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The Dodgers and MLB have a long, boring hearing; outcome to be decided today

Jul 21, 2011, 8:25 AM EDT

Combination of file photos of MLB commissioner Bud Selig and Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt

Yesterday was the much-anticipated hearing in the Dodgers bankruptcy case, the purpose of which was to determine who gets to fund the Dodgers until they emerge from Chapter 11.

I followed the blow-by-blow via the Twitter feeds of reporters in the courtroom. Even then — with the ability to watch baseball games, write about other subjects, play with my kids and do any number of other things — I was bored to tears.  I can’t imagine what the Bill Shaikins of the world must have felt trapped in that place for the entire ten hour hearing.

For as long as the thing lasted, there was only one witness: Dodgers assistant treasurer Jeffery Ingram.  Following vicariously, it seemed like he didn’t do the best job in the world for Frank McCourt.  He voiced the McCourt position well enough: the Dodgers don’t want MLB financing because Bud Selig is out to get Frank McCourt and you don’t want to take loans from your enemies.  But on cross examination he basically admitted that, yeah, MLB’s financing was better on their basic terms.

And that may be good enough for the judge who, at the close of the day, said that he was going to decide the matter based on the financial terms: “”This is about dollars and cents. This is not a control issue,” he said.  Based on that alone, observers got the feeling that, when he rules today, as is expected, he’ll side with MLB’s financing, not McCourt’s.

The implications: well, the judge’s words about this not being about control notwithstanding — and notwithstanding the arguments of MLB’s lawyers, who said that Selig does not intend to use financing as a means of squeezing out McCourt — it’s hard to see how such an outcome wouldn’t put MLB in a very strong position vis-a-vis our favorite spendthrift owner, marginalizing him practically, even if he’s not technically moved aside.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 21, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    I just don’t get how MLB doesn’t cut its losses, pay this guy some amount to get him to sell the team and everything else he has systematically taken from the team behind the scenes. Look, Bud, you screwed the pooch when you let this guy buy the team…when you let this guy break off all the little pieces of the team. It’s time to pay for that mistake in the form of cold hard cash. Does anybody think that if Bud privately told McCourt “MLB will give you a free $200 million to sell everything” that McCourt would say no? Or is that not allowed?

    • paperlions - Jul 21, 2011 at 8:40 AM

      McCourt has already said repeatedly that he has no intention of selling to anyone. He has made it clear that the only way he’ll relinquish control of the team is if he is forced to do so. You can’t buy something from someone that isn’t willing to sell it.

      Yes, Selig screwed up….but you act like he makes these decisions on his own and does not receive advice and recommendations from others. Owners are the ones that approve new owners, the commissioner can only make a recommendation…as such, the blame for the mess belongs to many more people than the figure head (a guy that only has a job because he does what the owners want him to do, they could fire him tomorrow if the mood so struck them).

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 21, 2011 at 8:44 AM

        paper, we have debated this issue in the past and it is definitely something we will agree to disagree on. Sure, Bud is technically just a figurehead. But if you think he doesn’t control how most of the owners vote, then you have your head in the sand. If you think he doesn’t wield a large amount of power in MLB then you are being naive. And if you think the owners would EVER just “fire” Bud Selig, well, then I think you are just plain crazy.

    • Old Gator - Jul 21, 2011 at 8:46 AM

      Yes, bud screwed the pooch – and at the time, as Allen Ginsberg put it, the pooch was screaming with joy.

    • craigbhill - Jul 21, 2011 at 9:22 AM

      $200 million is chickenfeed to F***k. The total take on an auction of the tv rights will be in the multiple of billions. That’s why F***k is hanging on. If the next owner gets to arrange his own best deal, which could happen if the judge decides no matter where the loan comes from, F***k is not the best administrator to pay the bankrupt entity’s bills and puts the team up for auction first, that next owner will have to pony up something well over $1 billion to get the team. There’s a big difference to F***k between $1 + billion he’ll have to split with his ex and several billion. Tho that denouement could be what happens.

      I’m wondering whether the judge will put restrictions on how much McCourt will be able to get at when he rules for the MLB loan today. If he lowers the supply of oxygen to him even after a tv rights deal, which he could do, McCourt will be lost in space. He would have to sell to get his hands on anything. It’s looking better for MLB and the Dodgers.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 21, 2011 at 9:34 AM

        But even if the courts rule everything in favor of MLB, there’s no denying that McCourt has MLB by the balls because of everything being split out, right? If McCourt owns the stadium, the parking, etc. then he can essentially NOT sell them with the team, right? And what owner would want to buy the Dodgers without getting everything? I’m no expert here, but from what I can read, it doesn’t seem there is going to be an easy way out of this for MLB without somehow repairing their relationship with McCourt and at least admitting the mistake and trying to make him even the slightest bit happy. Because otherwise, what is the end game here? Can the court really take EVERYTHING away from McCourt? I am not sure, but I doubt it.

      • paperlions - Jul 21, 2011 at 9:47 AM

        I don’t think he does…the dodgers are worth nothing without a stadium, parking lots, etc, so he won’t be able to sell the dodgers alone to pay off the creditors. To get any money at all for the sale, he’ll have to include the stadium and the parking lots, otherwise, the value of what is being sold will not be sufficient to pay off his debts. He is so highly leveraged, that he’ll probably have to sell all dodger properties as a group to be able to satisfy the creditors and have anything at all left over for himself.

        This gambit was only a delay in the inevitable, and it isn’t clear (based on his behavior) the McCourt understood that his interests would essentially be ignored in bankruptcy court. At this point, McCourt is barely more than a bystander….because nothing short of a sale of the dodgers and associated properties will address the interests of the creditors….as long as he is owner, he will continue to lose money and get further in debt each month.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 21, 2011 at 9:55 AM

      McCourt is so delusional that he thinks the Dodgers are the cornerstone of a mega-sports empire. This Dodgers thing is just a starting point to owning some soccer club across the pond and a hockey team in the Great White North. He still sees himself as a provider for his children to be a part of his bounty. He’s so delusional, he really thinks he’s a lot like Rupert Murdoch, and he thinks that’s a good thing to be. McCourt doesn’t realize how foolish he looks. He can’t admit he’s a man of literally nothing.

      He is, in essence, another form of what makes Lenny Dykstra.

      • Old Gator - Jul 21, 2011 at 10:01 AM

        Except that it has been Lenny’s good fortune to be rid of his wives already.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 21, 2011 at 10:05 AM

        Although Lenny has had problems with the help.

      • Old Gator - Jul 21, 2011 at 10:10 AM

        So has the Governator. It’s a common affliction. Even as we speak, Peorgie is up in his room helping Porcelain make the bed.

    • pjmarn6 - Jul 21, 2011 at 3:12 PM

      I remember when baseball games were free to watch on tv and hear on radio and seats were reasonably priced. Now we have $2000 seats at yankee stadium, no free radio or tv and players get multimillion dollar salaries for hitting .250 or having 5.00 era. How has this enourmous increase in salaries and forced payment to hear or watch the game benefitted the fan? What value extra has been added to the game to legitmatize this?

  2. bigxrob - Jul 21, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    I get the feeling that McCourt’s ego wouldn’t allow him to take a deal from Selig.

    On a side note: Craig, I’ve watched a lot of Law and Order, and the court rooms are never boring. I’m not sure I’m buying that part of this post.

    • jimbo1949 - Jul 21, 2011 at 10:24 AM

      L & O is 40 mins long sans commercials, 20 mins lawyer part. 10 mins prep and 10 mins court. The hearing yesterday was 10 hrs of watching somebody think about painting a wall so you could maybe watch it dry someday.

      No comparison.

      • Joe - Jul 21, 2011 at 10:32 AM

        I’m pretty sure bigxrob was making a joke.

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