Today, Major League Baseball announced that it has appointed J. Thomas Schieffer to oversee Dodgers operations during this period of tense relations between baseball and Frank McCourt. Schieffer, a former President of the Texas Rangers, has a great deal of political experience as well, having served as an ambassador to both Australia and Japan under President George W. Bush. From the Commissioner:
We are very fortunate to have someone of Tom Schieffer's stature monitor the operations of the Los Angeles Dodgers on behalf of Major League Baseball. Tom is a distinguished public servant who has represented the nation with excellence and has demonstrated extraordinary leadership throughout his career. The many years that he spent managing the operations of a successful franchise will benefit the Dodgers and Major League Baseball as a whole. I am grateful for Tom's acceptance of this role.Importantly, Schieffer's role will be one of oversight, not control. The whole "takeover" thing? So last week. Bill Shaikin notes that the Commissioner was careful to comment that Schieffer's powers extend to "all of the franchise's related entities," not just the operation of the team itself.
Why does that matter? Well, to say one owned the Dodgers used to mean one owned the franchise, the Stadium, the surrounding acreage, et cetera. Under McCourt ownership, however, ownership has been splintered into a small galaxy of interrelated companies. You might recall this chart:
As you can see, things are a touch complicated. The significance of this array is that it's going to be awfully difficult and time-consuming to trace the dealings of and relationships between all these entities. That Schieffer's role extends to monitoring all aspects of Dodgers-related operations suggests the Commissioner's Office wants to keep very close tabs on how cash flows through the McCourt Enterprise.
For weeks, the speculation was that Bud Selig possessed a willingness to allow McCourt ownership to die on the vine. His passive approach apparently discarded once Frank McCourt took a $30 million personal loan to cover payroll, however, the Commissioner now appears intent on having a much better seat for the potential unraveling of the McCourt era in Los Angeles.
Last season was mostly swallowed by the circus surrounding the divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt. The 2011 season, not even a month old, is itself in grave danger of being eclipsed once again by drama in the owner's box. This time, however, it appears to be Frank McCourt and the Dodgers headed for a breakup. That is, if Commissioner Selig has anything to say about it.