LOS ANGELES – Frank McCourt agreed on Tuesday night to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, an irrevocable commitment that means the legal battles might really be over.
No more lawyers, other than those empowered to usher the ballclub from McCourt to auction and into the hands of the next guy. The Dodgers and Major League Baseball will ask for U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval to auction the team.
No more Frank, other than some cardboard boxes and a few memories of a man who never quite fit in, never quite got it.
No more Jamie, whose past two years appeared spent resolved to destroy her ex-husband or the Dodgers, whichever came apart first.
Turned out, it was a tie. Good for her.
So, no more family ownership of the Dodgers – at least not this family. It was little more than a story the McCourts hoped would soothe the locals anyway, trading on the name and spirit of the O'Malleys, peddling that for a while.
Few ever did buy it. Not when the financial commitment seemed low to every outlet but the McCourts. Not even when the Dodgers had their best teams in 20 years. All those years I'd told Frank McCourt his only job here was to win, and then he won and it hardly mattered. He'd even killed winning in this town.
That's probably when you know it's time to go.
It wasn't for two years, however, two years after Frank and Jamie announced they'd separated, that the Dodgers were released from about the nastiest – and certainly the richest – divorce/custody/mudslinging court battle L.A. had ever seen. While L.A. might not have invented that sort of thing, it did perfect it. The McCourts came along and turned it into a world's fair.
Then, on Tuesday night, arrived a joint statement: "The Los Angeles Dodgers and Major League Baseball announced that they have agreed today to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designed to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner, Frank McCourt."
In barely two weeks time, McCourt had settled with his ex-wife (for $130 million he still didn't have) and had turned over the team to be sold. There would seem to be little left to fight. MLB officials called the agreement irrevocable. There is no minimum sale price demanded by McCourt or, apparently, guaranteed by MLB. There would seem to be no lack of potential bidders. L.A., like most places in need of a deep-pocketed owner, loves Mark Cuban. Dennis Gilbert, the former player agent, is expected to form a group of investors. Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is rumored to have an interest, as are handfuls of L.A. businessmen, including Ron Burkle and Alan Casden.
They'd all be a new start, maybe a reason to return to the ballpark, at least for a few months.
After living the McCourt era here, after finding Mr. and Mrs. McCourt not repugnant but sad and lost, the end is shocking in its swiftness and equanimity.
Frank would never stop fighting. He said so. His friends said so. His record said so. When he was done swinging at Jamie, he'd started swinging at commissioner Bud Selig. Hell, didn't matter, as long as there was someone out there at the end of his fists. It was about principle, right and wrong, even if he was the only one who could see it.
Really, through the summer, it seemed Frank's anger was directed far more toward baseball than his ex-wife. And maybe that's why he settled with her, to free up both hands for Selig.
And then, this. Sell?
McCourt had had enough, according to a friend. Selling the club was in the best interests of his family, McCourt had decided, and the best interests of the franchise, the city, everyone involved. There was no way back, not without killing more of it.
Couldn't he have done this two years ago, when everybody was telling him it was his only way out? You know, before he spent all his equity on attorneys?
Instead, we rode this thing for two years. He dragged the revered Dodgers through bankruptcy, of all things. People – not players or executives, of course – had paychecks bounce and, when they waved a meek finger, were told, "Get in line."
All that fight, two years in court, an organization pulled to pieces, the family trampled, surely the endgame was bigger than this.
Course, Dodger fans won't care. The end is the end, and it's all they've been thinking of. They can get back to baseball again.
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