Today was a day of dueling press conferences, featuring two men claiming to be in control of the Dodgers. Frank McCourt pleaded with the people of Los Angeles for a second chance, but he did so roughly 2,800 miles away from the offices of a a leading strategic, corporate, and financial communications firm. Meanwhile, the new sheriff -- er, monitor -- in town, Tom Schieffer held his own press conference, in Los Angeles.
McCourt was in New York to pitch his television deal with Fox, which McCourt said was "fully drafted and fully negotiated, ready to be signed, waiting for MLB approval." McCourt said the deal was a 17-year contract worth close to $3 billion, including a renegotiation of the final four years of the current deal, but added that the value "depends on how you calculate it." That last caveat basically screams this is not a $3 billion deal (likely closer to the $1.6 billion deal reported by the Los Angeles Times last week), though McCourt said, "It provides complete stability for the Los Angeles Dodgers for the next two decades."
The television contract also includes a partial ownership stake for the Dodgers in Prime Ticket, and provides for an upfront payment of $300 million, which McCourt said he would pledge in writing to reinvest back in the team.
McCourt said the deal was rejected by commissioner Bud Selig, a notion almost immediately disputed by MLB. Rob Manfred, Executive VP of Labor Relations for MLB, issued a statement indicating the league wasn't the least bit happy, again, with McCourt:
It is unfortunate that Mr. McCourt felt it necessary to publicize the content of a private meeting. It is even more unfortunate that Mr. McCourt's public recitation was not accurate. 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 so that he can properly evaluate all of the facts and circumstances.
Speaking of that investigation into the Dodgers, McCourt was at his most defiant. "Nobody handed me the Dodgers, and I’m not going anywhere," McCourt said. "It’s my money invested in the Dodgers. It’s my liability." McCourt said he would welcome Schieffer to view the Dodgers operations -- "the more you see us, the more you like us," McCourt said, sounding like a car salesman -- but that he would resist any efforts by Schieffer to control the team.
Schieffer, during his press conference and subsequent interviews, stated that in fact he and MLB are in control of the Dodgers, and that it is well within the rights of Bud Selig and MLB to take such an action in the best interests of baseball. While McCourt called the seizing of his property "un-American," Schieffer pointed out the differences of their views in an interview with Steve Mason and the Kamenetzky brothers on ESPN 710, saying "Seizing control of the Dodgers under the best interests of baseball is not the same as seizing the Dodgers."
McCourt, who said, "the Dodgers are current on all their financial obligations," is wondering, and likely rightfully so, why he is being singled out by MLB, and hinted that his relationship with the commissioner isn't as friendly as Fred Wilpon, who is going through his own issues as owner of the Mets. When asked of his relationship with Selig, McCourt offered, "I suspect commissioner Selig calls the other 29 other owners back when they call."
McCourt, the owner of a team with a closer who didn't close today's game, was confused by the definition of roles. Though McCourt said he wasn't sure what Schieffer's role would be with the Dodgers, Manfred refuted that notion as well:
There has been no seizure of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr. Scheiffer has been appointed as a monitor, and a multi-page written directive from the Commissioner describing his role has been provided to Mr. McCourt. In our meeting, no one from the Dodgers asked a single, specific question about the terms of the document setting forth the monitor's role. Finally, Mr. McCourt is well aware of the basis of Baseball's investigation and has been provided an eight-page document describing the issues of concern to Major League Baseball.
McCourt said he hasn't yet decided whether or not he would sue MLB, but his very public stance on what is Schieffer's actual role has been a very clear rejection. Schieffer was asked what would happen if McCourt were to sue MLB, but the former ambassador took the high road, saying, "You'll have to ask Mr. McCourt."
Who knows what the next step will be in the saga that is the Dodgers? What we do know is that McCourt won't go down without a fight, and this is likely to get much uglier before it gets any better.