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Frank McCourt's latest trick: Making a hero out of Fox!

November 25, 2011 | 11:45 am

And now for my favorite holiday quote of the year -- from all places, those good people at Fox.

It comes as Frank McCourt –- in a stunning turn of events! -– has managed to complicate the Dodgers' bankruptcy proceedings and his agreement with Major League Baseball to sell the team.

In violation of his current contract with Fox, McCourt still wants to sell the new TV rights prior to his collecting bids to auction off the team. To which Fox responded in a filing this week:

"Mr. McCourt is not necessary to this process. He should get out of the way and let everyone return to the business of baseball."

Can you high-five a TV network?

If life for the Dodgers could only be so simple: McCourt agrees to sell, stays quietly on the sidelines as bids come in, picks a winner, the new owner takes over, McCourt fades away. Trouble is, simple and the Dodgers haven't crossed paths since Frank and Jamie McCourt purchased the team.

For all the kudos deserved by MLB for standing up to McCourt and finally forcing him to sell, the result did not come without Commissioner Bud Selig having to pony up more than he would have preferred. Anyway, at least you like to think so.

The agreement to sell came with two significant concessions from MLB: that it would no longer contest McCourt's efforts to sell the team’s TV rights and that it would allow him to keep the parking lots surrounding Dodger Stadium if he agreed to a long-term lease with the new owner.

Some nightmares just never end, they just fall deeper down a Salvador Dali rabbit hole.

All this leaves Dodgers fans who just want McCourt as far away from Dodger Stadium as the Earth allows, almost having to pull -– if not actually having sympathy -– for Fox.

That would be Fox, the original evil in this scenario (unless you blame Peter O'Malley for selling to Fox) who made a mess of the franchise, sold it to cash-poor McCourt and then continued to prop him up with loans when he was gurgling in debt.

And now Fox is the voice of reason?

It's so byzantine it's difficult to accept -– O'Malley sells to Fox, Fox sells to McCourt and remains his ally after he brings on the wrath of MLB, Fox finally aligns with MLB in bankruptcy court, O'Malley wants to buy team back. Didn't Shakespeare write about this?

You can understand if Fox feels as though it's been jilted by everyone on its dance card. First McCourt and now MLB, which it still has to deal with on a significant national and regional basis.

Fox wants the bankruptcy court to order that the parking lots be sold along with the team and stadium, something to which you would think any rational human being or corporate entity would agree.

Who would want to buy the team and Dodger Stadium from McCourt and then have to pay him rent to use the parking lots? That would have McCourt leaving the say way he came in -– owning a parking lot. You can buy the team from McCourt and he can still be your landlord?

Unfortunately, there is actually bad precedent for all this. When the bankrupt Texas Rangers were sold, outgoing owner Tom Hicks kept the parking lots -- which quickly brought on a lawsuit between Hicks and Nolan Ryan's new ownership group.

In the end, it's like most things involving McCourt: about the money. Either he gets a nice steady income from keeping the parking lots or he includes them in the franchise's auction and nets a higher profit. Ditto with being allowed to market the next TV-rights package.

But McCourt is the one who created this financial disarray and took the Dodgers into bankruptcy. And I believe the court's main responsibility is to make sure the creditors are taken care of and the company is left in the best shape possible to move forward. Lining McCourt's pockets with the best return hardly sounds like a priority.

As Fox, that unexpected bastion of reason said, McCourt needs to get out of the way and let everyone return to the business of baseball.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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