Commentary

McCourt settlement two years too late

Updated: October 20, 2011, 3:16 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Two years ago the settlement of Frank and Jamie McCourt's divorce would have seemed sane and sober.

A private resolution to spare a beloved public franchise from harm. Two people who shared nearly 30 years of marriage would walk away broken and poorer, but the team they claimed to love would have been kept out of the malicious crossfire.

Frank McCourt
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokAn earlier settlement could have spared us the opulent financial details of Frank McCourt's empire.

Today, the settlement is insulting.

After all this, they settle? With a deal that could have been reached years ago? In a manner that sets the stage for another fight between Frank McCourt and baseball commissioner Bud Selig?

It is nauseating on so many levels: the damage done to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the time our legal system has wasted on the matter, the embarrassment felt by a city that loves its team but largely couldn't watch this season if it meant supporting this charade any longer.

But mostly, this is just foolish.

For two people presumably so good at business -- say what you will about how the McCourts managed the Dodgers, but they made enough money to put themselves in position to buy a Major League Baseball team and mansions all over the country -- it is amazing they each let pride and emotion cloud their judgment so badly.

There is no way this should have gotten to this place, no reason all the gory details of their opulent lives needed to be spilled in court filings for all the world to see and gag over.

Those details are why this has become more than a divorce case. They damaged the McCourts' businesses and brand, then exposed both of them to future risk -- Selig's intervention and public scrutiny of their finances.

This settlement should have been reached quietly years ago in a law office off Wilshire Boulevard, not in court rooms across America. It would have been the right thing to do for the Dodgers and the right thing to do for the McCourts. But more importantly, it would have been a good business decision.

There are sunk costs for both sides in every divorce, money and wealth earned that goes away in the process of dividing assets and can never be recovered. A smart businessman assumes the loss and moves on without making it worse.

But this was never about business. It was, in fact and metaphor, a modern day bonfire of the vanities. And now, perhaps fittingly, all that selfish pride and ego stand to cost each of them dearly. The details of the McCourts' extravagant lifestyle that should never have seen the light of day, let alone been read aloud in a public courtroom, will likely sink both of them.

Without their fight in divorce court, Bud Selig never would have received the ammunition to act in the best interests of baseball. Los Angeles never would have known the depths of the McCourts' financial depravity. The Dodgers never would have been cast into purgatory.

At the end of this month, a Delaware bankruptcy court will hear arguments and then render a final judgment on this sorry matter. The team will either be sold and a city will move on with a clean break, or Frank McCourt will come out the other side, his credibility battered and bruised. Neither option is palatable. Both of them were avoidable two years ago.

In an ironic twist for as silly as this fight has been, you can't help but wonder whether it all will work out for the best.

This has been a painful process, but when it's finally over, the scars will heal. The Dodgers are better off knowing what lay beneath. Baseball is better off with a reason to excise the McCourts from the game.

Frank and Jamie McCourt never should have been allowed to own and operate a baseball team. They had neither the wealth nor the values to deserve such an opportunity. They ran the Dodgers as a business venture, not a ball club.

Now, because they let their pride and personal failings cloud their business judgment, Jamie is no longer in the Dodgers' picture, and Frank probably won't be for much longer, either.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.