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Frank McCourt loses last lifeline, as Bud Selig shows he thinks Dodgers deserve better

He rejects Fox deal because he says he thinks McCourt is a lousy owner he can't trust, joining list of fans who want McCourt gone. When it plays out, Selig should learn and choose next owner wisely.

June 20, 2011|Bill Plaschke

That splash you hear is Frank McCourt's last.

Drowning in debt, the Dodgers' owner had but one viable life preserver remaining.

Bud Selig, the only man who could throw it to him, has just tucked it under his arm and walked away.

It's seemingly over now. There's no rescuing McCourt. The squall of mismanagement will soon swallow his era into a dark and distant memory.

Photos: The Dodgers and the McCourts

He's out of money. He's out of schemes. He's out of time.

McCourt has spent months talking about his ownership being secured with a Fox Sports television contract that baseball valued at $1.7 billion. Yet on the first business day after McCourt used that proposed contract as the cornerstone of his divorce settlement, baseball commissioner Selig rejected it, for a stated reason as ugly as the actual rejection itself.

Selig didn't say he rejected it because it was a lousy deal. He said he rejected it because McCourt was a lousy owner.

He didn't say he rejected it because he didn't trust Fox Sports. He said he rejected it because he didn't trust McCourt.

The endless list of baseball fans who want McCourt gone has now grown by one. Not that it will make you feel any better, folks, but Bud Selig officially agrees with you.

The main stated reason for the rejection was that baseball determined the deal was devised to — surprise, surprise — benefit the McCourts more than the Dodgers.

"Structured to facilitate the further diversion of Dodgers assets for the personal needs of Mr. McCourt," read baseball's statement, which added that such a diversion "would have the effect of mortgaging the future of the franchise to the long-term detriment of the club and its fans."

In other words, Selig didn't trust that McCourt wouldn't use the TV money to run the same old scam that landed him in this mess in the first place. Considering that $173.5 million of the $385-million upfront payment would be used for the McCourts and their attorneys, can you blame him?

"As I have said before, we owe it to the legion of loyal Dodger fans to ensure that this club is being operated properly now and will be guided appropriately in the future," Selig said in the statement. "This transaction would not accomplish these goals."

In previous interviews, McCourt has said Selig's refusal to allow him to control the television contract was "un-American."

I'm not sure how McCourt would describe an American, but I'm pretty sure Selig would qualify as one.

A major league baseball team is more than a flashy business, it's a public trust. Selig is protecting this trust from a private interest intent on pilfering it for his own benefit. In doing so, he's protecting the Dodgers fan who deserves better than this year's McCourt-produced drivel.

Selig isn't un-American, he's un-McCourt, and for that, I salute him.

What happens now? McCourt is sunk, that's what.

He reportedly has little chance to make his June 30 payroll without the TV deal. That bill includes an $8.33-million deferred payment to Manny Ramirez, and wouldn't that be rich?

Yes, McCourt could be finally brought down by a guy who the owner couldn't pamper enough, from his luxurious suspension tour to the continued use of the Mannywood moniker even after Ramirez was busted for performance-enhancing drugs. McCourt tried to bleed every penny from Ramirez who, in turn, will now bleed every last penny from him.

Sure, McCourt could get one last quick fix by finding a minority owner in the next couple of weeks, but who would want to go into business with a guy whose character has just been officially questioned by that business' top official? A respected local suit named Steve Soboroff joined McCourt a couple of months ago and the association has made him look, at best, positively silly.

McCourt could also sue, but how long before his lawyers bled him dry? One last option would be bankruptcy, but major league baseball rules state that the commissioner can take the team of an owner filing bankruptcy, so that wouldn't work either.

By seizing McCourt's TV deal, Selig has essentially seized his team, which would happen after the June 30 payroll deadline. At that point, finally, perhaps, the Dodgers would be for sale again and, hey Bud?

We know that seven years ago, there weren't many prospective buyers and we know that Fox was a desperate seller. But this time, could you not give the team to the first seemingly fat wallet who shows up?

In rejecting Frank McCourt's last lifeline Monday, Selig took the first step toward gaining forgiveness from Dodgers fans for his decision to give the team to McCourt in the first place.

But in regard to picking a new owner, yeah, he still owes us one.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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