy for good reason. MLB pays for players and the salaries of managers, coaches, and trainers, said Goldklang, who described the majors and minors as leagues apart.
"Major league baseball owners are selling principally the baseball game between the lines," he said. "At the minor league level (it) is really an entertainment product wrapped around a baseball game. What we're really selling is the atmosphere in the ballpark."
Conversely, major league baseball is selling not only television but increasingly, digital rights. Weiss, the Red Sox official, said baseball has been "way ahead" of other professional sports. He predicted that fans will be able to watch games on any device or platform, even when traveling, in the future. But the convenience could come, he said, at the cost of a higher subscription fee.