Selig v. McCourt: Who Ya Rootin’ For?

I was skimming my way through a few baseball articles today, including a brief Associated Press piece reporting that a Delaware judge denied a motion by lawyers for the Los Angeles Dodgers that MLB be required to turn over certain documents that the lawyers claim would demonstrate that MLB has not treated the team fairly. Of course, by “the team”, we’re talking about Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

At the end of the brief article, this particular line caught my attention: “But Gross said he did not want to turn a July 20 hearing on the team’s proposed financing plan into a trial of baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.”

My reaction, of course, was, “Well, that’s a damn shame, because if there’s one thing we could really use, it’s a trial of baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.”

Jamie and Frank McCourt

Alas, we won’t be getting that. Instead, we’re going to continue to be treated to months of “McCourt v. Selig”. How the hell are we supposed to find someone to root for in THAT contest?

Trying to figure out who to root for in this battle is kind of like figuring out who to  root for when you watch the Yankees play the White Sox. If you’re like me, you just end up rooting for everyone involved on both sides to be swallowed up in to a giant sinkhole.

In case you haven’t really followed the situation involving the owner(s) of the Dodgers, let me summarize the situation:

Frank McCourt and his wife Jaime bought the Dodgers a few years ago, apparently without having to put a single nickel of their own money in to the transaction. I’m not exactly sure HOW they did this, but apparently they were not only able to essentially borrow 100% of the money they needed, but Selig and his MLB buddies (yes, the same ones who don’t seem to think bazillionaire Mark Cuban is good enough to join their little club) cheerfully approved the sale to the McCourts.

Frank and Jaime then commenced to spend every dime the they could rake in from the organization to support a lifestyle they really had no business expecting to live. They gave out huge deferred contracts that are now handcuffing the Dodgers. In other words, they not only spent current revenues on themselves, but when that wasn’t enough any more, they had the team go deeply in to debt so they could continue living their excessive lifestyle.

Then the couple started not getting along any more. The details of how that came to pass are certainly interesting, but I won’t bother with them here. You can look those up yourself. But suffice to say that Frank didn’t care for some of the things he discovered his wife was doing and he fired her from her position with the Dodgers. They filed for divorce and Jaime claims she owns half the Dodgers.

In order to fund (a) the divorce, (b) his soon to be ex-wife’s lifestyle, and (c) his own lifestyle, Frank has talked FOX in to a long term TV rights deal for Dodger games on a contract that is significantly… some would say obscenely… front loaded. The net effect would be that, while the money would arguably allow McCourt to pay off his wife and have a few bucks to spend on himself, it would also almost eliminate a critical revenue stream that the Dodgers would otherwise have to spend on other things… like baseball players, for example… over the rest of the next decade.

So Bud Selig said, “no”. This has forced the Dodgers in to bankruptcy when they were unable to meet their June 30 payroll.

When owners buy their team, they are required to sign an agreement stating that they will not sue MLB. I think it’s safe to say that the validity of that agreement is about to get tested and we will then get the “McCourt v. Selig” battle I referred to at the onset of this post.

If we were Dodger fans or if it had been the Twins ownership that had so overtly plundered their team’s present and future revenues, we would really have no choice but to loudly root for the Selig team. But we’re not and they haven’t.

So I’m rooting for McCourt.

It’s certainly not because I think what the McCourts did was “right”. The two of them have got to be just about the worst excuses for owners… and probably even just as human beings… that you could find in modern day sports. They are clearly flat out awful people and what they’ve done to the Dodgers is indefensible.

Bud Selig

But I don’t care about that as much as I care about Bud Selig and his buddies losing this fight. The reason is simple… if Frank McCourt can convince the legal system that he is within his rights, as owner of a MLB team, to essentially steal most of the team’s future TV revenues just to support his own immediate personal financial needs, then maybe… finally… MLB will be forced to finally take central control over teams’ local broadcast/cable rights.

McCourt is only able to do what he’s done because MLB lets every team negotiate their own local TV deals. This has, as we all now know, led to the BS blackout restrictions (~You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant~) and, even more importantly, enormous revenue and competitive advantages for teams in the largest media markets.

I want the courts to tell Bud Selig, “You approved this guy as an owner… your rules say he can make his own TV deals… so if you don’t like the deals he makes, too damn bad! Maybe you should change the rules!”

Because, let’s face it, until the current situation blows up in Bud’s face, nothing will change. We will see the Yankees and Red Sox on TV 45 times a season. The Yankees will take in twice as much revenue as anyone else and therefore have twice as much to spend on talent. Only when revenues are more balanced (not necessarily equal, but more equitable) will teams compete on level playing fields… and that will not happen until Selig and the big market owners get punched in the nose by the courts. This may be the last, best hope of seeing that happen.

This would also solve the silly realignment issue. Which teams are crying the loudest for realignment? Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay, that’s who. Why? Because in the current situation, they have to contend with the two teams with the most obscene revenue advantages, New York and Boston, every season. So, naturally, instead of curing the illness… revenue disparity… MLB proposes treating the symptom through realignment schemes that result in the rest of the AL sharing the competitive disadvantages equally. After all, MLB and their network partners WANT the Yankees and Red Sox in the playoffs every year and competitive balance would make that far less assured to happen.

Finally, there’s one last reason to root for the courts to come down against Bud Selig. It’s simple really. He’s Bud Selig.

I know the odds are against me… and Frank McCourt… in this deal. So what do we wish for if it’s not possible for McCourt to win this battle?

I guess there’s always the “swallow everyone involved on both sides in to a giant sinkhole” thing.

– JC