McCourt-Selig battle is getting personal

On the day three division titles were won, and hours before Matt Kemp's(notes) 37th home run gave body to the first serious Triple Crown pursuit in decades, there could be but a single buzzkill.

Kemp's own team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been threatened by MLB commissioner Bud Selig with sanctions up to and including suspension from the league – or termination – if owner Frank McCourt does not agree to sell.

Not the suspension or termination of McCourt.

The suspension or termination of the Dodgers.

That certainly would suck some of the energy out of Opening Day.

McCourt, of course, will not sell. Not willingly, not ever. Not when the city pleads, not when the fans boycott, and certainly not when Major League Baseball stipulates.

In McCourt's head, it's a matter of principle. It's a matter of business and fairness and conscience and – by the way – U.S. law.

Plus, now it's personal.

McCourt views Selig as the worst kind of bully: a megalomaniac with a grudge, a geek with a badge and sidearm.

Selig has McCourt typecast as well, as a gluttonous, litigious and desperate squatter who'd sell Tommy Lasorda if it meant a new paint job for the pool.

So – and this was inevitable – they've taken their fight into the street for a blustery showdown of who's got the bigger law firm. Whip 'em out, boys.

McCourt's only path out of franchise bankruptcy is a new television contract. In its filing Friday, baseball said it would not approve any new television contract.

"Dead on arrival" was the phrase of the day, as in what baseball would consider a media-rights deal resulting from a court-sanctioned auction.

"No one," baseball's filing read, "will pay the [Dodgers] to broadcast Dodgers games if the club is not part of Major League Baseball. Consequently, the [Dodgers'] path in this case is a dead end or worse."

The McCourt camp considers this preposterous, which it is, without a doubt.

It's a bluff.

Selig would have the court (the next bankruptcy hearing is scheduled for Oct. 12 in Delaware, bring your flak jacket) believe he'd dissolve the Dodgers, cut loose their players and play the 2012 season with 29 teams – to save the Dodgers, to smoke out McCourt, to protect the game.

OK. I'll believe it when I see the San Francisco Giants with no one to play against on a Saturday night in June, or when MLB relocates everyone but McCourt to Rancho Cucamonga for the summer.

The McCourt side finds this to be outrageous and an attack on Dodgers fans, employees, players and baseball. And on McCourt.

Team McCourt, therefore, is preparing a response, which we should see next week. Presumably, it will attempt to bury Selig and his transparent intentions and goad the court into defending its authority against the little baseball league from up the road.

While all this might seem tiring, I, for one, am glad we got here. I want to see Selig and McCourt finish this thing. There's been too much mouth and not nearly enough movement. And way too little baseball. For God's sake, somebody take a swing already.

Bankruptcy was McCourt's big play, as far as maintaining control of the Dodgers and removing himself from baseball's reach.

This, then, is Selig's big play, unless he and his management team are planning on rappelling into Dodger Stadium from a Black Hawk helicopter.

First, he'd had it with McCourt, the drama, the embarrassment, the maneuvering. Then, he'd had it with McCourt hiding behind the bankruptcy judge.

So, now we get Selig's honest intentions, laid out in legal documents, for a battle that will cut straight through October and the playoffs. That court date? They'll play Game 4 of the American League championship series that day, along with Game 3 of the National League championship series.

How bad does Selig want McCourt? He doesn't care about the scheduling conflict. Rather than have his attorneys sit through a hearing and simply answer to McCourt's charges, he's gone on the offensive.

Yes, he wants McCourt out. Yes, he'll threaten to shutter the Dodgers before he'll have McCourt run them into the future. No, it's not even about the television deal anymore.

It's about McCourt and the franchise that's dying under the weight of it all.

Yes, it's personal.

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