- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Will the Los Angeles Dodgers be able to meet their payroll at the end of May?
Not even the commissioner claims to know. But he believes that the Dodgers' situation needs to be monitored carefully, while the financially strapped New York Mets are on the right track.
In an interview on "The Mike Lupica Show" on ESPN New York 1050, Bud Selig said Major League Baseball is "tracking the [Dodgers] situation very closely."
Selig appointed former Texas Rangers president Tom Schieffer on April 25 to oversee the team's finances. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt and ex-wife Jamie have not been able to amicably divide their assets during their divorce, leaving the team in financial peril.
"I don't know that right now," Selig said of the May payroll. "I know that story has been written a lot, but the fact is I don't know. I know our people are tracking this very closely. I have appointed ambassador Schieffer, who of course ran the Rangers for years. Tom will keep me very well posted. We've also added Dick Freeman today. He ran the Pirates and has a great accounting background. I'll be able to give you an answer as we move forward here, but at the moment, we are monitoring this situation very closely."
McCourt received a $30 million loan from Fox, the team's television network, to cover its payroll in April and up to May 15. However, McCourt reportedly doesn't have enough money to meet payroll by May 31.
He had been in the process of finalizing a $3 billion television contract with Fox -- with $285 million of that being contributed toward future payroll and other operating expenses. But Selig has yet to approve the deal, believing that McCourt will then use the money to help settle his divorce and other debts.
Selig was asked why he approved the deal that sold the Dodgers to McCourt in 2004 in the first place. Ironically, Fox had held controlling interest of the club beforehand.
"I'll tell you what happened. There's a lot of history here, which a lot of people don't seem to understand," Selig said. "There were two other bidders. Fox was anxious to get rid of the team. They were all really anxious. I'll tell you what happened. There were a couple of groups: A group led by Dave Checketts and another group. And for whatever reason, they weren't around at the end, so Fox sold the club to the McCourts and presented them to us. So this idea that we ought to examine ourselves, there was nobody else. We have a long relationship with Fox. There were no other bidders."
Selig refused to compare the Dodgers' situation with that of the Mets, who are currently looking for a partner to assume minority interest in the franchise. Mets owner Fred Wilpon and president Saul Katz are facing a lawsuit stemming from their involvement with Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff that could cost the team $1 billion.
"There are enormous complexities in both deals," Selig said. "I've read all these stories that say 'Well, they're really the same.' They're far from the same. Without going into details that haven't been announced, Fred Wilpon and I have been friends for a long time, and I have enormous respect and affection for him. But Fred Wilpon is doing what he should do. He's looking for an economic mechanism that will bring equity into the club: Sheer raw cash to put it in the most candid way. That alone is a huge difference.
"To compare one situation to the other is factually incorrect. I've talked to Fred a lot about it, and I feel very comfortable that we're gonna have a very reasoned economic solution to that problem as opposed to another.
"They're approaching it the way I would've approached it. They're looking to add equity and I don't doubt that's gonna work out. The Madoff situation? That's well in the future. But in this case, to solve the immediate problem, they're doing it."
McCourt blasted Selig's decision to take over day-to-day control of his franchise, calling the decision "un-American."
"I guess I've been commissioner so long so I'm used to everything," Selig said. "I'm cautious. I like consensus. I like to be very deliberative.
"My job is to protect the best interest in this sport, so when I do something I do it for the best interest of baseball."
Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
6mDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com
6hInterview by Buster Olney