The McCourt trial: my gut is that Jamie is going to win, even if she shouldn't

8 Comments

The McCourt trial ended yesterday, with closing statements offered by the attorneys. Lots of different attorneys, according to the L.A. Times summary. Each side had, like, three people making arguments. What was this, a tag team match?  I understand multiple lawyers taking stabs at different parts of closing if it’s a complicated case, but this is a bench trial in which, basically, a single fact was at issue.  And people wonder how the McCourts could have run up $8 million in attorneys fees.

Anyway, here’s an insight that may appeal to, like, six of you who care about such things, but I just can’t shake it: Frank McCourt’s lawyers keep arguing that the business with his lawyer switching out versions of the agreement that was to decide who owns the Dodgers was no big deal.  A clerical error. A “scrivener’s error.”  Of no consequence at all. But tell me: if Jamie wins, and Frank has to give her hundreds of millions of dollars, how much time will elapse between the judgment coming down and the malpractice suit Frank files against his “scrivener”?  I’m guessing he may let a day go by, but not two, and when he does he will characterize it as the most egregious case of professional misconduct in the history of Anglo-American jurisprudence. That’ll be fun.

As for the outcome, I don’t really know what to think.  Based on everything I’ve read, I am of the opinion that Jamie McCourt’s story that she always thought she was going to own half the team is self-serving post-facto baloney. I don’t buy that she didn’t read the documents and understand what she was signing. I don’t buy that Frank was truly going to give her every one of their houses AND the Dodgers.  It just doesn’t make sense to me based on the things we’ve heard about their respective appetites for risk, their history and all of that. I simply don’t find her side of the story credible.

At the same time, I do find the scrivener’s story credible. I bet there was an error in the documents and that — as the man who made the error — the lawyer did just go back and try to substitute the correct document in there and hope no one ever figured it out.  I used to do a lot of professional responsibility defense work, and I’ve seen lots of lawyers do this. It’s always, always, always the wrong thing to do, but I’ve seen them do it.

But just because I find it credible doesn’t mean it’s defensible. There’s too much at stake in the legal system — not just for rich people like the McCourts but for everyone — for courts to overlook lawyer misconduct and make assumptions about what was really going on. Yes, in this case taking a hard line may reward Jamie’s post-facto baloney and may, in the end, cost Frank the Dodgers. But it’s going to be hard for a judge to essentially validate the document switcheroo.

We’ll find out for sure in 90 days, when a decision comes out.

Jacob deGrom open to extension with Mets

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom talks during media day for the Major League Baseball World Series against the Kansas City Royals Monday, Oct. 26, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
1 Comment

The Mets are currently enjoying the spoils of the best young rotation in the game, but the big question is whether this is just a brief window or the start of sustained success. Given the huge prices on the free agent market, it’s going to be next to impossible to keep the band together, but at least one member of the rotation is open to sticking around for the long-term.

While there haven’t been any talks yet, All-Star right-hander Jacob deGrom told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post that he could see himself discussing an extension with the Mets.

“I’m a little bit older, so I might be more willing to do something like that,’’ deGrom told The Post at Mets pre-camp. “You just have to look at what is fair so both sides get a decent deal. It’s something I’d have to look into and make sure I agree with it.’’

It makes sense from deGrom’s perspective. He broke into the majors later than most prospects, so he’ll be 28 this June. Depending on whether he qualifies as a Super Two, he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time after either 2016 or 2017. Either way, he’s under team control through 2020, which means that he’s currently on track to hit free agency after his age-32 season. The market might not be kind to him even if he manages to stay healthy, so it could behoove him to get as much guaranteed money as possible right now. The Mets could always decide to play things year-to-year, but perhaps deGrom would be willing to settle for a discount in order to get them to buy out a free agent year or two. It’s a really interesting situation to think about, but odds are the two sides will wait on contract talks until he’s arbitration-eligible for the first time.

DeGrom owns a 2.61 ERA in 52 starts over his first two seasons in the majors. Among starters, only Zack Greinke, Jake Arrieta, and Clayton Kershaw have a lower ERA since the start of 2014.

Royals, Mike Moustakas avoid arbitration with two-year deal

Kansas City Royals' Mike Moustakas celebrates after hitting an RBI single against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning in Game 2 of baseball's American League Championship Seriesagainst the Toronto Blue Jays  on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
1 Comment

The Royals and third baseman Mike Moustakas have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $14.3 million deal, reports Jon Heyman of MLB Network.

The deal, which was initially discussed last month, buys out Moustakas’ final two years of arbitration. Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports that it’s believed he’ll make $5.6 million in 2016 and $8.7 million in 2017.

The 27-year-old Moustakas posted an underwhelming .668 OPS over his first four seasons in the majors, but he enjoyed a big postseason in 2014 before breaking out last season by batting .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBI.

Report: Rays having “advanced talks” with free agent reliever Tommy Hunter

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Tommy Hunter throws to the Miami Marlins during the seventh inning of a baseball game in Miami, Friday, May 22, 2015. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
Leave a comment

ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported this morning that free agent reliever Tommy Hunter required core muscle repair surgery earlier this offseason. Coming off a disappointing 2015, it’s understandable why he’s still on the market, but it sounds like he has at least one significant lead.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Rays are having “advanced talks” with Hunter as they attempt to add an experienced arm to their bullpen. Nothing is considered close and Hunter is also talking to other clubs. Meanwhile, the Rays have been in touch with veteran reliever Ryan Webb while monitoring the trade market.

Hunter posted a 2.88 ERA as a late-inning arm from 2013-2014, but he compiled a mediocre 4.18 ERA over 58 appearances last season between the Orioles and Cubs. On the bright side, his velocity has held steady and his control is still very good. Despite the down year and core muscle surgery, Topkin writes that Hunter may be holding out for a multi-year deal.

Pirates sign left-hander Cory Luebke

Cory Luebke Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eric O'Flaherty wasn’t the only reclamation project added by the Pirates today, as the club also announced that they have signed left-hander Cory Luebke to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Luebke once looked like a solid rotation piece for the Padres, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since April 27, 2012. He’s undergone a pair of Tommy John surgeries since. Now 30 years old, he logged seven innings in the minors last season before requiring a procedure to remove loose bodies around a nerve in his forearm. The Padres cut ties with him in November after declining a $7.5 million club option for 2016.

It’s hard to count on much from Luebke at this point, but he told Adam Berry of MLB.com that he feels healthy and hopes to compete for a bullpen job in the spring.