Sports

Picking Splinters: Summertime Mailbag

Bud Selig is blocking the sale of the L.A. Dodgers’ TV rights to FOX for $3 billion dollars. Uh, why? Wasn’t it just yesterday that there were public concerns the team may not be able to pay its players? Wouldn’t this deal give the team more than enough financial security until the team’s owners, the McCourts can get the team sold? What’s with the hold up?

Rupert M.

The La-La Land Down Under

I know it seems like a contradiction. By holding up the sale Selig is actually depriving the team of some badly needed cash, but the situation is greatly complicated by the McCourts’ contentious divorce. Under the current terms of the rights sale a large chunk of the TV rights deal would go directly to Frank McCourt and pay for his lawyer fees and divorce settlement. That kind of cash diversion from the Dodgers is nothing new under the McCourts’ ownership, as they’ve milked the franchise drier than a Utah pre-school to add to their family’s wealth, according to numerous reports.

What Selig’s doing by holding up the sale is making sure no more of the money that should be spent on the operation of the Dodgers gets spent on Frank and Jamie McCourt instead. I have to think that the league would step in before the team was ever unable to meet its payroll, so that’s a secondary concern, if not exactly what Selig wants. But by earmarking all of the TV cash for the team, Selig is helping restore some of the damage caused under the disastrous stewardship of the McCourts. It’s counterintuitive, but I think it definitely helps the Dodgers in both the short and long run.

There are two big drafts this week with the NBA picking its players Thursday night and the NHL kicking off Round 1 of its entry draft on Friday. Who do you like for the Wizards and Caps in the first round of their respective drafts?

Teddy L.

Chinatown

When it comes to the Wiz, I like Enes Kanter with that top pick. With John Wall, JaVale McGee and Jordan Crawford in the fold they have a pretty decent core. Not great, but decent. Kanter will give them a frontcourt option that can stretch the court with his shooting while still helping McGee on the boards. If he’s still lingering when the Wizards pick, I’m all over him. At 18, they might want to take a chance on Jonas Valanciunas if he slips. He doesn’t get the hype here in the States, but he’s a pretty prime prospect according to most experts and the fact that he has not been able to get his release from his European team could help him fall to the Wizards’ second pick when he could be an absolute bargain. The Wiz aren’t looking to contend next season anyway, so the delayed time table won’t matter.

Speaking of going Euro, for the past several drafts the Caps have accumulated some seriously skilled players by betting they can ink European prospects – particularly Russians – that other teams aren’t willing to gamble on. They’ve benefited to the tune of Evgeny Kuznetsov and Dmitri Orlov who absolutely shined during Russia’s gold medal-winning effort at the World Junior Championships in January.

But now, with Karl Alzner and John Carlson in the big leagues, I think it’s time to boost the blue line and add some much-needed snarl at the same time. Northeastern University’s Jamieson Oleksiak would be the ideal fit for the Caps. First of all, he’s a giant at 6-foot-7 and he’s willing to use every inch of that frame to dictate with force in the defensive end.

There’s a very good chance Oleksiak will be picked in the top 10, more or less when the Caps step to the podium at pick 26. (When the titanic Zdeno Chara hoisted the Cup for the Boston Bruins, I think a number of GMs and owners turned to their scouts and said, “I want one of those,” referring to the behemoth blueliner.) But there’s been talk that Oleksiak’s supposedly firm intention to play for the Huskies again next season will scare off some teams eager to get him into the pipeline and lead to a fall down the draft board. I think it’s unlikely now that his coach at NU left for the Maple Leafs, but if Oleksiak does slide, the Caps could reap some massive dividends.