Embattled Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt is likely facing another legal defeat, as Judge Kevin Gross of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court District of Delaware strongly signaled yesterday he would not overturn his prior ruling forbidding discovery of other MLB team operations. McCourt sought the discovery, particularly with regard to other RSN TV deals, arguing he could not prove improper MLB animus against him without it. But following a two-hour telephonic hearing yesterday on the discovery issue, Gross said he likely will not change course. A formal ruling is expected as soon as today. "To open this up at this point to all of baseball, to the other 29 teams, would be more burdensome than is appropriate, and perhaps not relevant to the issue of bad faith," Gross said. "What I am likely to do is say, 'I am not going to permit the discovery.'" As in other points during the ongoing bankruptcy case, Dodgers attorneys argued that the additional discovery into the other teams was crucial to outlining a pattern of abuse by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig toward the Dodgers. "Without that evidence, our hands are really tied behind our back," said club attorney Sidney Levinson. But MLB attorney Glenn Kurtz countered that the other data was not relevant to the case, a breach of confidentiality, and that the Dodgers did not meet the legal burdens warranting reconsideration by Gross. "Bankrupt guy, liquidity crisis, front-loading [television revenues for personal use]? It hasn't happened once [before]," Kurtz said. The forthcoming ruling significantly colors a crucial evidentiary hearing beginning Oct. 31 in Wilmington that likely will forecast McCourt's future with the Dodgers.
INFIELD SHIFT: Gross, meanwhile, shifted a hearing on MLB's bid to disqualify McCourt's current bankruptcy counsel on conflict-of-interest grounds from that Oct. 31 hearing to a separate session Oct. 12. The Dodgers, in a separate objection yesterday, called that disqualification bid "a blatant tactical maneuver" designed to "cripple" the club in advance of the Oct. 31 hearing. On that score, Gross seemed to concur, saying that he "didn't think very highly of the disqualification motion, to be blunt." The Dodgers are currently represented in the case by Dewey & LeBoeuf and Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor.
The Grizzlies yesterday sent season-ticket holders a letter “updating them about the labor dispute with a reminder that they can be refunded money for games missed or keep an account with the franchise and accrue interest,” according to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Season-ticket holders who “opt for a full refund will receive their money with 1 percent interest.” The team will “mail refunds to season-ticket holders upon request at the end of each month that games are missed.” Customers who “prefer to receive an account credit will receive an additional 5 percent in interest when games are lost.” NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that the first two weeks of the season will be canceled Monday if no CBA has been reached by then. Meanwhile, Grizzlies coaches and execs “will take substantial pay cuts -- as much as 75 percent --- if the lockout continues.” There were “roughly 150 people employed by Hoops LP -- the Grizzlies' parent company -- before the lockout,” but that number “has been reduced by about 13 voluntary departures and seven layoffs.” Tillery notes there are no additional layoffs "are planned at the moment but that will change if regular-season games are lost.” The Grizzlies are also considering “company-wide furloughs and salary reductions” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/6).
FEELING THE HEAT: In West Palm Beach, Ethan Skolnick cited sources as saying that members of the Heat’s “basketball operation -- coaches, trainers, scouts, equipment men, media-relations staffers and so on -- were presented with an option last fall.” To “guarantee that they kept their jobs during a potential lockout, the staff members had to accept a 10 percent pay cut from the lockout's July 1 start through Sept. 30.” On Oct. 1, that pay cut “was scheduled to grow to 25 percent through March 31 or until the lockout ended, whichever came first.” The agreement said that the “pay reduction would grow to 50 percent if the lockout continued past March 31, which would surely mean the loss of the entire season.” Sources said that Heat President Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoelstra both “took cuts” (PALM BEACH POST, 10/5).
The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes there "may be no other executive in major North American professional team sports who gives more time and thought to his players -- or who has more useful information to give them in the place" -- than Rangers President & CEO Nolan Ryan. Sports currently is "lousy with wildly rich, meddling owners flailing in their attempts to repeat their business success." Other than Penguins co-Owner Mario Lemieux and Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan, there are "very few elite athletes who have been in positions of high authority beyond merely coaching." But "confidence in Ryan, who has a five-year contract to serve as the Rangers' CEO, helped convince Rangers co-chairman Bob Simpson to increase the Rangers' payroll nearly 70% to nearly $100 million" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/6).
TWO FOR ONE? In Chicago, Phil Rogers reports while the Cubs are "taking steps aimed toward hiring Theo Epstein away from the Red Sox, it's possible they won't stop there." Sources said that Cubs Chair Tom Ricketts "could attempt to hire two people on his list from the lengthy round of due diligence he has done on replacing" former GM Jim Hendry. Rogers notes the "most likely hire to work alongside Epstein -- as opposed to be sitting in the main chair -- would seem to be Padres assistant GM Josh Byrnes, who was with Epstein from the start in Boston" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/6). CHASING SALES: MLB.com's Gilbert & Schlegel note the Phillies-D'Backs NLDS Game Four at Chase Field "was not a sellout like Game 3, but the D-backs were still pleased with the way ticket sales went in the 24 hours prior to the game." The announced attendance "was 38,830 on Wednesday, a little more than 10,000 fewer than Game 3." The D'Backs said that they "sold 10,000 tickets after winning Game 3" (MLB.com, 10/6).