Friday, April 29, 2011
Frank McCourt: I'm facing 'uphill road'
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said Friday he has an "uphill road" in restoring faith among fans and pundits who have criticized him for taking money out of one of baseball's most storied franchises and using it for his and his ex-wife's lavish lifestyle.
McCourt met with multiple media outlets Friday, speaking out at length publicly. He gave his mea culpa in which he pledged his commitment to the Dodgers and apologized for a much publicized divorce with his former wife, ex-Dodgers CEO Jamie McCourt, which helped bring Major League Baseball to his front gate to oversee the team's daily operations.
"I'm confident that when the fans understand what's going on here and the fans understand how passionately I feel about this team and this community and how committed I am to them, they will support me," McCourt said from his office in Dodger Stadium. "I have an uphill road here because I've been silent for 18 months."
McCourt later ventured into the right-field pavilion to visit with fans during the game against San Diego.
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Meanwhile, McCourt also met with Tom Schieffer, appointed by commissioner Bud Selig to monitor the Dodgers. Schieffer said he got his first detailed look at the Dodgers' finances since beginning his new job three days ago and approved the team's latest payroll, although he said he didn't recall the total amount.
"It was all within budget," said Schieffer, sitting in the stands before the Dodgers opened the homestand, having polished off a Dodger Dog slathered in ketchup and mustard.
Schieffer declined to provide specifics on his meeting with McCourt, who reacted angrily earlier in the week when Selig announced he was sending Schieffer to watch over the team.
Both men said the meeting was cordial and McCourt was trying to get clarity as to what Schieffer's role will be.
"He wants to know what I think my role is and I was trying to explain to him I think my role is to be the last check on what's going on," Schieffer said. "He understandably would prefer that we weren't here, but I didn't have any problem with that and he promised cooperation.
Schieffer also clarified MLB's stance on "seizing control" of the franchise.
"Major League Baseball has not seized anything," he said. "Frank McCourt is still the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. What Major League Baseball has done, is acted under the 'best interests of baseball' clause to create a situation where they can investigate and monitor what's going on with the franchise. We're trying to ensure that the difficulties that they've experienced in the past don't increase or become an even bigger burden on the franchise."
Asked if he had identified specific problems with the team, Schieffer chuckled.
"I think I'm going to probably hold up on commenting on that," he said.
Frank McCourt, above, was busy Friday, filing to appeal a divorce court ruling granting ex-wife Jamie McCourt joint ownership of the Dodgers, as well as meeting with MLB overseer Tom Schieffer.
Schieffer also met with general manager Ned Colletti, and said he's consulted with former Dodgers manager Joe Torre and will use him as "a great resource" during his assignment in Los Angeles. Torre and Colletti accompanied Schieffer to the Dodgers clubhouse Friday, where he addressed first-year manager Don Mattingly and the players to clarify his duties on behalf of Selig and to explain how this process will work.
"I'm not going to be in the clubhouse. That's not what I'm here for and I want to just tell them that," he said.
"It's just very helpful to have a guy of his stature to talk about any particular problem," Schieffer said of Torre, who is now the vice president of baseball operations for MLB. "One of the things we talked about the other night was whether I should come down and talk to the players and Don Mattingly. I don't want to be in the clubhouse, but I need to talk to the players."
Torre declined comment about what his role would be in this process, when approached Wednesday at Schieffer's introductory news conference.
Colletti continues to work under an already established budget and if he wants to make moves totaling more than $5,000, he must go through the usual chain of command -- including McCourt -- before seeking final approval by Schieffer.
McCourt continued to argue for the approval of a 17-year television deal with Fox that may be worth more than $3 billion. About $300 million would be made available immediately to him and he promised he would put the money toward the team. Selig has not yet approved the deal.
Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of labor relations, has said that Selig has not vetoed the deal but was waiting for a full investigation into the club and its finances before making a decision.
McCourt, wearing a navy blue suit with a green and blue striped tie, said it's vital to have the television contract in place. When asked twice if he has enough money to make payroll -- he recently took out a $30 million loan from Fox -- if MLB doesn't approve the deal, he pointed out that other franchises have received approval for similar arrangements.
"It's preposterous to think we are going out and have a Plan B or a Plan C with baseball sending in somebody that nobody is quite sure whether they are a receiver or a monitor or what their role is and we have a transaction completely negotiated and done," McCourt said.
"At some point in time if the transaction isn't approved, of course there's going to be a financial situation that has been precipitated by the lack of approval," he added.
McCourt still wouldn't say whether he plans to sue Selig or MLB over that refusal. He also seemed unwilling to consider a fallback plan to preserve his ownership if that approval from Selig never comes, and consequently the agreement with Fox is never implemented.
"This is the plan," McCourt told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "Baseball knows this is the plan, and there is no reason why this plan shouldn't be approved. It is preposterous to think that the commissioner of baseball is sending someone [Schieffer] in who may or may not be a receiver at a time when we are in complete compliance with baseball's financial rules, are current on our [financial] obligations, haven't asked for a penny from the emergency fund and have a multibillion-dollar transaction ready to be signed and implemented.''
McCourt said the television deal did not need approval from his ex-wife with whom he has been embroiled in a nasty and costly divorce battle. Court documents revealed the former couple had taken out more than $100 million in loans from Dodgers-related businesses.
A Los Angeles judge recently threw out a postnuptial marital agreement the McCourts signed after buying the Dodgers in 2004 that gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the team. The ruling cleared the way for Jamie McCourt to seek half of the Dodgers under California's community property law.
Frank McCourt's attorneys filed a notice Friday, saying they were going to appeal the judge's ruling.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne, Tony Jackson and The Associated Press was used in this report.