In a shocking move, the Los Angeles Dodgers were taken over by Major League Baseball on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig stated that he was using his powers to appoint a representative from the league to oversee day to day operations of the team because Major League baseball had deep concerns about the financial operations of the team. The owner of the Dodgers, Frank McCourt, has been embroiled in an extremely bitter divorce that had paralyzed the team since he and his wife decided that it was appropriate to announce they were separating on the eve of the Dodgers National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies back in October of 2009.
Frank McCourt needs to be made to understand he is never getting ownership of the team back. Major League Baseball is not going to allow one of its’ most storied franchises be run into the ground. There is nowhere for him to look to for guidance because one cannot find a situation that mirrors the actions taken by MLB against McCourt. McCourt has left the Dodgers approximately 433 million dollars in debt. Documents brought to the light by his messy divorce trial showed that he had used 100 million dollars of the team’s money for personal use and a host of embarrassing insights into his handling of the team. The team has been reducing payroll the last two years. On Opening Day of this season at Dodgers Stadium, Giants fan Brian Stow was beaten so badly he is now in a medically induced coma. There was immediate criticism regarding the fact that the team had failed to hire a chief of security since December of 2010 and that the team had scaled back the security presence at the stadium. Finally, this past week Frank McCourt had to take a 30 million dollar loan from Fox in order to meet payroll.
There are rumors that Frank McCourt might try to file legal challenges to the situation. This endeavor will certainly be just as painful and unsuccessful as his legal actions against his ex wife. McCourt’s only viable option is to come to an agreement with MLB where he offers to refrain from litigation in exchange for a nice settlement out of the sale of the team to new owners. Considering his debts and what must be exorbitant legal fees owed to his lawyers, McCourt does not want to get into a protracted legal battle with MLB. His best avenue right now is to walk away.
Owners around the league should take note of this bold move by Major League Baseball. They are not going to allow owners to run a franchise into the ground because you could care less about the consequences of your actions on the fan base. If you are an owner in the MLB your overriding imperative will not be to use the team as a mechanism to enhance your personal wealth. The well being of the franchise will be. The owners of the Marlins, Pirates, and Mets should pay careful attention