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Major League Baseball believes the Los Angeles Dodgers do not have enough money to make their end of May payroll, a person familiar with the team's finances told The Associated Press.
The person spoke Wednesday on condition of anonymity because MLB's investigation of the team's finances under owner Frank McCourt is ongoing. The Los Angeles Times first reported that the Dodgers lacked the cash to make their May 31 payroll.
The person said that if the Dodgers don't have the money, MLB would step in and make payroll.
"We've been assured that all their obligations will be met," union head Michael Weiner said in a telephone interview with the AP.
Commissioner Bud Selig and the man he appointed to monitor the Dodgers, Tom Schieffer, were to meet Thursday. On a day of dueling statements, McCourt said to the AP that he blamed the commissioner's office for any financial issues.
"The fact that we had obligations coming due in 2011 was no surprise to us and no surprise to Major League Baseball," McCourt said.
McCourt has publicly complained Selig has refused to approve a 17-year contract with Fox that could be worth more than $3 billion, a deal that would include a front-loaded payment of about $300 million. His lawyers sent a letter to MLB putting his complaints in writing, a precursor to a possible lawsuit.
"We developed a plan which eventually became the Fox transaction. We've been working on that plan, in different versions, for the last six months," McCourt said. "That is a transaction that is now completely negotiated, ready to be signed, and ready to be closed. It's the series of delays in allowing us to close this transaction that has created the problem here. Otherwise, there would be no problem here. My recent investment into the club was necessitated by the delay."
The commissioner's office effectively took control of the team on April 20, and Schieffer, the former Texas Rangers president, was appointed by Selig the following week. Schieffer must approve any transaction over $5,000. MLB is investigating the finances of the team and related entities since McCourt bought the Dodgers from the Fox division of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. in 2004.
Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for labor relations, said McCourt and the Dodgers were the cause of any difficulties. Manfred met with Schieffer on Wednesday and was to join Thursday's session with Selig.
"Any financial problems faced by the Los Angeles Dodgers are the result of decisions made by Mr. McCourt and his management team over a period of years," Manfred said in a statement. "The pace of the commissioner's investigation has been adversely impacted by the Dodgers' failure to produce documents in a timely manner and by the complexity of the financial structures surrounding the club. The commissioner intends to complete the investigation promptly but will not accept less than a thorough investigation."
The Dodgers said late Wednesday that the documents and financial information requested by MLB on April 20 had been placed in a "virtual data room" at Dodger Stadium earlier in the day and that a current financial report on the team was given to Schieffer and MLB executive vice president John McHale Jr. last week.
MLB spokesman Pat Courtney responded: "Mr. Schieffer and Mr. McHale emphatically deny that they agreed to the use of a virtual data room."
Based on an opening-day payroll of $103.8 million, the Dodgers' payroll for its major league roster in the second half of May will be approximately $8.25 million. The figure includes 16 days salary, but not any signing bonus payments that happen to fall due.
"I'm sure they'll figure something out to make payroll, so I'm not worried about it at all," Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp said.
McCourt, involved in a contentious divorce, took a $30 million loan from Fox, the team's television partner, in the weeks leading up to Selig's decision to appoint a monitor. Baseball was concerned that McCourt was removing assets from the franchise, once considered one of the premier teams in the sport.
Baseball provided loans to the Texas Rangers before Tom Hicks sold the team last year to a group that included Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. During the offseason, the commissioner's office gave the New York Mets a $25 million loan. And in 1992, the Detroit Tigers borrowed about $5 million from MLB to make payroll one month.
"Obviously, Major League Baseball, Frank and whoever else, one of them is going to take care of it either way," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said.