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Frank McCourt pleads his case: Here's hoping MLB (and Fox) is not feeling charitable

January 12, 2011 |  7:02 am

So what do you think Frank McCourt is up to?

Three days of meetings in New York. All so hush-hush. Don't think he was just dropping by after visiting Vladimir Shpunt.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin reported that the meetings with Major League Baseball executives were at the behest of McCourt, and that McCourt outlined his legal and financial plans for retaining control of the team as his divorce proceedings march on.

Those must have been some plans, having to be spread over three days. Ending with his big finish: See, everything is just hunky-dory!

I'm thinking not. That McCourt would schlep his crew to New York for three days in the dead of winter to plead his case to MLB execs -- noticeably minus Commissioner Bud Selig -- indicates he senses trouble.

Oh, if only it were true. Big trouble. "Get out of Dodge" trouble.

History tells us that Selig is not eager to force McCourt out. Selig would rather get all the owners together around the campfire, sing songs and roast marshmallows than to suddenly go confrontational.

Yet even the less-than-dynamic Selig has to be seriously ticked off that the McCourts would pull over $100 million out of the team’s operations to become the Great Land Barons of the Westside. And even the watch-me-leverage-a-parking-lot-into-a-$1-billion-franchise McCourt has to recognize it.

So he takes his meetings and plays his shell game and outlines ... what? Was his hat out?

This much seems apparent: McCourt is less than flush and is going to need a stunning amount of dinero if he is to pay Jamie McCourt for half the team.

If you're Frank McCourt, what's your play? He has stated he has no intention of selling a minority ownership. He's already been turned away for additional loans -- one from an infomercial dude, no less.

But it's hard to believe that MLB would offer any short-term financing relief, given his history of turning team profit into Chateau McCourt No.6. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider status required) wrote that if MLB doesn't lend McCourt a hand, he could be squeezed out.

See, I do write positive posts.

The one scary factor in all this, as it always has been, is Fox. Someone explain the concept of "three strikes" to the network. One, it bought the team and ran into it into the ground so badly financially that; two, the only buyers who could be scrounged up were the McCourts; three, would be to offer McCourt a rich new television contract to bail him out of this mess.

Shaikin wrote that Selig could reject any new television contract, and you can only hope.

Know this: McCourt is going to work all the angles. He won't sell without examining every possible recourse. Vladimir, you could be on deck again.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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