Court Deals Yet Another Blow to McCourt Ownership

After what seems to have been weeks of inactivity on the McCourt / MLB front, Bill Shaikin drops in with some concrete news, which I will display in a series of tweets even though I know that by waiting 20 minutes or so, I could just link to the inevitable LA Times article.

Bankruptcy court sets key #Dodgers hearing Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 2, 4. “The Court expects the Commissioner and Mr. McCourt to testify in person.”

That’s Halloween, of course. Selig will come dressed as a Stormtrooper, while expect McCourt to appear as Robin Hood. Oh, not because he wants to appear generous to those less fortunate, of course. He just likes the feel of the green tights.

Gross: “The Court will not permit [Dodgers] to take discovery into or of other baseball clubs. These cases are about the Dodgers.”

This is a big blow for McCourt, given the recent suggestion that he may try to drag the Marlins and the rest of MLB into this mess. No better way to try to deflect criticism of your own mess than to use the tried-and-true defense of every five-year-old, “but DAD! He did it too!”

BOTTOM LINE: McCourt: Selig has double standard in treatment of #Dodgers vs Mets, Marlins, etc. Gross: Other clubs not relevant.

BOTTOM LINE: McCourt: “Hey, an enormously huge part of my case rests on this one idea.” Court: “Get bent.”

Gross wants key issue resolved soon so #Dodgers can “utilize the approaching off season to prepare for the 2012 season.”

No. No, no, no. Don’t get sucked in by this, because I know it sounds lovely. As you’ll see in the next tweet, this is just about whether MLB has the right to be rid of McCourt if they choose to be. That does not mean that there would be any sort of new owner in place in time for this offseason, and if anything the finances could be even more of a mess.

If court schedule holds, we could have answer in early November about whether McCourt can hold onto #Dodgers or MLB can kick him out.

So tempting to be excited about this. Then we remember that McCourt almost certainly has about 27 more appeals lined up to last decades. Still, this is progress – and very, very bad news for Frank McCourt, which certainly brightens my day.

Forget Matt Kemp, as Jon Heyman appears to have already done. Bill Shaikin, MVP.

Bud Selig Is Actually Being Useful For Once (Updated)

Update #2: Bill Shaikin reports that McCourt has now been notified, deal is rejected. Game on.

Update: well, hold on just a second now. As David Pinto from Baseball Musings noted in the comments, the link to the Brown story no longer works. The story appears to be removed from Yahoo entirely, and Brown’s tweet about it has been removed as well. I assume this has something to do with Bill Shaikin & Molly Knight each noting that their sources say McCourt has not yet been notified by MLB. Something fishy going on…

In “news that should surprise absolutely no one with a pulse” news, Tim Brown of Yahoo! tells us that Bud Selig will not be allowing the McCourts to use FOX to settle their financial differences.

Commissioner Bud Selig has rejected McCourt’s stab at solvency in the form of a television rights deal, finding that the financing of yesterday’s debt (both personal and professional) with tomorrow’s revenue is not a sustainable business model.

McCourt was notified Monday that, in spite of the divorce settlement he reached Friday with ex-wife Jamie, Major League Baseball would not approve the 17-year, near-$3-billion contract with Fox, money McCourt has said he’d require to keep the Dodgers viable. The divorce settlement also was contingent on Selig’s approval of the Fox deal, as it was partly funded by the contract.

With a large payroll outlay due in 10 days, the fight has come again to McCourt, the feisty Bostonian whose choices seem limited: sell or sue.

In the few minutes since this news came out, I’ve seen a lot of reaction from Dodger fans on Twitter cheering it, hoping it moves the club one step closer to a sale. It’s indeed good news, but it’s also not really “news”; this is exactly what we knew would happen. Here’s what I said a few days ago, after news of the sham “divorce settlement” had come out:

I didn’t really weigh in on the McCourt case much today, but I think it’s largely much ado about nothing. The settlement explicitly says that it only takes effect if Bud Selig approves the FOX contract, which he’s almost certainly not going to do, so this “settlement” could mean little. All that business about an August 4th court date to decide if the team is Frank’s or split 50/50? It’s almost certainly not going to take place. If anything, this just unites the McCourts in what’s an almost inevitable lawsuit against MLB; Frank McCourt, by all accounts, cannot make the June 30th payroll without the cash influx from the contract, and with the issue of Jamie objecting to the deal no longer a concern, Frank will contend that Selig is actively hurting the team. Then he’ll sue MLB, and this will be tied up in the courts for decades to come.

For more, Bill Shaikin has a great Q&A, and don’t miss Steve Dilbeck pointing out that Frank’s assertion that none of the FOX money would go towards his divorce is basically a blatant lie.

And that’s exactly what happened. The settlement was never real because the FOX deal would never go through, and we’ll almost certainly hear news of one or both McCourts suing Major League Baseball in the next few days. Then they’ll likely default on the June 30 payroll, causing MLB to step in and… well, you know. This isn’t going to be over anytime soon. But it’s at least a welcome step in the right direction.

One Out of Three Ain’t Bad

Hey, our valiant commissioner Bud Selig is batting .333 this week! That’s All-Star level. Well, “tie in an All-Star game” level. And since he’s completely punchless, I’m sure that his line would somehow come out to .333/.333/.000, which isn’t even possible. But still! .333!

Fail: “Bud Selig still isn’t worried about the Dodgers”

Commissioner Bud Selig said the Dodgers were “in good hands” for now but refused to offer assurances to fans worried that the McCourt divorce saga could compromise the future of the club.

He’s not worried? He sure as hell should be. I know he’s restrained somewhat by what he can say publicly, but still.

But Selig sidestepped the question of what he would say to fans concerned that the Dodgers’ long-term future could echo the San Diego Padres’ recent history — an ownership divorce, followed by a sale, management turnover, payroll cuts and the cost-driven departure of popular players.

“There’s no reason to get into any debate about what’s going to happen,” Selig said. “The Dodgers will be in Los Angeles for as long as we’re alive and for many generations to come.”

If Bud Selig had been commissioner in 1956, I bet he’d have been saying the same thing to Brooklyn fans, wouldn’t he?

Thanks for helping to assuage our fears, Bud. 

Fail: “Baseball hits pause on replay”

Baseball general managers meeting here failed to take a vote yesterday on expanding instant replay following a postseason filled with blown calls by umpires.

It doesn’t specifically say it here, but it’s well known that the reason they didn’t even vote is because Selig is opposed to it. What’s Selig got to say about it?

Commissioner Bud Selig opposes widening the use of video review.

“I know there are some who have talked off line about the expansion of instant replay,” Solomon said. “Right now, the commissioner doesn’t see any reason to consider it.”

No reason? No reason? Do I even need to link you to the dozens of stories about the multitude of blown calls this offseason? Say you’re not in favor of it, and that’s one thing. It’s the wrong opinion, but at least it’s an opinion. But to say that you don’t even see a reason to consider it? Pay attention, old man.

Hit… ish: “Selig: Baseball will tighten playoff schedule

Baseball plans to cut down on off days during the postseason next year.

Commissioner Bud Selig said Wednesday he’s working on tightening up the 2010 playoff schedule so there will be fewer gaps between games.

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia criticized the current format after the Yankees and Angels played only eight times in 20 days going into Game 6 of the AL championship series.

“We’re going to change it,” Selig said. “I don’t disagree with Mike Scioscia. I think he was right, so we’re going to try and tighten that up.”

That’s progress, though it’s such an obvious fix it’s hard to give him a whole lot of credit. Besides, as Rob Neyer says, let’s not get too excited just yet…

Well, you can consider me guardedly optimistic. You can’t change anything without commissioner Bud’s enthusiastic approval, so this would seem to be a lovely first step. But I will note for the record that: a) Selig has promised to do things before that didn’t get done; and 2) don’t the TV networks call the shots on this one?

At least one of the current TV contracts runs through 2013. Is Selig saying he’ll change it five years from now, when he’s 80? Or is he saying that he’ll slap Fox and TBS, and they’ll take it and like it? Stay tuned …

Completely accurate on all points. How is it that the sport I love, the team I support, and the major newspaper that covers them all have such out-of-touch people as their leaders and/or public faces?