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BILL SHAIKIN / ON BASEBALL

As Giants look at bright future, Dodgers are mired in bitter past

McCourt divorce does not appear to be destined for a quick settlement, and even if Frank is awarded ownership by judge, Bud Selig would question debt and spectacle. But that would be the tidy resolution.

October 20, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

From San Francisco

The fans of San Francisco look to Tim Lincecum for deliverance, for the lone victory standing between the Giants and the World Series. The fans of Los Angeles look to Scott Gordon for deliverance, to the judge handling the divorce between Frank and Jamie McCourt to decide who owns the Dodgers.

The Giants have the magic. The Dodgers could use some, but Magic Johnson says no.

For Gordon, the countdown is on. He has 68 days to rule.

He would prefer the McCourts settle. They have not.

In the coming weeks, the mediator working with them is expected to propose what he believes would be a fair settlement. The McCourts can take it or leave it, and the smart money is on "leave it."

That would put the ball back in Gordon's court, no pun intended. In late November, or sometime in December, the judge will tell us whether Frank is the sole owner of the Dodgers, truly and legally.

If he is, that could be game over for Jamie, at least on the ownership issue. She could appeal, but the odds would be against her, and Frank could proclaim victory: We signed Ted Lilly, our player payroll is going up, we're back to business as usual at Dodger Stadium.

However, Bud Selig would have some questions for Frank.

The commissioner already was dismayed at the public spectacle of the divorce. He was disturbed to hear that Frank had ousted the Dodgers' respected president, Dennis Mannion, and turned the business side of the team over to Geoff Wharton, whose background is in real estate, not sports. Three marketing staffers also departed this week, including the senior director of marketing, Harlan Hendrickson, whom Mannion had recruited to Los Angeles.

The commissioner also would want to hear how Frank would dig the Dodgers out from a deep debt hole. Selig's lieutenants are not convinced Frank can afford to keep the team even if Gordon rules in his favor.

That scenario nonetheless could represent a relatively tidy resolution. If Gordon rules for Jamie, the fight for the Dodgers could extend beyond the court.

Jamie could not immediately proclaim herself half-owner of the Dodgers. Frank has other legal cards to play, over what could be months or years in court. In the interim, Ned Colletti would not need to get Jamie's blessing every time he wanted to make a trade.

However, because a ruling in her favor would significantly increase the chance the Dodgers eventually would be declared community property and subsequently put up for sale, Jamie could try a dramatic gambit. She could put together an ownership group and challenge Frank to sell the Dodgers now, to spare the city and the team from years of legal limbo.

That might even smoke out Selig from his cone of silence. Jamie realizes the chance of other owners approving her as proprietor of the Dodgers is close to zero, but perhaps she could facilitate a deal in which she would sell a controlling interest to an unimpeachable civic leader and let him run the team.

Someone like, well, Magic Johnson.

It's the hot rumor this week: Magic coming in from the bullpen, to save the Dodgers.

"Let me put that to rest," Johnson told The Times' Broderick Turner on Wednesday. "First of all, I'm honored that the citizens of Los Angeles would want me to own the Dodgers. But the Dodgers have an owner. And they probably have, with the Yankees and the Red Sox, the biggest fan base in all of baseball. Everybody knows those three brands without any question.

"I am a baseball fan, a Dodger fan. But, no, I won't be buying the Dodgers, or have any talks about owning the Dodgers."

There would be no shortage of potential candidates. David Geffen, for instance, has tried to buy the Los Angeles Times. He could try for another civic institution, the one at Chavez Ravine.

None of this is to say that Frank could be persuaded to sell, short of a court order. But it is to say that the winter could be long and ugly for the Dodgers, and not just if the Giants make the World Series.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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