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Detroit and Devil Rays Dodge
2002-07-12 12:24
by Mike Carminati

Detroit and Devil Rays Dodge Debts--Players Pay No Longer Problematic

Do I believe that the Tigers and Devil Rays, the two alleged teams, were not going to make payroll? Well, let's just say that I am highly suspicious. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? I don't think so. But if it were true, wouldn't we have heard or wouldn't there have been indications of their dire financial condition prior to this? Wouldn't they be selling off players and merchandise like crazy? Wouldn't they be firing the front office people?

I am doubly suspicious because this comes after a litany of highly suspicious MLB financial hand-wringing, a cross between Chicken Little and the Boy Who Cried Wolf, and because it comes right after an embarrassingly tied All-Star game, which now is conveniently pushed off the headlines of the sports pages.

The teams, however, are going to meet payroll, due to an eleventh-hour loan. According to the NY Times, Bob Dupuy, COO of MLB, claimed that it was "a matter of cash flow and ongoing expenses." Also according to the Times, the teams "secured loans using distributions from baseball's central fund as collateral. The central fund is the repository for revenue from such sources as the national television package and licensing. The commissioner's office periodically, though not on a regular schedule, distributes money from the fund to the 30 teams."

I don't think that comparing this to you or me not transferring enough cash from savings to checking to cover a check is unreasonable. By the same token, if someone were to bounce a check due to such an oversight, a) it would not mean that they were in serious financial straits nor b) would it be something they would want to, let alone think to, make public.

I don't think any club is in a such a poor financial condition that bankruptcy is looming. But what if they were? The Baltimore Orioles declared bankruptcy, were sold to Peter Angelos, and for a time were one of the flagship franchises (Until he ran them into the ground).

One item in the Times article really concerned me. It was a throw-away line at the end of the article, the type that they stick at the end because they don't know what to do with them, but they want to get them in. It was: "Teams often borrow money during the season to cover expenses or new payroll additions." So does it seem more logical that this was something that is a common occurrence that is not usually published, but Bud Selig and his coterie decided to make public to meet their interests, or were the Devil Rays and Tigers in danger of going belly up? You make the call.

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