Recent days have not been kind ones to Frank McCourt and his hopes of owning the Dodgers long-term. Over the weekend came the news that Team Frank had jetted to New York to convince Major League Baseball that McCourt ownership is salvageable despite Frank’s several-hundred-million-dollar tab potentially coming due. Further, it was reported that, while the Commissioner might have difficulty directly removing Frank McCourt from baseball, Selig had a few methods by which he could make continued McCourt ownership plenty difficult.
These methods of potential coercion are mostly financial; Selig could reject a television contract that would offer Frank a lifeboat in his quest to retain the team. Further, the Commissioner could decline to allow Frank McCourt access to the sort of emergency funding most recently and notably tapped into by the Texas Rangers prior to their sale last year. Both of these tools would deny Frank that resource which most believe he needs scarcely less than oxygen: cash.
Yesterday and today, the news didn’t get much rosier. Tuesday, Buster Olney speculated that Major League Baseball might, in the event Frank indeed moves to sell the Dodgers, effectuate such a sale by essentially trading A’s owner Lew Wolff the Dodgers in exchange for his current club. The A’s, like the Montreal Expos before them, would likely operate under MLB command for a season or more while certain stadium-related issues are resolved and a new long-term owner can be discovered and wooed.
Of course, this being the Dodgers, something strange had to happen: today, Wolff communicated to Major League Baseball’s central offices, the Los Angeles Dodgers brass, and the media that he has no interest whatsoever in the occupants of Chavez Ravine. While such a statement is not entirely without an embedded message—Wolff surely doesn’t want Oakland fans thinking he’s shopping around for a new club like the Miami Dolphins searched for a new coach—the fact remains: Wolff prefers the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And, at this point, that’s at least a defensible position. Make no mistake: there’s not likely a more toxic ownership situation in American sports than what we find ourselves in. The major unknowns are how the organization rises again—and it will—and whether the McCourt family will be part of that renaissance.
It is easy to see Frank’s loss on the MPA, followed by his recent New York roadshow, as sure indications he’s not long for the Dodgers. And maybe he’s not. But know this: Frank McCourt is a fighter. If Selig tries to block his attempts to raise cash through a TV deal or emergency funding, you can bet Frank will look to other methods. And if he can’t find any, he’ll look some more. And if he still can’t find them, he’ll ready himself for whatever battle might come his way.
A good friend of mine is fond of paraphrasing the Forgetting Sarah Marshall line by saying, “When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Say ‘F*** the lemons’ and bail.” Frank McCourt will do neither. He’s not one to make lemonade. He’s not going to bail. You see, Frank McCourt doesn’t believe in lemons. It’s, as the cliché goes, perhaps his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
So, the same way he couldn’t keep the Dodgers’ issues private by settling with Jamie 18 months ago, the same way he couldn’t stop the bleeding by settling before news of the MPA switch came to light, the same way he couldn’t avoid trial, the same way he couldn’t give Jamie what she wanted before Judge Gordon’s decision, he’ll stick to his guns. Why?
Because all of this is the same way he held onto the Boston Seaport property through years and years of contentious litigation, and ended up trading out some parking lots for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While it might make the most sense not to get out while he can still do so on his own terms, doing things that make sense to you and I and most other people isn’t necessarily Frank’s way.
So the fights—and there will always be fights—will continue.
The above was written on a flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. My welcome-home present was this blog post from the Times' Bill Shaikin (shocking, I know). When reached in passing, Frank McCourt remarked that he does not share other owners' privately-expressed concerns about his chances of keeping the Dodgers. (Also shocking, I know)