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Volume 24 No. 160


MLB late Thursday in Delaware bankruptcy court filed a formal objection to Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt's proposed interim financing from Highbridge Capital Management, saying he has a "substantial personal financial stake" in the deal. In addition to arguing that MLB's own interim financing proposal is financially superior, the league said in the filing McCourt would "personally benefit" by an undisclosed amount, creating an inherent conflict of interest. The amount, along with several other financial points surrounding the rival proposals, are redacted in the file. But more broadly, MLB claims McCourt is simply continuing the use of excess amounts of Dodgers assets for his personal use, precisely the kind of behavior that led the club to declare bankruptcy. "Clearly, Mr. McCourt has not allowed these bankruptcy cases to change his practice of using [the Dodgers] as his personal piggy-bank." Another sentence in the filing begins, "At the very same time that Mr. McCourt was negotiating the Highbridge [debtors-in-posssesion] financing --," but the rest of the paragraph is redacted. Bankruptcy court Judge Kevin Gross on Wednesday will hold a hearing in Wilmington to rule on the interim financing bids. As it has in the past, MLB claims its interim financing proposal is superior to Highbridge's due the lack of an additional $15M in fees and financing costs in the Highbridge bid, and an interest rate three percentage points lower.

OUTLINES MISMANGEMENT OF TEAM: MLB in the objection also extensively outlines alleged mismanagement of the Dodgers by McCourt, including the extraction of a redacted sum of money in direct and indirect payments to him and his family. The sum is believed to be into nine figures. Additionally, the filing outlines the beating of MLB Giants fan Bryan Stow in the Dodger Stadium parking lot, an incident that "highlighted the apparent deficiencies in security provided by [the Dodgers], which compromised the safety of fans and patrons to the detriment of the Dodgers and Major League Baseball. This deficiency was further exacerbated by the extraordinary number of complaints received by the Commissioner." MLB's filing also outlines an ongoing dispute regarding league-appointed club monitor, Tom Schieffer. The Dodgers claim the bankruptcy rules enjoin Schieffer from continuing his duties, a position MLB challenged in a letter to McCourt's attorneys. But the league said it has received no response.

FedExField Senior VP/Operations Lon Rosenberg said that the Redskins "had been unable to sell season tickets for the thousands of seats" they removed from their stadium this summer, a "rare admission by the franchise that demand for its in-stadium product has declined," according to Steinberg & Jones of the WASHINGTON POST. Rosenberg said that the "approximately 10,000 removed upper deck seats had been offered to fans on the team’s season ticket waiting list, and that 'these are seats that they were not wanting to buy.'" Rosenberg described the removed seats as “the least desirable seats in the stadium,” but added the decision to remove them “has nothing to do with ticket sales.” Rosenberg: “It’s about making a more fan-friendly experience on game days. There will be less traffic, shorter lines and again, enable us to better serve our fans.” Rosenberg estimated that the capacity of FedExField for the '11 season "will be around 82,000 -- down from 91,704, which had made it the second-largest capacity in the NFL." When the team began removing seats this spring, the Redskins "published a story on their official Web site saying they would be replaced by standing-room only party decks." But Rosenberg said that the team "hasn't decided what, if anything, will replace" the seats. Redskins Senior VP Tony Wyllie Thursday said that the team "still wanted to install the decks but had not made a final decision and needed to apply for permits for that phase of the renovation project" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/15).

The Liberty in their first year playing at Prudential Center have “struggled to recoup much of the fan base that consistently made” Madison Square Garden one of the "highest-attended WNBA arenas," according to Brett LoGiurato of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. The Liberty are playing the next three seasons in Prudential Center while MSG undergoes renovations. The team, which had "paid attendance averages of 11,926 fans per game" in its first 14 years at MSG, has “averaged 8,255 fans this season at the Prudential Center.” Still, the Liberty and the city of Newark “are keeping an open mind that this is a partnership that will pay dividends for both by the end” of ’13. The Liberty want to “leave Newark with a larger fan base -- and leave a lasting effect on a community that is filled with girls basketball players.” Newark Mayor Cory Booker said that he wants to “impress the WNBA to an extent that a team could become a more permanent fixture in the Prudential Center after the Liberty’s stay concludes.” MSG Sports President Scott O’Neil said, “We are very happy with where we are. It’s been really positive. But we’d like more fans.” The Liberty on Wednesday saw their “largest crowd of the season for a noon tipoff.” More than “14,000 fans attended the Liberty’s win over Atlanta, thanks to the team’s promotion of inviting local children’s camps to the arena.” The game marked “the largest crowd in the WNBA this season.” The Liberty have “donated tickets to 64 non-profit organizations in the surrounding community.” They have held a “Liberty Day” in Newark already, and “two more in Jersey City and Paterson are planned” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/15). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Chris Herring notes the team’s “marketing vehicle has made appearances at more than 30 local summer events, including basketball tournaments, street fairs, concerts and block parties.” In addition, the team “has advertised ticket promotions on Hot 97, the area’s most popular hip-hop station,” and provided Booker 15,000 tickets “for him to distribute.” Herring notes the Liberty's "decline comes as the WNBA as a whole is seeing a 4% jump in attendance" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/15).

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that the Tuesday night trade of P Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers “is not an indication the team is throwing up a white flag for the season.” USA TODAY’s Stephen Borelli notes in trading Rodriguez, the “financially troubled Mets are free of a burdensome contract option and have more money to use on an important free agent this offseason.” Rodriguez’ contract includes a $17.5M “vesting option for 2012” if he finishes 55 games this season, and he “is on pace to do so, having already finished 34.” Borelli notes N.Y. media outlets “are speculating what the Mets’ ridding of the K-Rod clause means for signing free-agent-to-be Jose Reyes this offseason” (USA TODAY, 7/15). Braves TV analyst Ron Gant said of the Mets, "They may not be waving the white flag, but they sure have that flag out. ... They’re going to have to let Carlos Beltran walk. They just don’t have the money to be able to sign all these guys" ("MLB Tonight," MLB Network, 7/14).

LOOKING FOR MOOR: In San Diego, Tim Sullivan notes although Padres Vice Chair & CEO Jeff Moorad has “repeatedly said his ownership group would reinvest every dollar beyond expenses in improving the club and Petco Park, his installment purchase of the franchise, his 27th-ranked payroll, and Forbes magazine’s calculation that the Padres led baseball last year in operating profit has created doubt about the depths of his pockets and his priorities.” Sullivan: “In fairness, the Forbes’ figures do not include debt service on Petco Park that Moorad has pegged at $17 million a year, while estimates of the Padres’ revenue-sharing proceeds are unofficial and unconfirmed.” Still, “in the context of the club’s post-Petco cost-cutting, any deals that trim payroll will be widely seen as suspicious,” even if “they happen to be the right moves to make" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/15).

ON THE SHOULDERS OF A BLUE JAY: In Toronto, Cathal Kelly notes a “great deal of effort goes into marketing” the Blue Jays to the “22,000 or so who show up on an average evening.” In the “absence of a steady winner,” that effort is “clearly not working.” Kelly: “So why not frame the bulk of your budget around your prime sales asset,” Blue Jays RF Jose Bautista. Kelly writes, “There is no Bautista Bleachers or Bautista Bomb-Zone or whatever other cheeseball alliteration you prefer. … You start rebuilding live baseball in Toronto on Bautista’s shoulders, because he’s the only factor mitigating in your favour right now” (TORONTO STAR, 7/15).

BRIAN'S SONG: Yankees GM Brian Cashman's contract expires after this season, and his future was debated on ESPN's "PTI" Thursday. Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said the interesting aspect is "why he would want to leave after 14 years as the GM." Ryan: "George Steinbrenner is dead and he was basically his surrogate father … and without the protection of George Steinbrenner, I frankly think he would like to go.” Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard called Cashman "one of the highest-profile free agents this winter." But he added, "I do wonder how much of a skill Brian Cashman has of being able to see things that other smart people in other front offices do” ("PTI," ESPN, 7/14).

YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski cited NBA sources as saying that former Hornets GM Jeff Bower, 76ers GM Ed Stefanski and Spurs Assistant GM Dennis Lindsey have "emerged as frontrunners" for the Raptors GM job. Sources said that "no formal interviews have been conducted," but Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo "has started the process of getting permission from teams to talk to candidates." It "may not be until August that Colangelo starts formal interviews for the job." Wojnarowski noted Colangelo has said that he is "willing to cede the GM title for the right candidate" (, 7/14).

: In Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi reports a "wide-ranging survey of 545 Pennsylvanians by Public Policy Polling" found that the Penguins were the state's "most popular team among fans ages 18 to 29 -- a coveted demographic among advertisers." The Penguins received 27% of the vote in the demo, with the Steelers second at 22%. Thirty-eight percent of all polled chose the Steelers as the most popular team in the state, followed by the Phillies at 22%. The Penguins and Eagles each received 12% of the vote, while the Pirates received 6% (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/15).

PACKING A BITE: T'Wolves President Chris Wright said that the team "has sold 7,000 new season ticket packages in the past three weeks, following the signing" of G Ricky Rubio (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/15).