Friday, September 23, 2011

MLB asks for sale of the Dodgers in bankruptcy.

And the rhetoric intensifies. As reported by the Times' Bill Shaikin, Major League Baseball today asked Judge Kevin Gross of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to order the Dodgers sold as part of the club's bankruptcy proceedings. Frank McCourt has asked the court instead to order the team's future television rights sold at auction, and his camp has long acknowledged that disposition of those rights is Frank's path to retaining the Dodgers. Among baseball's boldest language was this gem:
No one will pay the [Dodgers] to broadcast Dodgers games if the club is not part of Major League Baseball [...] Consequently, the [Dodgers'] path in this case is a dead end or worse.
Baseball has pointed out to the court that selling the television rights would have all sorts of nasty consequences, potentially including, but not limited to, the suspension of the franchise from the league. That MLB is willing to threaten such dramatic action speaks to how strongly it desires Frank McCourt out of baseball for good.

So, the question remains the same as it has been all summer: will Frank McCourt survive long enough to sell those television rights so necessary to his eventual plan for bringing the team out of bankruptcy?

We'll take a look at that this weekend.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Back in the game; three Octobers.

It tells you most everything you need to know about the Dodgers' ownership troubles that I could fall off the face of the earth for two months, and come back to learn that not a whole lot has changed. Of course, that's not true: I've stayed abreast of the happenings, and in touch with folks close to the situation. But still, I definitely haven't spent much time here.

So what's happened? Well, I took the bar, started my new job, passed the bar, and got sworn in (just today, in fact!).

Oh, but you didn't mean me.

The most relevant quote is one that bounced around last week, when Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon acknowledged that "[u]ntil it gets out of bankruptcy, the baseball team cannot be sold by this court." That reflects, of course, one of Frank McCourt's chief aims in filing for bankruptcy in the first place: it put an effective freeze on the disposition of the team.

So it appears the Dodgers will head into a third consecutive offseason with the ownership question still hanging over the proud franchise's head.

If October 2009 was about revelations and October 2010 about non-resolutions, what will October 2011 bring? The bankruptcy trial is making slow progress (which is, in many ways, the idea). The divorce litigation won't refocus on the case's most compelling issue until the calendar flips to 2012. The team is somehow thoroughly out of contention despite having viable candidates for both the National League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.

.500 seems a perfectly appropriate record for a team coasting down a hill in neutral on its way to a third winter of paralysis-by-divorce. The club seems neither to be coming nor going, neither contending nor rebuilding. That will all change, of course. Someone, Frank McCourt or otherwise, will get to sell the club's TV rights. At some point, the club will win again, and winning will bring people back to the Stadium. You can't keep a team with the Dodgers' built-in advantages down forever. But, my goodness, can you try.