By Ross Newhan
It stands to reason that the shadow encompassing the sale of the Dodgers became even more convuluted on groundhog day.
Has Punxsutawney Phil joined the potential horde of buyers?
It's hard to tell if you are in or you are out.
For example, former Dodger general manager Fred Claire and his group are technically out but have been told that if they improve their financing they will be back in.
Does the same go for the groups headed by Dennis Gilbert and former Dodgers Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser?
Well, according to multiple sources not authorized to speak on the subject, what Claire, Gilbert and Garvey/Hershiser have been told via letter is that if they raise their bids to $1.5 billion they will be back in it.
Dodger owner Frank McCourt is determined to emerge from this bankruptcy auction at $1.5 billion or more--probably more it seems--and the process is beginning to take on the aspects of back room arm twisting considering the in or out corner that Gilbert, Claire and Garvey/Hershiser have been pushed into.
None of those respected baseball people have expressed a willingness to comment, but it would not be a surprise if all joined other groups in one fashion or another.
The aforementioned sources told me Thursday that Gilbert and Peter O'Malley, whose group is still definitely alive, had lunch Wednesday, and it is doubtful they were discussing the weather.
Underscoring all of that suspect handling comes the sordid word that Steve Cohen, whose group includes Los Angeles based agent Arn Tellem and former deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg, may buy a $20 million minority share of the New York Mets, which he would sell if he emerges as McCourt's choice in the Dodger sweepstakes or which he could multiply into ownership of the Mets, whose owners, Fred Wilpon and Stan Katz, are in the eye of a potential financial hurricane related to the Bernie Madoff scandal.
According to one of the sources, Cohen, whose personal wealth is put at $8.3 billion by Forbes, will not proceed with the Mets purchase until he knows where he stands in the Dodger bidding, but the interesting--or to use the word "sordid' again--thing here is that he has already been cleared by a Major League Baseball investigation, which all potential owners undergo. His clearance by MLB comes despite the fact that his Connecticut based investment firm, SAC Capital Advisors, remains the subject of a broad federal investigation. The company's records have been subpoenaed, and one current and two former SAC employees have been charged with insider trading.
No charges have been filed against Cohen or his company, which is reportedly cooperating with the government probe, but a source with knowledge of the investigation said Cohen has received a federal "target letter" and, "certainly the matter remains an open sore."
How and why baseball has been so quick to clear Cohen under the circumstances is not clear, and Commissioner Bud Selig refused comment when reached at his Milwaukee office Thursday.
"I have a legal and moral agreement with the (bankruptcy) judge that prohibits me from discussing any aspect of the situation," Selig said.