Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers got another reminder of their team’s suddenly secondary status in Major League Baseball this past Sunday, July 31.
As the trade deadline came and went, the Dodgers — mired in fourth place in the National League West at 48-59, 12½ games out of first — added only a pair of minor leaguers in a three-way trade with the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners, while dealing starting shortstop Rafael Furcal to the St. Louis Cardinals.
It marked the first time the Dodgers didn’t upgrade the major league roster around the trade deadline since 2006, which was the last time the Dodgers finished under .500.
Unfortunately for Dodgers fans, the cause of their unhappiness isn’t going anywhere anytime soon — even if owner Frank McCourt is unsuccessful in trying to wrest the Dodgers back from Major League Baseball, which took over the club’s day-to-day operations when it filed for bankruptcy on June 30.
Separate from the Dodgers, McCourt operates Dodger Stadium, as well as the parking lots surrounding it. He also has established a ticket company, Dodgers Tickets LLC, independent of the Dodgers. So even if fans are spared McCourt’s ownership at some point in the next few months, they might still find themselves forking over money to McCourt and sitting in his building when they attend games in coming seasons.
The Major League Baseball Constitution, as well as California divorce laws, may prevent this wild scenario from ever coming to fruition. Article VIII, Section 6 of the MLB Constitution declares the Commissioner “is hereby authorized and empowered” to operate the “baseball park” and “any other property” if it has to take control of a franchise.
Even if it never gets to that point and McCourt is able to regain control of the Dodgers, he would likely have to sell the team in order to finally complete his ugly, empire-destroying divorce from wife Jamie McCourt. California is a community property state, which means a couple must split in half any jointly owned property. The Dodgers, of course, can’t be cut in half, so McCourt would be forced to sell the franchise and give half the money to Jamie.
According to BizofBaseball.com, McCourt has eight court dates scheduled during the next six months as he tries to produce a reorganization plan that will put him back in charge of the Dodgers. McCourt’s first task is successfully arguing he is allowed to sell the Dodgers’ television rights to the highest bidder. The Dodgers landed in bankruptcy after Commissioner Bud Selig said McCourt’s proposed 17-year extension with Fox Sports West was worth “just” $1.6 billion, not the $3 billion declared by McCourt.
The Dodgers’ internal turmoil is having an effect at the box office. Attendance at Dodger Stadium is down a startling 8,022 fans per game through July 30, by far the biggest drop in the game. (The Mariners are second with a decrease of 4,605 per game.) The Dodgers, who have placed first or second in the NL in overall attendance in each of the previous eight seasons, ranked fifth in the NL through July 30 and are on pace for their lowest finish since 2000.