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.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

Getty Images
2 Comments

After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.