Jun 28

The Bankruptcy Court Pregame Show

Josh Fisher has two pieces setting up the Dodgers’ bankruptcy court debut this morning, one at ESPNLosAngeles.com, the other at Dodger Divorce. Both are useful; here’s a sample from the latter:

… Ordinarily, the requests made at these hearings are granted, almost as a matter of course. However, baseball has likely been preparing for this day for some time, and does not intend to let Frank McCourt have full operational control of the team during the bankruptcy. The primary issue today is debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing.

McCourt has secured a $150 million commitment from a JP Morgan-owned hedge fund, Highbridge Capital Management, to finance the team until a TV deal can be approved. The Dodgers would have access to $60 million immediately, and the remaining $90 million would be available at specific times moving forward. The DIP financing is not cheap: there is a $4.5 million fee off the top, and the Dodgers will pay 10% interest.

Baseball will likely try to exert its influence on the bankruptcy immediately, offering to fund Dodgers’ operations at a cheaper rate and lower overall commitment. While it is nearly unfathomable that either the Dodgers or baseball will take an insurmountable lead today, Judge Kevin Gross’ decision will be at least instructive on the deference he will give to baseball’s own policies and rules. …

More from Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports and Bill Shaikin of the Times.

Jun 27

The 2011 Dodger Creditor Awards

Nominees were selected from the pool of Top 40 creditors mentioned in the Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing today, with what they were owed this week.

The Big Kahuna Award: Manny Ramirez, $20.99 million
Hall of Infamy Award: Andruw Jones, $11.08 million
Owed but Charitable Award: Hiroki Kuroda, $4.48 million
Medic-Alert Award: Rafael Furcal, $3.73 million
Hooray for the Other Team Award: Chicago White Sox, $3.50 million
“Ted” for Short (And We Are Short) Award: Theodore Lilly, $3.42 million
Don’t Take a Hike Award: Zach Lee, $3.4 million
Duty Free Award: Kazuhisa Ishii, $3.30 million
Ooh, Repay Award: Juan Uribe, $3.24 million
Juan for Two Award: Juan Pierre, $3.05 million
Griss for the Mill Award: Marquis Grissom, $2.72 million
Food for Thought Award: Levy Restaurants, $588,322
There’s a New Kid in Town Award: Alex Santana, $499,500
Dodger Talk (and No Action) Award: KABC-AM Radio 790, $273,321
Okay, This Has Stopped Being Fun Award: Office of Finance – City of Los Angeles (City Business Tax Audit 2007-2009), $240,563

Jayson Stark has more on today’s news at ESPN.com. Also, for Variety, I looked at the Dodgers’ bankruptcy filing from the TV angle.

Jun 27

Clayton Kershaw named NL Player of the Week

Deuces wild: Clayton Kershaw’s week consisted of two complete games, two runs and 22 strikeouts, and in so doing, he became the National League’s one and only player of the week.

Elsewhere, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports had a nice piece on Hong-Chih Kuo’s battle with anxiety disorder.

… (Stan) Conte, after receiving permission from Kuo, spoke at length about the pitcher’s condition.

“The analogy I use is if you’re scared of small places, you’re claustrophobic and you’re scared of snakes. But you’re really good at catching those snakes, and they ask you every day to walk into a small, closed window-less room to grab them,” Conte said.

“They bite you. It hurts. But you’re the best in the world at doing it and they pay you a lot of money to do it. And every day it becomes worse and worse. It makes you believe you can’t do it, not for glory, not for fame, not for money. …

Jun 27

Dodger fans fail to get bankruptcy protection from McCourt


A source close to Jamie McCourt told ESPN The Magazine’s Molly Knight that she is not happy with Monday’s filing.

“She is exasperated,” the source said. “She has been trying to settle this for two years now, most recently by asking the judge to sell the team. She recognizes that a sale is best for the community but Frank refuses to let this go.”

ESPN.com news services

We’re exasperated. We’re exhausted.

Are we defeated?

We knew Frank McCourt would not go anything but combatively into that good night, with one of the few remaining mysteries being whether he would take his fight to court after Major League Baseball seized the team, or make a preemptive move. Answer: preemptive move.

Today’s bankruptcy filing does not prevent MLB from taking action to seize the team, but it could prevent that move from having any legs to it, at least for some time, if the bankruptcy court rules to supersede MLB’s actions.

If that happens, the $150 million financing the Dodgers received will carry the team forward in the short term. But as miserable as the 2011 season has been, the real concern has never been about the short term. It’s been about the damage McCourt would do to the Dodger franchise if he were to retain Dodger ownership.

The financing only adds to the unfathomable level that McCourt has mortgaged himself and this team in order to retain his fraying hold on his empire, like some B-movie dictator from a made-up foreign land. The Dodgers would not cease to be if McCourt remains in charge. They might not even cease to compete. But their fans would go to sleep and wake up each morning knowing with certainty that things could be better, if not for their foot-shooting owner.

Though it’s not legally significant, there’s something symbolic and poetic about how many Dodger names were misspelled in the McCourt bankruptcy filing: “Kazuhisi Ishii.” “Jonathon R. Broxton.” “Chad Billingsly.” At the end of the day, McCourt’s impatient needs are more important than getting it right with the players on the field. No one’s asking McCourt to be an altruist, but his desperate insistence that he’s the best person for the job is an insult, and a harmful one at that.

It’s also hard not to see the name “Vincent E. Scully” listed in this morning’s filing as a creditor and absolutely marvel at how the road we have traveled.

But McCourt does have rights, the limits of which he continues to test, in the same way he tests the will of this community. The bankruptcy filing changes the game, a game that you can be excused for thinking will have no winner. How about a nice game of chess?

Jun 27

McCourt takes Dodgers into bankruptcy filing

Here’s the initial report from The Associated Press:

The Los Angeles Dodgers have filed for bankruptcy protection in a Delaware court.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt cites Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s interference with club operations and refusal to approve a Dodgers TV deal with Fox Sports as the cause for Monday’s bankruptcy filing.

In a news release, the team says Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection will provide the Dodgers with a process to address its immediate financing requirements and obtain the capital necessary to ensure the baseball franchise’s long-term financial stability.

He says the Dodgers have tried for almost a year to have Selig approve the Fox transaction, saying it would make the Dodgers one of the strongest capitalized franchises in Major League Baseball.

Here’s the official news release from the McCourt camp:

… Dodger owner Frank McCourt cited Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s refusal to approve the Fox transaction as the cause for the Chapter 11 filing.

“The Dodgers have delivered time and again since I became owner, and that’s been good for baseball,” McCourt said.  “We turned the team around financially after years of annual losses before I purchased the team.  We invested $150 million in the stadium. We’ve had excellent on-field performance, including playoff appearances four times in seven years.  And we brought the Commissioner a media rights deal that would have solved the cash flow challenge I presented to him a year ago, when his leadership team called us a ‘model franchise.’  Yet he’s turned his back on the Dodgers, treated us differently, and forced us to the point we find ourselves in today.  I simply cannot allow the Commissioner to knowingly and intentionally be in a position to expose the Dodgers to financial risk any longer.  It is my hope that the Chapter 11 process will create a fair and constructive environment to get done what we couldn’t achieve with the Commissioner directly.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers have tried for almost a year to have Commissioner Bud Selig approve a transaction, which would assure that the Los Angeles Dodgers would be one of the strongest capitalized franchises in Major League Baseball, both now and for years to come.  Indeed, for months, the Dodgers have sought approval from the Commissioner of a multibillion dollar media rights transaction negotiated between the Dodgers and FOX, which would immediately infuse hundreds of millions of dollars of capital into the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Commissioner’s office last week rejected the deal, despite having been made aware by the Dodgers since the spring of 2010 of the franchises’ cash projections and in turn liquidity needs for 2011.

“The deal with Fox demonstrates that the Dodgers have enormous value which substantially exceeds the team’s current and future liabilities,” said Bruce Bennett, bankruptcy counsel from Dewey & LeBoeuf.  ”The team is entering the bankruptcy case with enough committed financing to meet all of its short term expenses and to successful reorganize.  The media rights will, one way or another, generate enough value to facilitate a reorganization.”

Operating under Chapter 11, the Los Angeles Dodgers have received a commitment for $150 million in Debtor-in-Possession (DIP) financing.  This financing will enable the Dodger organization to fully meet its obligations going forward.  There will be no disruption to the Dodgers day-to-day business, the baseball team, or to the Dodger fans.

Under Chapter 11, the Dodgers will continue to operate in the ordinary course of business.  Pursuant to that authority, and additional authority the Dodgers have sought in motions filed today with the bankruptcy court:

  • All salaries of Dodger employees will be paid and all Dodger employee benefits will continue.
  • The Dodgers will operate within their existing budget to sign and acquire amateur, international and professional players.
  • Ticket prices will remain the same and purchased tickets will continue to be honored.
  • All amenities at Dodger stadium will continue in place, and promotions will continue as usual.
  • Dodger vendors and suppliers will be paid any post-petition amounts in the ordinary course, with the intention of paying any pre-petition amounts in full prior to or at the conclusion of the bankruptcy case.

McCourt concluded, “The Chapter 11 process provides the path on which to position the Los Angeles Dodgers for long-term success.  The process will allow us to focus on maximizing value in a manner that is transparent and driven by the best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers and our fans.”

Jun 21

Roll out the barrel

Josh Fisher continues his parsing of the McCourt empire at Dodger Divorce, with the emphasis in today’s piece on whether, by having subdivided the Dodgers’ revenue-generation machine into myriad entities, Frank McCourt has Bud Selig over a barrel even if MLB seizes the team.

Should McCourt win out on these issues, it would dramatically devalue the team itself, if a new owner were buying it without the revenue generators intact. But no new owner would want to buy the Dodgers without the ability to reap the profits.

Please take the following in the spirit of thinking out loud rather than saying anything definitive, but my reaction is that, as fascinating as this is, this all comes down to the fate of the lawsuit we all expect is coming. The entire dispute stands on whether or not MLB can define what’s allowed and what isn’t. My legal opinion isn’t worth spit, but I find it hard to believe that the courts would rule that MLB is in the right, yet not allow MLB to reap the benefit of that ruling because of McCourt’s shenanigans.

Yes, MLB might have approved the shenanigans, but for that matter, it also approved McCourt’s purchase of the team. Both approvals were rendered with the understanding that MLB would have the last word on operations of the Dodger franchise.

Otherwise, the other 29 owners would be permitted to simply stash any and all parts of their teams in newly formed companies, and be able to flaunt the rules as they see fit – even if MLB won the case. (Or, I suppose, MLB could specifically bar this practice going forward, but still, you get the idea.)

My sense is that MLB and Selig would not be entering this fight with McCourt if they were not confident of conquering this particular set of challenges, but all we can do is wait to see how it pans out.

* * *

  • Chad Billingsley’s curveball has been flatter during his slump, says Zack Singer of ESPN Stats & Info.
  • It might be fruitless, but there’s a petition to get Vin Scully on the air during the postseason for Fox (via Big League Stew).
  • Billy DeLury, the second-longest-tenured Dodger employee after Scully, is the subject of a nice interview by Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance.
  • Mark Cuban appeared on TMZ today and at once displayed more interest in buying the Dodgers and more wariness than I’ve heard him offer before. As Cuban notes, all this speculation is premature — there is no timetable for the team being put on sale yet.
  • Christopher Jackson of Albuquerque Baseball Examiner writes about the long road for pitcher Randy Keisler.
Jun 20

MLB rejects Fox deal, McCourt ownership on precipice

Major League Baseball is standing its ground against the McCourt ownership of the Dodgers, rejecting the proposed Fox television rights deal for the Dodgers and rendering Friday’s divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt void.

It would seem all signs point to MLB seizing control of the Dodgers (pending the completion of Tom Schieffer’s investigation and/or McCourt failing to make the June 30 team payroll) and McCourt suing the sport. However, the next milestone could be as soon as Thursday, the day Judge Scott Gordon of Los Angeles Superior Court was scheduled to hear arguments from Jamie McCourt’s representatives on whether to order the immediate sale of the Dodgers. The divorce settlement had rendered that hearing moot, but with the settlement itself nullified, the question now is whether that hearing will take place after all.

The fight between Frank McCourt and MLB could be long and bruising, but for you bottom-liners out there, the McCourt ownership could be in suspension by the end of next week.

Update: Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine talked to ESPN AM 710 about the latest.

Update 2: From the updated news story …

Jamie McCourt had requested that the courts demand an immediate sale of the Dodgers. She had rescinded that request as part of the settlement. Sources tell ESPN The Magazine’s Molly Knight that she had wanted a more global settlement that did not rely on the Fox deal being approved by Selig because she is ready to move on from this nasty, nearly two year legal battle. A spokesman declined to say whether she will go back into court an request a Dodgers sale.

Update 3: “We are extremely disappointed with the Commissioner’s rejection of the proposed FOX transaction which would inject $235 million into the Los Angeles Dodgers,” said Steve Susman, senior partner of Susman Godfrey in a statement, waxing proudly about the dollar figure while of course ignoring the fact that there’s another $150 million up front from Fox that wouldn’t be injected into the Dodgers. Here’s the rest of his statement:

“As Commissioner Selig well knows, this transaction would make the Dodgers financially secure for the long term and one of the best capitalized teams in Major League Baseball.

“For weeks Major League Baseball has consistently made public pronouncements asserting that Jamie McCourt’s agreement of the Fox transaction also was needed; that the Court adjudicating the McCourt divorce grant its approval of the transaction; and the Dodger organization provide all data requested by Major League Baseball to satisfy the so-called investigation ordered by Commissioner Selig last April – the latter also being the excuse he gave at that time for delaying his approval of the proposed Fox transaction.

“All the requirements for the Commissioner to approve the Fox transaction were put in place by last Friday: Frank and Jamie McCourt entered into an agreement based on the proposed transaction; the Court ordered, among other things, that the Fox transaction is “in the best interest of the Los Angeles Dodgers and should be consummated immediately;” and all information requested by Major League Baseball under its so-called investigation has been provided by the Dodgers.

“Commissioner Selig’s letter of rejection is not only a disappointment, but worse, is potentially destructive to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Major League Baseball. Accordingly, we plan to explore vigorously our options and remedies with respect to Commissioner Selig’s rejection of the proposed Fox transaction and our commitment to protect the long-term best interests of the Los Angeles Dodgers.”

Jun 17

McCourts divorce settlement raises even more questions about Dodgers’ future

So is this what shaking hands while going off a cliff feels like?

Like two skydivers who finally stopped fighting over their single parachute, Frank and Jamie McCourt have reached a settlement in their intergalactic divorce battle, turning the bitter enemies into allies trying to save the family’s ownership of the Dodgers before it goes over the edge.

Like so much in the McCourt saga, the latest news creates more questions than it answers. Such as:

  • The settlement is likely contingent on the proposed television rights deal with Fox being approved — a deal that logically undervalues the Dodgers in exchange for the quick fix. But will that deal be approved by Bud Selig and Major League Baseball, which, if it declines, would risk a lawsuit they don’t want from a now-united McCourt opposition?
  • Are the Dodgers sole or community property? Ruling on this issue by the courts has yet to be determined, and isn’t scheduled to be until August 4.
  • How much does Jamie’s cooperation increase the chances for the Dodgers making their balloon payroll payment of June 30?

Those are lots of moving parts in a story that has been built on a veritable earthquake fault, but fans hoping for a swift end to the McCourt ownership might have more to fear than to celebrate from today’s news, which no doubt strengthens the family’s bid to keep the team.

Even if Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon determines that the team is community property, splitting it between Frank and Jamie, there remains the possibility that ex-husband could buy out ex-wife (though that would seem to go against the promise that the Fox money would be used for the Dodgers and not personal affairs).

The sense here is that much will depend on just how resolved Selig is to rip the McCourt parachute for good.

Update: New details about the proposed divorce settlement between Frank and Jamie McCourt offer encouragement to fans looking for a forced sale.

A source told ESPN The Magazine’s Molly Knight (see link above) there is skepticism that MLB will approve the Fox television rights deal. That would void today’s settlement and send both parties back to the drawing board.

In addition, if the Dodgers are ruled community property on August 4, Judge Gordon would order an immediate sale of the Dodgers. I’m not sure how “immediate” is defined, but “order” plus “sale” surely means something.

These notes don’t eliminate doubt, but they do paint a rosier picture for the anti-McCourt faction, since so much depends on the actions of MLB and the court.

I do agree with those who have said that if Frank McCourt does come away from all this with ownership of the team, he would probably aim to make a grand gesture (the “buy the fans a pony” thing I have written about at times) to improve the on-field product. You can file that under short-term gains for long-term costs if you like, since I really don’t doubt that the proposed Fox deal, if approved, undervalues the team’s TV rights. McCourt is just in too poor of a negotiation position for anything else to be true, I believe.

Update 2: From today’s court filing, here’s how the $385 million loan from Fox would be allocated, subject to MLB approval:

  • $5 million to each party for attorney’s fees
  • $5 million to each party  “to use as she and he desires”
  • “Approximately $235 million will be used for the Dodgers (including repayment to Frank’s moneys advanced to the Dodgers in 2011, not to exceed $23.5 million), but not for any payments to or between entities (other than the Dodgers) owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by Frank
  • Approximately $80 million to pay off indebtedness
  • Approximately $50 million “will be put in an account subject to the Court’s orders.”

Update 3: Per the agreement, Frank will owe Jamie $650,000 per month in spousal support until the Aug. 4 community property trial.

If the Dodgers are declared community property, Jamie will continue to receive $625,000 per month — paid out of the $50 million court account described in my second update above, “until the assets are divided and distributed.” That’s $7.5 million per year.

If the Dodgers are declared Frank’s sole property, Jamie will receive the first $55 million of the $100 million she is owed as part of the settlement within 10 days of the decision. Jamie will then receive $325,000 per month until Frank pays the remaining $45 million, due within two years of the court’s decision or August 2013.

May 31

Don’t look in the mirror – you’ll break it

To make the Dodgers’ end-of-May payroll, Frank McCourt once again borrowed from Peter Future to pay Paul Present. From Molly Knight of ESPN The Magazine:

… McCourt was able to meet the team’s payroll Tuesday with cash advances drawn on the team’s corporate sponsorship deals, according to three people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Since McCourt has been unable to secure traditional loans to fund the cash-strapped Dodgers, front office executives in charge of revenue were charged with finding more creative ways to help float the troubled franchise for two more weeks.

Current team sponsors were contacted and offered discounts on their annual bills and luxury box stadium seats in exchange for cash up front, according to two sources. It is not known which sponsors took the offer, or the depth of discount they were given.

McCourt is still searching for the funding to make the team’s next payroll on June 15, according to two people with knowledge of the Dodgers finances who were not authorized to speak publicly. Should the beleaguered owner fail to make payroll, Major League Baseball would cover it for him and likely formally seize the team.

Based on an Opening Day payroll of $103.8 million, the Dodgers’ payroll for its major league roster in the second half of May was about $8.25 million. The figure includes 16 days’ salary, but not any signing bonus payments that happen to fall due.

The Times, citing anonymous sources, reported last week that McCourt needed roughly $9.8 million to meet Tuesday’s payroll. His financial woes will increase in June because the Dodgers owe Manny Ramirez more than $6 million in deferred compensation, the paper said. …

May 19

Will judge heed Jamie McCourt’s request for rapid Dodger sale?

Jamie McCourt is expected to ask Los Angeles Superior Court to order the Dodgers to be sold as soon as possible, Bill Shaikin of the Times reported Wednesday.

Affirmation of this request would remove MLB from the delicate equation of how to extricate the Dodgers from the McCourt family.

The first question that came to mind: Why would Judge Scott Gordon say yes?

… Sources close to Jamie McCourt told ESPN The Magazine’s Molly Knight that Jamie has been alarmed by the prospect of her ex-husband draining equity out of the Dodgers as he digs in to fight MLB from taking over the club. California community property law states that the designated control person of a shared asset has a duty to the non-controlling party to protect the asset from diminishing substantially in value. Jamie’s lawyers are expected to argue that Frank’s ownership is seriously harming the value of the Dodgers — and with it, Jamie’s potential take when the team is sold. …

All that is expected to happen today is that Judge Gordon would set a date for a hearing on Jamie’s formal request. And another legal cycle begins …

Update: ESPNLosAngeles.com has an update on Jamie’s filing, in which she states (for the first time, I believe) that the Dodgers would be better off without McCourt ownership. More from Shaikin:

… “As I’ve said all along, my goal is to resolve this situation for my family in a way that also advances the best interests of the Dodgers fans, players and franchise,” she said. “This motion will hopefully provide some momentum in the right direction.”

Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for Frank McCourt, had no comment Wednesday night, and neither did Pat Courtney, a spokesman for Major League Baseball. In her filing, Jamie McCourt urges Judge Scott Gordon to act before Major League Baseball can seize the Dodgers, arguing the highest sale price could be achieved if couple sells the team, not the league.

“MLB is under no obligation to maximize the proceeds of such a sale,” the filing says. Jamie McCourt specifically asks for a sale of “the Dodger assets,” including the team and its media rights, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. Under McCourt management, the team, the stadium and the parking lots are separate entities, and Frank McCourt has not ruled out the possibility of selling the team but keeping the stadium and/or the land. …

If Gordon does not order the team sold, Jamie McCourt asks that the judge remove Frank McCourt as the spouse in control of the Dodgers and install her in that position. …

Update 2: Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy had a funny exchange with former Dodger pitcher Dave Stewart, the agent for Matt Kemp.

Baly: “Hey Dave, when is Matt Kemp signing that big contract?”

Stewart: “Soon as you get real owners.”

Update 3: Judge Gordon set the hearing for June 22, a date that might come too late to prevent MLB from taking control of the Dodgers.

May 17

Two weeks until B-Day?

Two weeks from today, the bills reportedly come due for Frank McCourt. Will he bail and file for bankruptcy? Will he surrender the team to Bud’s butting-in? Will he find another blowhard to do his bidding? Or will there be a different Plan B?

* * *

I’m guessing that it’s been a very long time since the Dodgers have had a starting lineup this late in the season in which the players with the most playing time at three positions each had an OPS below .600.

Jerry Sands, James Loney and Juan Uribe have combined to go 75 for 352 (.213) with four home runs, 16 doubles, 26 walks and 69 strikeouts. On-base percentage: .273, slugging percentage: .293, OPS: .566.

May 03

McCourt puts his word against everyone else’s

“If the stuff that was written about me was true, I wouldn’t trust me either,” Frank McCourt said early in his conversation with Steve Mason, John Ireland and fans calling into ESPN AM 710 this afternoon.

I’m a journalist, and I’ve seen journalists get things wrong. It happens.

But let’s keep this in mind …

The McCourt ownership, particularly since Frank’s separation from Jamie became public in 2009, has perhaps been the most doggedly reported off-the-field story in Los Angeles Dodger history — certainly in recent Los Angeles Dodger history.

It has been covered by a number of sources both local and national. It has been built not only upon first-hand interviews but documents filed in court by the principals themselves. It has been, in recent days, augmented by the words and actions of Major League Baseball’s executive office and ownership group, which have sent in a rescue missionary in Tom Schieffer.

And McCourt continues to tell us that all these people from every side of the fence, West Coast and East Coast, print media and electronic, sports and business, inside the game and outside the game, have it wrong.

That includes many people who have absolutely no dog in this fight, people coming at the story, unlike McCourt, from an entirely neutral perspective. They have it wrong.

And he asks us to believe that they have it wrong even has he says one thing after another that is dubious on its face. Just today, he told us that all of the Dodgers’ current financial issues are entirely the fault of MLB forestalling the Fox deal for future TV rights and have nothing to do with his own practices. That the assets Jamie might ultimately end up with are mere hypotheticals that we shouldn’t be concerned about. That the Fox contract, negotiated with his back against the wall, is every bit as lucrative as the separate Dodger regional sports network he previously aspired to when everything was rosy. That Bud Selig, the man who paved the way for McCourt to own the team and more than anyone at MLB was convinced of his virtues, is second-guessing his own approval for no good reason.  And so on …

Neither the objective evidence nor common sense back up his assertions, but he asks us to simply believe him. His interpretation of the facts are supposed to be more trustworthy than the facts themselves.

In my view, McCourt is playing a shell game with the truth.

There’s no doubt that some critics of McCourt have gotten carried away, exaggerating his mistakes, sometimes for effect, sometimes out of frustration. The exaggerations don’t mean that the mistakes aren’t there.

When you boil everything down, there is really only one pressing question to answer at this time: Is MLB justified in subjecting the Dodgers’ major day-to-day operations to its approval?

McCourt’s argument for “no” is this: Take my word for it.

Apr 30

Life’s been … interesting

“There is no owner who, during the period 2004 to 2011, that we’ve spent more time with on his business problems, his business issues and his desire to be treated differently under applicable rules, than Frank McCourt.”

– MLB executive vice president of labor relations Rob Manfred to Richard Sandomir of the New York Times.

Apr 30

Like Tony Gwynn Jr., I’m saving the best for last

Reading options:

Apr 27

Frank McCourt’s second divorce


Getty Images/APFault lines: Frank McCourt and Tom Schieffer

As if one divorce involving Dodger ownership weren’t enough, now we have another.

Jamie and Frank McCourt is so last year. Now it’s Bud Selig and Frank McCourt unjumping the broom, and I tell you, next to the lousy fourth season of “Big Love,” it’s the biggest argument against plural marriage I’ve seen.

In his news conference today, McCourt expressed sincere surprise that he ended up a divorced husband – he never expected it to happen. And I’m guessing that when he rode the support of Major League Baseball’s commissioner to the purchase of the Dodgers in 2004, McCourt never fathomed the kind of split that erupted with last week’s MLB takeover of day-to-day operations of the Dodgers.

But a split it is – a regular San Andreas, to a fault.

The two parties can’t even agree, at least publicly, on what is happening. McCourt raged against his property being seized unlawfully, while Selig’s proxy, MLB executive vice president of labor relations Rob Manfred, said “there has been no seizure of the Los Angeles Dodgers.” McCourt said that Selig vetoed the Dodgers’ TV deal with Fox; Manfred countered that nothing of the kind occurred (yet).

Selig and McCourt are in sync on only one thing: The bad spouse is the other spouse. Where have we seen this before?

Today, McCourt directed to Dodger fans what for him was an unusual level of contrition, expressing regret over his behavior as Dodger owner and promising to do better if given a second chance. But McCourt once again showed that his amends only go until they run smack-dab into the wall of his self-interest.

He made a big show of pledging directly to the Dodgers the initial $300 million of his proposed Fox deal, as if this were some beyond-the-call gesture, while leaving unsaid what happens to the remaining revenue that could amount to as much as 90 percent of the total. He insisted that the contract extension with Fox will bring the Dodgers nirvana, ignoring the unmistakable reality that an owner who wasn’t in hock to the network would assuredly be able to do better for the franchise.

McCourt swears he’ll do better by Dodger fans, while in the next breath gearing up to do one thing guaranteed to make things worse: sue MLB over control of the team.

If it is McCourt’s right to sue – a point that’s debatable depending upon your interpretation of his ownership agreement with MLB – then let him sue away.  But how dare he claim, yet again, that he has the interests of the fan base at heart. His ownership stands, more than ever, at direct odds with what the Dodger community wants and needs.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” McCourt said. This is not in fact true – some people don’t deserve a second chance, depending on the circumstances – but even if it were true in McCourt’s case, he doesn’t deserve his second chance more than others deserve a first chance – starting with Tom Schieffer, the monitor sent to Los Angeles by MLB to get to the bottom of this mess at the top.

I don’t know if Schieffer will be good, bad or somewhere in between, but if anyone gets the benefit of the doubt, it’s the new boss. It’s highly unlikely he’s the same as the old boss.

As I listened via telephone to the audio of McCourt’s press conference, I heard him refer to one of his four children being by his side and how hard this entire experience has been for them. I don’t doubt it for a second. But it’s not stretching things to suggest that McCourt has another set of children who have, relatively speaking, nursing their own wounds over the past two years. Those kids buy three million tickets a year to see the Dodgers, with millions more watching on TV, listening on the radio or following on the Internet and in the papers.

It would have been interesting if any one of those kids had been on the dais with McCourt as he couldn’t resist making himself the biggest victim. As if, however this plays out, McCourt won’t come away with more cash than he walked into Dodger Stadium with seven years ago.

Dad, we’re all grown up now. And we’re tired of your complaints over a fate you engineered and your hollow apologies. We’re ready for new parents, and if it means being wards of the state for a while, so be it. Let it be. Otherwise, don’t pretend that you’ve changed.