Commissioner Bud Selig talks with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt before a… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
A defiant Dodgers owner Frank McCourt challenged baseball's right to seize his franchise during a news conference today in New York.
Firm in opposition to the action of Commissioner Bud Selig, who has appointed a monitor to oversee all aspects of the Dodgers, McCourt said, "Nobody handed the Dodgers to me and nobody's going to take it away."
McCourt said he met Wednesday with Major League Baseball officials, though Selig was not there, and he presented a "fully negotiated, fully drafted" television contract with Fox that would provide the club with $300 million in immediate equity and be worth in the neighborhood of $3 billion over the next 17 years.
He said Selig rejected that contract, though McCourt stressed that the contract met all requirements of similar deals between other major league clubs and broadcast partners. He called Selig's decision "fundamentally wrong."
McCourt stopped short of saying he would sue MLB, though he said he would "protect my rights, obviously" and was "committed to my position. ... I'm not going anywhere."
McCourt and baseball's other owners all signed an agreement with MLB waiving their right to sue and acknowledging Selig's authority to act in the best interests of baseball. To prevail in court, McCourt would have to show that Selig abused his power by acting arbitrarily and capriciously.
MLB responded to McCourt's comments by releasing a statement saying his "public recitation was not accurate."
The statement continued: "Most fundamental, Commissioner Selig did not 'veto' a proposed transaction. Rather, Mr. McCourt was clearly told that the Commissioner would make no decision on any transaction until after his investigation into the Club and its finances is complete."
McCourt called the Dodgers' television rights "our asset" and said it was "un-American" that he could not control that asset. He also complained that his "hard-earned money and my family's blood, sweat and tears" had gone into his purchase as well as the management of the Dodgers and that baseball's decision to intervene in his running the ballclub was "just not right."
Selig has refused to meet with McCourt, in part out of concern that any of his remarks might be used in a potential lawsuit. McCourt complained Wednesday that the commissioner would not return his phone calls.
Selig announced last week that he would appoint a trustee "to oversee all aspects of the business and day-to-day operations" of the Dodgers.
Tom Schieffer, former president of the Texas Rangers, was selected to fill that role. His introductory news conference at a Los Angeles hotel Wednesday afternoon was delayed 30 minutes, until McCourt was finished speaking in New York.
In announcing Schieffer's appointment on Monday, baseball officials described his responsibilities as that of a "monitor." In that role, Schieffer must approve any club expenditure of more than $5,000.
McCourt said he would accept Schieffer as a "monitor," but not as a "receiver," saying he did not need anyone to run his business and "I'm not going to accept that, that's for sure."
McCourt said the television deal with Fox would provide "complete stability for the Los Angeles Dodgers for the next two decades" and repeated an assertion he'd made previously that the team was in compliance with baseball rules, had made all payments and had not received any "emergency money" from MLB.
"We don't believe Commissioner Selig has the right to jump the gun and take over the business of the Los Angeles Dodgers," McCourt said.
Back in Los Angeles, Schieffer, a former diplomat to Japan and Australia in the George W. Bush administration, did his best to avoid a "transcontinental argument" with McCourt.
He said he had not met the Dodgers owner, but would be "happy to listen to him and evaluate his arguments."
But Schieffer also made it clear that baseball, not McCourt, is now in charge of the Dodgers.
"The commissioner has the right, under the agreements that we have and in the best interests of baseball, to take control of a franchise when there is difficulty," he said. "And I think that's what the commissioner has done and I am his representative."
As for potential friction between him and McCourt, Schieffer said, "that is really his choice."
Schieffer said it had not been determined that the club could not return to McCourt's control.
"We're all open-minded," he said. "One of the advantages I think I have coming in from the outside, I don't know all the rumors. I don't know all the stories. The facts will speak for themselves. I want to get to the faces and see where that takes us."