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MLB rips Frank McCourt for pursuing court 'sideshow'

Frank3 Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is not entitled to a wide range of Major League Baseball documents that would enable him to turn a bankruptcy court hearing into "a multi-ringed side show of mini-trials on his personal disputes" with the league, attorneys for MLB argued in a court filing Wednesday.

The league also claimed that McCourt tried to take $20 million out of the Dodgers in late April, amid the team's payroll crisis. The league previously has cited divorce court filings that show McCourt and his ex-wife, Jamie, used more than $100 million of team revenues for personal purposes.

The bankruptcy court has set a July 20 hearing to decide whether McCourt or the league should provide the financing to operate the Dodgers through the bankruptcy process. The league claims it can offer financing at better terms -- at a lower interest rate, and without $9.75 million in fees. McCourt claims the league could not provide a fair loan because Commissioner Bud Selig wants the Dodgers owner out, and McCourt's lawyers say all those documents are necessary to prove that point.

In response, the MLB attorneys allege McCourt has demanded documents "wholly irrelevant" to the issue of short-term financing and pursued a "fishing expedition as to the internal administration of Major League Baseball." Of the 31 categories of records requested by McCourt, MLB attorneys say 28 have nothing to do with how to pay for the immediate operation of the Dodgers, including demands for disclosures about the financial troubles of the New York Mets and about the television contracts negotiated in recent years by the Mets, Houston Astros, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers and San Diego Padres.

"Not only are those requests incredibly overbroad and not relevant ... they also seek the disclosure of highly proprietary information that would place other MLB clubs at a competitive disadvantage," according to the league filing. "MLB does not share that type of information among clubs."

The league also said Selig should not be required to be deposed at this time, as McCourt had asked. The league said other executives could provide better information about the proposed short-term financing and cited legal precedent in calling the commissioner "a singularly unique, public figure who should not be subject to unwarranted harassment and discovery abuses."

The bankruptcy court has scheduled a hearing Thursday to consider what evidence each side must turn over and whether Selig and other top MLB officials are subject to immediate deposition.

In court papers, McCourt has argued Selig forced the Dodgers into bankruptcy by rejecting a proposed television contract with Fox. Selig has denied any premeditated plan to force out McCourt, but the league acknowledged in its filing Wednesday its "growing concerns regarding Mr. McCourt's mismanagement of the team, his inability to subordinate his personal interests to those of the team and the league ... and the resulting harm to one of the league's most storied franchises and its fan base."

"McCourt's allegations that MLB caused the liquidity crisis for the Dodgers are frivolous," the filing added.

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-- Bill Shaikin

Photo: Frank McCourt. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

 
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