As settlement talks between Frank and Jamie McCourt progress, attention has shifted to the commissioner's office. In a potential settlement, Frank would keep the Dodgers and Jamie would get a truckload of money, presumably from the extension of the club's television rights deal with Fox. To flesh things out, here's our friend Bill:
The protracted divorce proceedings could be over soon, with an asterisk. As lawyers for Frank and Jamie McCourt work to craft a settlement, the Dodgers have revived negotiations with Fox on a television rights deal that could get each of the McCourts to shake hands and move on with their lives.Now, there's a lot going on here. Shaikin suggests in his article that Selig might refuse to allow Frank to extend the TV deal. In the past weeks and months, the commissioner's office has rejected at least two funding proposals from the Dodgers; it's been speculated here and elsewhere that Selig is ready to let McCourt ownership die on the vine.
The asterisk is this: The television deal would be subject to Selig's approval.
McCourt would ask Selig for his blessing, arguing that the deal would provide plenty of money to settle the divorce, manage the Dodgers' debt and improve the team and the stadium.
And then we would find out just how badly Selig wants McCourt out.
Craig Calcaterra offers another possible motivation behind Selig's actions here:
It seems to me that it could be more than wanting to squeeze McCourt out that would animate Selig to reject the deal. Rather, it could be that baseball would really, really like a marquee team in a major market to do what the Yankees, Sox and Mets have done and form its own cable network someday.It's already quite obvious that the Dodgers--despite their significant built-in advantages like market size and a paid-for stadium--do not operate as a mega-market team can. Arguably, the Dodgers do not operate like a mega-market team should. Craig sees the McCourts' strife as an opportunity for Baseball to interpose its wishes on the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Of course, if Selig does block a TV deal vital to helping the McCourts settle their divorce and keep the team in the family, you can expect Frank to sue. It is, after all, what he does. And he's been quite successful at it; he withstood a decade of legal challenges related to the Boston property he ended up flipping for the Dodgers. As we've seen in this divorce, he's not one to back down.
Which brings us back to the most interesting angle of Shaikin's artice (to me, at least):
When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers, he signed an agreement not to sue the commissioner, an agreement required of every incoming owner.This is well-trod ground, I know, but: Baseball never seems to benefit from its teams' information going public. It's always more complex than people want to think, there's always money going places people don't want it to go, and it's all much more a business than people want to believe. Even where accounting practices and the like are on the up-and-up, folks still have negative reactions to seeing how the sausage is made.
Michael McCann, a professor of sports law at the University of Vermont Law School, said the danger for baseball might be less that McCourt would succeed in a lawsuit than that confidential financial data from all clubs might be revealed along the way.
So maybe Selig does fight Frank's plans. Maybe he does squeeze the McCourts out of baseball. Maybe he is willing to deal with the consequences. Or maybe he's under pressure from the 29 other members of the fraternity to keep the books closed at all costs. Maybe, like others before him, Selig decides that fighting Frank just isn't worth it.