On second thought, Frank McCourt may be ready to fight Bud Selig like there’s no tomorrow

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“We need more people like Frank McCourt.”

You will not be at all surprised to learn that that is the assessment of Frank McCourt’s newest employee, Steve Soboroff, who was hired as the Dodgers’ Vice Chairman on Tuesday. Soboroff was hired in order to help the Dodgers get their security situation in order, but based on his comments to the L.A. Times today, he’s making protecting Frank McCourt his top priority.

His beef: McCourt has a deal in place for a $3 billion television rights package that he alleged would solve all of the Dodgers’ problems and put them in a position in which they’re as financially secure as almost any team in baseball.  Major League Baseball, however, is being unfair he claims:

“This is like having money in the bank and having somebody hold your ATM card,” Soboroff said. “The money is in the bank. The Fox deal is done. These actions are not allowing him to access money. That’s a lot different than saying he’s got financial problems.”

If you’re thinking that this is a warning shot from McCourt to Bud Selig, you’re right. That kind of claim — baseball is interfering with our right to make money! — is the stuff of a tort action.  And while I was somewhat dismissive of the prospects of a lawsuit in my posts earlier this morning — and on a straight “does baseball have the right to do this” basis, I still think McCourt has no legitimate claim —  these comments (and some more research into Frank McCourt’s more-litigious-than-I-remembered history) make me wonder if we’re not ready for Armageddon.

On baseball’s side are the contractual provisions McCourt and every other owner signs in which he pledged not to sue Major League Baseball. Which is great in theory, but when your new right-hand man starts claiming that baseball is acting in bad faith, all bets are off.  As I’ve written in the past with respect to team relocation and ownership approval rules, baseball has a whole series of regulations and procedures it makes owners agree to that only exist because no one is willing to challenge them. If someone — especially someone with nothing to lose — decides to fight, a lot of those rules may simply fall away as, like, totally illegal.

Then there’s the fact that McCourt has already been embarrassed publicly by virtue of years of litigation while Major League Baseball still, presumably, does not want to have its business opened up in litigation. Even if baseball’s right to push McCourt out and take over the team is vindicated, it will only come after a lot of the dirty business of baseball ownership is revealed, and again, McCourt has little to lose in this regard.

So, if McCourt makes it clear that he’s willing to scorch the Earth over this, how does baseball respond?  Does Bud Selig really want this fight?  And, on the very safe assumption that he has already anticipated it, what is his end game?

Just a wild guess: a sale of the team which McCourt agrees not to fight in exchange for him walking away with more money than he otherwise would have given his current debt level. In other words, baseball eating some of McCourt’s debt in the name of making him simply go away.

Whatever the case, while Bud Selig’s actions yesterday were audacious, it is starting to look like Frank McCourt’s response to them may be even more audacious.

MLB managers weigh in on anthem protests

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No other Major League Baseball player has taken a knee during the National Anthem since Athletics’ catcher Bruce Maxwell‘s protest on Saturday night. The demonstration was sparked by President Donald Trump’s call for the boycott of the National Football League and the firing of any player who chose not to stand during the anthem. The comments drew harsh criticism from many NFL players, coaches and owners and more than a few in MLB have also lended their support. There is still one game left to play on Sunday, but it’s unclear whether any of Maxwell’s league-mates will show their solidarity by refusing to stand as well.

Given a baseball culture that tends toward conformity more often than not, it seems unlikely. But it’s something league managers are prepared for — even if they don’t all agree with the demonstrations themselves.

White Sox’ skipper Rick Renteria specifically addressed Maxwell’s protest on Sunday, speaking to the league’s policy of inclusivity:

None of the White Sox knelt prior to their series finale against the Royals. Neither did members of the Pirates or the Cardinals, though St. Louis manager Mike Matheny and Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington both weighed in on the situation.

Matheny called the president’s comments “hurtful” and, like the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, appeared content to leave the decision to protest up to each player.

The Pirates, meanwhile, took a firmer tone. “We appreciate our players’ desire and ability to express their opinions respectfully and when done properly,” GM Huntington told Elizabeth Bloom of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “When done appropriately and properly, we certainly have respect for our players’ ability to voice their opinion.”

Just what the Pirates consider “appropriate and proper” protocol was left up in the air, and club president Frank Coonelly offered no further insights in a separate statement to the press. Setting strict parameters for players to voice their opinions kind of puts them in a gray area, one they’ll have to clear up should someone elect to protest in the days to come, either with a bent knee and a hand over their heart or in some other fashion.

Equally ambiguous were comments from Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts, who claimed to oppose the movement for personal, if misguided reasons, but also respected the right of his players to make an “educated” statement in protest.

The Indians’ Terry Francona took what was perhaps the most balanced approach of the entire group:

“It’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘Well, I think this is the greatest country in the world,’ because I do,” Francona told MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “But, I also haven’t walked in other people’s shoes. So, until I think, not just our country, but our world, until we realize that, hey, people are actually equal — it shouldn’t be a revelation — and the different doesn’t mean less. It’s just different. We’ve got work to do.”

These may all be moot points. Maxwell may be the only player to formally protest Trump’s comments, despite the good intentions of his teammates and fellow players around the league. Others may feel too ambivalent, threatened or uncomfortable to protest what the A’s catcher referred to as a “racial divide,” especially in a way that is routinely perceived as unpatriotic.

Even if the protests made by NFL players and Bruce Maxwell fail to gain momentum, however, the underlying issues they speak to are not going away anytime soon. Here, then, is where MLB managers can help foster a more inclusive environment throughout the league, not only by showing respect for a player’s decision to stand against racism but by actively partnering with those who do so. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start.

Nationals plan to activate Bryce Harper on Monday

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The Nationals are planning to activate Bryce Harper from the 10-day disabled list on Monday, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Janes adds that Harper has been taking his knee injury on a day-to-day basis, so if he experiences pain ahead of tomorrow’s series opener in Philadelphia, then the Nationals won’t activate him.

Harper, 24, suffered a knee injury running out a grounder last month against the Giants. The Nationals hope to get him into some game action before the end of the regular season just so he can get acclimated in time for the playoffs.

When Harper returns, he’ll look to improve on his .326/.419/.614 slash line with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances.