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.

The Giants are winning but they’re still gonna sell

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The state of baseball in general, the state of the National League in particular and the state of the San Francisco Giants as a competitor are conspiring to create what seems like at least a mildly absurd situation.

The Giants, a veteran-laden team that, as recently as this past offseason but definitely within the past couple of years, were at least talking about being on a win-now footing, just swept a four-game series, have won five straight games and have won 12 of 14 to pull themselves to within two and a half games of a playoff spot.

Yet, that’s all for temporary show, because they’re about to sell off. At least according to Jeff Passan at ESPN. Giants president Farhan Zaidi tried to push back on that in a radio interview yesterday, denying that the club has foreclosed the possibility of a postseason push, but I’m not really buying that and I don’t think most people are.

On one level it makes sense to ignore the recent surge and forge on with a rebuild. Sure, the Giants are winning but they’re not exactly good. They’re two and a half out of the Wild Card, but there are many teams ahead of them. There’s a lot of reason to think that they’re playing in good fortune right now and that that, rather than finding some extra gear of sustainable better play, is what’s to credit. Hot streaks can happen at any time but the trade deadline only comes once a year. When you have the best starter available in Madison Bumgarner and the best reliever available in Will Smith, you gotta make those deals. That’s what I’d probably do if I ran the Giants and I think that that’s, wisely, what Zaidi will do.

Still, it’s an odd look, less for the Giants specifically than for baseball as a whole. We may in an era of cheap front offices who don’t like to contend if it means spending money, but it’s unfair to paint the Giants with that brush. They’ve spent money and acquired talent and have done whatever they can to extend their 2010-2014 mini-dynasty a few more years and in doing so they’ve made a lot of fans happy. That team has pretty much reached the end and, even in an earlier, more competitive era, they’d not be properly criticized for starting in on a rebuild. Heck, they’d be excused if they had done it a year or two earlier, frankly.

But, because so many teams have punted on improving themselves, these aging Giants are at least superficially competitive. As such, when they do sell off in the coming days, it’ll look to some like they’re waving a white flag or something when they’re not really doing that. I mean, the Rockies and the Pirates, among other teams, should be much better than they are but didn’t seem all that interested in improving, thereby helping the Giants look better, right? It’s less a knock on the Giants for rebuilding when they’re within striking distance of the playoffs than it is on the rest of the league for allowing a team like the Giants to be within striking distance of a playoff spot.

But that’s where we are right now. An insanely competitive Wild Card race from teams that, on the whole, are rather unconcerned with being competitive. What a time to be a baseball fan.