In writing my profile of probable Houston Astros owner Jim Crane for Forbes, additional reports have come out in its wake (see Why Jim Crane Could Become Baseball's Most Controversial Owner).
The most interesting was part of Phil Rogers’ baseball roundup article this past weekend in the Chicago Tribune
Rogers writes in the round-up:
Systems still go:
Despite an unflattering profile in Forbes Magazine, which details a long history of employment complaints from minorities and women, Houston businessman Jim Crane still appears on track to be approved as the Astros' new owner. However, one source said Major League Baseball staffers are investigating one allegation raised in the story, with an outside chance it could complicate the transfer.
MLB long ago vetted Crane, who was involved in attempts to purchase the Cubs and Rangers, and excused him in almost all of the cases Forbes raises. But at least one element of the story surprised Selig's staff, requiring additional legwork.
The source denied Crane is under additional scrutiny because of the troubles of the Dodgers' Frank McCourt and Chuck Greenberg, whom Nolan Ryan and their other partners bought out within his first year of owning the Rangers.
Since I am the one that vetted the article through MLB in advance of its publication, I may (or may not) be able to shed some light here on “but at least one element of the story surprised Selig's staff, requiring additional legwork.”
There has been speculation that the war-profiteering aspect of Crane’s company – aspects that, by the way, were attributed to two high-ranking rogue executives, not Crane – is at the center of MLB ‘s investigation (see SB Nation Houston “MLB Investigating Forbes’ Claims Against Jim Crane” and “MLB taking a second look at Jim Crane” by Craig Calcaterra via NBCSports.com).
It’s possible, but I suspect it’s something else.
In my interviews with MLB, I brought up an aspect that I had from a single source, but could not confirm. I ran it by league executives to see what they had to say.
The response was surprise. In subsequent conversation, they could not corroborate what I had been hearing after doing further investigation after I broached the subject.
It’s possible that this is what Rogers is referring to – MLB looking into the matter, not finding anything, or they could be looking further to make absolutely sure it is nothing of concern. As of publication, multiple attempts to reach out to MLB on the subject have gone unanswered. And, it should be noted that when the topic was mentioend to a representative of Mr. Crane, the reply was, "There is nothing known of, nor considered about it."
On what the matter is, it should be noted that is not some insidious issue. It does center on business and very clear rules that baseball has around the type of business.
As noted, MLB has not returned messages seeking clarification around the matter. For now, it seems, the league will be keeping quiet on the matter.
As a final note, I should add this: in reporting in the Forbes piece, or in matters now, I fully expect Jim Crane to be approved as the next Astros owner. The structure of the sale is sound (debt is a concern, but is readily managed, hence Rogers’ comments about McCourt). What is certainly happening is that all issues surrounding Mr. Crane have been vetted and with it, any additional concerns to help smooth the process out could be part of the process.
More details as they become available.
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