Frank McCourt’s former law firm sues him

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Frank McCourt got sued yesterday by his former law firm, Bingham McCutchen. This is a suit for declaratory judgment, which for all practical purposes means that they sued McCourt because it was obvious that he was going to sue them, and they wanted to get the drop on him. Bingham (a) is asking for a declaration that it did no wrong when it represented McCourt and his wife when drafting up the marital property agreement that is the subject of the divorce case; and (b) is asking to get paid, because McCourt has apparently not done so.

Nor would I have, frankly, because Bingham screwed the pooch here.  You’ll recall that the reason Jamie McCourt was declared to be a co-owner of the Dodgers in the lawsuit was because the judge invalidated the marital property agreement that was designed to cut her out. He did so because the Bingham lawyer who as in charge of it messed up and then replaced the document Frank McCourt thought he was getting — the one with him listed as sole owner of the Dodgers — for the mistaken one that showed Jamie as co-owner.  Mistakes happen, but when you’re a lawyer you don’t fix ’em by pulling the old switcheroo.  By doing so, the Bingham’s lawyer allowed Jamie to argue — against what seemed like common sense and the parties’ intentions — that, sure, she was always supposed to own the team.  And now, legally speaking, she does.

It’s always better to be the plaintiff than a defendant, of course, especially because you get to pick the court and get the first crack at framing the issues. Bingham has done that, picking Massachusetts as the forum and casting this as a case in which McCourt’s damages are all of his own doing.  I’m the last person who will deny that McCourt has shot himself in the foot several times, but boy howdy, is it a tough sell to say that his acts, as opposed to the incompetence of the Bingham lawyer in charge of the marital property agreement, are what led to the current fragmented state of the Dodgers ownership.  And it has likely cost McCourt a couple hundred million dollars.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉