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Time for Major League Baseball to step in and take Dodgers from the McCourts

December 7, 2010 | 10:34 am

Dilbeck_640
We have a winner!

OK, not exactly. Alas, maybe just a round-one winner.

These legal things have way of taking on a life of their own, particularly when nearly $1 billion is at stake, which may give new life to the one real hope: Major League Baseball steps in and takes over the Dodgers.

Still highly unlikely, given Commissioner Bud Selig’s history of dynamic leadership -- can we huddle and get a consensus, please? -- but the case for it is building.

What we do know for now is that Tuesday's ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon throws out the 2004 marital agreement that would have left Frank McCourt as sole owner of the Dodgers.

As of today, it's Frank and Jamie McCourt, back together again. At least as legal owners of the team.

Frank, naturally, is not going to roll over so easily. He was planning his next legal attack long before Gordon's ruling came down.

That Gordon would side with Jamie can't be too shocking for anyone who's spent their life in community-property California. Even if there weren't three documents that said one thing, and three the other, the state has a long history of equal financial treatment for each spouse in divorce proceedings.

Now if you're of the mind that the McCourts have lost all credibility with the community and should sell the team, you may be hoping this ruling forces them to do just that.

You can also cross your fingers and wish upon a star and hope Santa brings you a private island in the South Pacific.

Whatever else they may be, Frank and Jamie are two prideful, strong-willed people, neither of whom are going to suddenly announce, "Oh, what the heck. Let's just settle."

Which is why this legal fight may only be just underway. And why Major League Baseball needs to wake up, do what is best for baseball and take the team.

There is not a lot of history here, but there is some. After a series of blunders, MLB forbid Marge Schott from running the Reds and ultimately forced her to sell in 1999.

Perhaps you read just Monday that the NBA is planning to purchase the New Orleans Hornets, fearing that owner George Shinn might sell the team to someone who would relocate the franchise.

So it can be done, which Frank has to know. The case would need to be made that the uncertainty and current situation is detrimental to the team. And, sorry, finishing fourth in the West doesn't qualify. Cynics might say this would explain the Dodgers early aggressiveness in their offseason spending: "Look, see, everything is fine!"

But Selig should be able to recognize that this "divorce of the century" could last for years and leave neither side in a position to properly run what is supposed to be one of baseball's iconic franchises.

The McCourts have been given their chance to straighten this mess out; now it should be baseball’s turn.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Frank and Jamie McCourt in 2006. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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