Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Our Man Elli: Israel Baseball League is running out of time, doesn't have the money, and may not have its momentum-keeping mini-season after all!

The new and improved Israel Baseball League is what? Eighteen days away from the first pitch of its four-team, 20-game, three-week, momentum-keeping mini-season, and everyone's still standing around with their fingers up their creamcheese-filled bagels wondering what's going on.

We praised player-turned "in-coming president" Dan Rootenberg for actually speaking with Our Man Elli in Israel, and for putting his reputation on the line when he promised that checks are in the mail to some players still owed money from last year. Today, despite our advice, the IBL site still hasn't taken the "in-coming" off his title and some checks that were supposedly in the mail a week ago have still not landed in mailboxes.

Behind the scenes, we're hearing the machers behind IBL Mach 2 are talking about delaying the mini-season by a week. But again, nobody's talking and all the anonymous commenters who were quick to say we were wrong in being the first to report there won't be any professional baseball in Israel this summer may have been, as they are in bed, premature.

But who knows? Time to wake up Our Man Elli.

Tabloid Baby: So?

Our Man Elli In Israel: Yes and good morning-- is it morning?-- to you. There's a a lot going on. Lots of news. Hard to keep up.


You wanna play that way? Fine. First off: Gezer has been promised again that the money was wired to their account, but as of yesterday – Tuesday – no money has arrived. Which means that as of now, the IBL can’t play on their field.

What’s the problem?

Money. Duh.

We thought the IBL was paying off all debts from last year.

Yes. That’s what they're trying to do. And they're racing the clock to do it. Because if they don’t get the money soon, it's pretty much over. I don’t know about any drop-dead date yet, but c'mon! The season is supposed to start two weeks from Sunday. This can’t go on for much longer.

But what about David Solomont? Isn't he the moneyman who’s paying the tab?

I never said, and you guys never reported, that he was picking up the debts. We all said he was fronting a little money to make some payoffs needed to get the league off the ground or licensed by the IAB. And that he could be raising the bulk of the money from other investors.


So it looks like Solomont hasn't been willing yet to put in much of his own money.

He's not stupid, you're saying.

He's definitely not stupid. And because of that it's looking less and less likely that the IBL will be able to conduct a season this year. I've heard that Solomont or Larry Baras retained an investment banking firm in Boston named Baker and Company to help raise money for the IBL. That probably means that the bulk of the money they need isn't committed.

They're soliciting.

Yeah. The important point is whether they're giving investors full disclosure of the IBL's history of the IBL and the risks of investing in it.

Okay. Hold on a minute. You mentioned Baras. Larry Baras. I thought he wasn't involved. Remember the AP reported--

I have it here. Last line of the story says that Baras, quote, “is not expected to be involved in day to day operations.”

So it depends on how you define "involved.”

My sources say that both Solomont and Baras would be involved in ownership, with Baras as a minority partner. They say Baras would continue to own part of the league, but he wouldn't be an executive, if Solomont can move things forward.

So we’re back where we started.

You were expecting maybe something new and improved?

"Sources tell me
that no team uniforms
have been purchased."

What about the players?

The same sources tell me that some players won’t be paid, at least not for a while. There’s a hierarchy on payment:

The ones coming over here to play will get paid first.

Americans owed money will be paid second.

Other foreigners, third.

And players who intend on playing this summer have to make their way to New York-- and only then will their airfare to Israel be paid. And they better bring uniforms. My sources tell me that players have been told that no team uniforms have been purchased.

Sounds like there's no money to buy them.

The IBL is scrambling. They need cash, and they don’t have enough of it.

"I've sent Rootenberg
a list of 20 questions.
I'm awaiting his response."

What about Rootenberg? Hero or puppet?

So far, neither. He’s certainly trying his hardest to do the right thing, but it’s still not clear that he'll be allowed to do it. Indications are they the new, and still, “in-coming” president, is not being fully informed. Sources tell me that Rootenberg recommended that "small creditors"-- like players and field workers-- be paid in full, especially the ones who'd be needed for a second season.

I don't know if this has happened or will happen. It could be that creditors are being offered much less than what they're owed. And it's not clear whether they'll have enough money to do even that.

In any case, I'm also hearing that Solomont and Berger are in charge of settling the IBL's debts, and that Rootenberg has little say. All he can do is recommend.

I've sent Rootenberg a list of 20 questions. I'm awaiting his response.

Any news about the IBL itself?

Well, their website hasn’t been updated since they made their dramatic announcement on June 19th. And that means ticket sales page is still listing Ra’anana Express and Tel Aviv Lightning as teams. And its very first sublink, a description of the IBL, still lists the original six teams (Bet Shemesh Blue Sox, Modi’in Miracle, Netanya Tigers, Petach Tikva Pioneers, Ra'anana Express and Tel Aviv Lightning) and still states that “among the managers of the IBL’s teams are former Major League stars Art Shamsky, Ken Holtzman, and Ron Blomberg," which must be a bit of a shock to Ken.

So now the good news.

Good news? I've got lots of it. The All-Star game next Tuesday at Yankee Stadium features three Jewish players. Well, one full and two half-Jews. We have Kevin Youkilis, the Red Sox first baseman who'll start for the American League. The two half-Jews are Ryan Braun, the sensational outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers-- he'll be starting for the National League, and Ian Kinsler, the Texas Rangers second baseman who made the American League team as a reserve. Both Braun and Kinsler have Jewish fathers. Braun’s dad is Israeli.

I mean good news about baseball in Israel.

Of course. The European Championship Qualifiers are going on right now. There are five tournament locations,featuring national teams vying for a spot at next year’s championship tournament between national baseball teams. It happens in Europe every other year in odd-numbered years. And it’s on this week through Saturday. Israel plays in Karlovac, Croatia. And incidentally, they're one-and-two in the tournament, but still have a chance to qualify for the finals. In one of the losses, the team lost an 8-0 lead.

And as I do the IBL, I wish the Israeli team much success.

As do all of us. But what about--
Gotta go.

Click. Brrrr...

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