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Judge signals Dodgers can't get documents about other teams

October 5, 2011 |  2:11 pm

Dodgerslogo The Dodgers failed again on Wednesday to persuade U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross that they needed documents about other Major League Baseball teams.

"To open this up at this point to all of baseball, to the other 29 teams, would be more burdensome than is appropriate," Gross said, "and perhaps not even relevant to the issue of bad faith."

Gross said he would issue a formal ruling in a day or two but said he did not imagine he would reverse his previous order denying the Dodgers access to confidential financial data involving other teams.

"What I am likely to do is say, 'I am not going to permit the discovery,' " Gross said.

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has said for months that he has been held to a double standard by Commissioner Bud Selig, most notably by the rejection of a proposed television contract. Dodgers attorney Sid Levinson said the team should be entitled to see what factors Selig used in approving or rejecting the contracts of other teams in order for the court to determine whether the commissioner treated McCourt in good faith.

"What was the commissioner's agenda?" Levinson said.

He suggested Selig wanted to force McCourt to sell the Dodgers rather than to evaluate the proposed television contract on its merits. He said the commissioner should be required to provide documents to back up his claim that the proposed television contract would have hurt the other 29 MLB clubs, and that Selig should show how other owners take distributions from their clubs to support his allegation that McCourt has "siphoned off" more than $180 million from the Dodgers.

MLB attorney Glenn Kurtz said Selig's decisions regarding the television contracts of other clubs were not relevant to the McCourt situation.

"Bankrupt guy, liquidity crisis, front-loading [the television money for personal use]?" Kurtz said. "It hasn't happened once."

Kurtz also said Selig reviews each deal based on factors specific to the deal, and his decades of experience.

"The commissioner's decisions do not fall out of a computer spreadsheet," Kurtz said.

Kurtz called Selig's authority to approve television contracts "not challengeable." Gross leaned toward MLB on that score, noting that the position of commissioner had been established by owners in the wake of the Black Sox scandal.

"They wanted to put in a man to rule MLB like a dictator," Gross said.

As the hearing started, Levinson said that for the Dodgers to argue their case without access to decisions involving other teams would force them to "go to trial with one hand behind their back." In his final arguments, Levinson said, "Without that evidence, our hands are really tied behind our back."

The key hearing is set to start Oct. 31. If any evidence introduced then compels a need for discovery from other teams, Gross said, he might reconsider the issue at that time.

He also said he would hear from the Dodgers, MLB, Fox Sports, the official creditors' committee, a committee of season-ticket holders and Jamie McCourt at the key proceeding. Jamie McCourt, the ex-wife of Frank McCourt, claims half-ownership of the Dodgers and wants them sold.

Gross has ordered Selig and Frank McCourt to testify in person at the hearing, set for Oct. 31-Nov. 4 in Wilmington, Del.

Gross also set an Oct. 12 hearing on the MLB motion to disqualify the Dodgers' attorneys on grounds they cannot represent the interests of the team and of McCourt simultaneously, but the judge strongly suggested he would deny the motion.

"I didn't think very highly of the disqualification motion, to be blunt," Gross said.


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-- Bill Shaikin