Judge to Dodgers: It's you vs. MLB, keep other teams out of it [UPDATED]
Frank McCourt has argued for months that he is the victim of a double standard. The Dodgers would not be in financial trouble, McCourt has claimed, if he and his team were treated by Commissioner Bud Selig in the same way as other owners and other teams.
On Friday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross formally denied McCourt and his attorneys evidence they had argued would be critical in proving their case. As he suggested he would, Gross refused the Dodgers permission to obtain documents relating to the other 29 major league teams.
"The Court's focus is and shall remain on LAD and Mr. McCourt, on the one hand, and the Commissioner on the other," Gross wrote in his ruling, using "LAD" to refer to the Dodgers. "The discovery LAD seeks would improperly shift the spotlight to the other 29 teams."
McCourt has argued Selig forced the Dodgers into bankruptcy by rejecting a proposed television contract with Fox Sports, claiming the contract was structured similarly to others approved by the commissioner.
"The Commissioner's relationship with LAD, including his refusal to approve the media rights sale, is what is at issue," Gross wrote, "not what 29 other teams have and/or have not done and why the Commissioner approved or rejected their requests.
"LAD either breached or didn't breach the Baseball Agreements--the actions of other teams do not bear upon the issue."
"Bankrupt guy, liquidity crisis, front-loading [the television money for personal use]?" Kurtz said. "It hasn't happened once."
In his ruling Friday, Gross put the burden on Selig to substantiate those claims--essentially, to prove why the Dodgers situation is so different that the discussion of other clubs would be irrelevant. That goes to the heart of the case: If McCourt has a financial strategy to pay off the Dodgers' creditors and get the team out of bankruptcy, why should he not be allowed to pursue it?
"Should the Commissioner falter in proving alleged wrongdoing, the Court may allow LAD to take further, limited discovery," Gross wrote.
[UPDATED 2:57 p.m.: In a statement, the Dodgers suggested Selig would not be able to meet that standard.
"We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that Commissioner Selig has not acted in good faith with respect to the Dodgers, and that the Dodgers have fully complied with the Baseball Agreements and have not engaged in any wrongdoing."]
-- Bill Shaikin
Photo: Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times