Bankruptcy judge accelerates timetable on Dodgers

If you’re too scared or jaded to get excited for a quick resolution to the Dodger ownership kerfuffle, much less a quick and happy one, I can definitely relate.

But for those holding out hope, there was good news today

A Delaware judge presiding over the Los Angeles Dodgers bankruptcy issued an order Friday scheduling a hearing that could determine the fate of the team and said he expects baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt to testify under oath.

In a sharply worded order in response to dueling motions by the league and the team, Judge Kevin Gross said he was setting aside four days for an evidentiary hearing, starting Oct. 31, so that he can decide critical issues “based upon facts rather than the harsh allegations and innuendo of antagonists.”

Gross said he must decide whether the Dodgers’ plan to auction off television rights to future games as the way out of bankruptcy is in the team’s best interest, or whether Major League Baseball can dictate what the Dodgers can and cannot do.

“There is no middle ground for decision,” he wrote.

In scheduling the hearing, the judge said he would hear requests for limited depositions at a previously scheduled Oct. 12 hearing, but that he would not hear arguments on the competing motions that day. …

Gross said an early resolution of issues in the bankruptcy case will allow the team to use the offseason to prepare for the 2012 baseball schedule.

“In addition, the court’s direction for the prompt hearing will enable the court to maintain control over parties whose animus towards one another could result in unnecessary, spiraling and excessive litigiousness which would become increasingly challenging to disentangle,” he wrote. …

That was the quick part. Here’s the happy, for those on the side against Frank McCourt:

… Attorneys for the Dodgers, claiming the team has been treated unfairly, have sought to gain information from the league about its dealings with other clubs.

But in his scheduling order, Gross said he will limit discovery in the case to the league’s relationship with the Dodgers.

“The court will not turn the debtors’ ills and whether the commissioner is treating debtors and Mr. McCourt unreasonably and vindictively into a sideshow of all of MLB,” the judge wrote.

Bill Shaikin of the Times has more perspective, acknowledging the blows to McCourt’s agenda but also noting (via Thomas Salerno, lead attorney for the Phoenix Coyotes during their bankruptcy) how McCourt might overcome them:

… According to Salerno, Gross’ order refocuses the case on McCourt’s essential reason for taking the Dodgers into bankruptcy — to get the television contract that Selig would not approve. Such a contract has been opposed by MLB, Fox Sports and Jamie McCourt — Frank McCourt’s ex-wife, who claims half-ownership of the Dodgers.

Salerno said Frank McCourt and his attorneys could try to introduce evidence about other teams in two ways: one, with cross-examination of Selig; two, with an expert witness who could discuss publicly available information — for example, a sports business analyst who could discuss the Marlins’ leaked financial documents.

In a court filing Friday, the Dodgers listed their “bankruptcy-related expenses” for the first three months of the case at $5.7 million.

* * *

  • Today, 22-year-old Matt Moore threw seven shutout innings in his postseason debut for Tampa Bay and achieved a Game Score of 77. He became the 11th-youngest pitcher with a postseason Game Score of at least 75.  Fernando Valenzuela has the top two spots on that list, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
  • Former Dodger Derek Lowe, who is owed $15 million by the Braves for 2012, is not expected to have a spot in the team’s rotation, according to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (via MLB Trade Rumors).
  • The deadline to tender a contract offer to arbitration-eligible players (such as James Loney) is December 12.
  • Best wishes to Geoff Young, who is retiring one of the original baseball blogs, Ducksnorts, after 14 years.
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