How Does A Precedent Become A Precedent?

Books, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

One thing to think about when considering the possibility of Dodgers deposed owner Frank McCourt suing MLB to regain control of the franchise: no one ever thought the reserve clause would be eliminated before Curt Flood among others had the audacity to challenge its legality.

I’m not comparing McCourt to Flood, but litigation can go either way; if McCourt chooses to go that route, he’d probably lose—as is stated in this NY Times article—but there’s a chance he might win; that he could possibly overcome the “best interests of baseball” powers invoked by Commissioner Bud Selig in taking the franchise away.

Is baseball prepared for that eventuality? To have the entire fabric of central control from the commissioner’s office torn apart because they couldn’t wait another month or two until McCourt was left with no choice but to sell the team or willingly hand the Dodgers over to MLB?

A precedent becomes such when a judge makes the decision. Undefined executive powers and arcane bylaws can be struck down by an activist judge who’s disinterested in baseball’s political connections, sees the case as a stand-alone circumstance and finds reason to believe that McCourt has been wronged.

The word arcane means “understood by few”; I find it hard to believe that Selig himself understands the potential ramifications of this move in any great detail.

Will McCourt have the stomach to add to his legal woes—and stratospheric bills—by suing MLB on top of his divorce; fending off the apparent IRS investigation; the loans; and whatever else is going to pop up in this train wreck?

An answer of “no” could be what baseball was banking on when executing this preemptive strike before the Dodgers were bankrupt and couldn’t pay their bills; but perhaps they would’ve been better-served to wait it out and let the situation crumble organically rather than force it along by stepping in before the fact.

If he chooses to go forward with a legal challenge to baseball’s anti-trust exemption and broad powers to do whatever they want, McCourt will more than likely lose; his finances will be in further ruin; and he could very well get a first hand view of Dodger Stadium parking lot security because he’ll have to take a job as a guard.

But it could go another way.

He might win.

It would take years; he’d have nothing left; but he might win.

Then what’s baseball going to do?

I’m not entirely sure they thought this through completely before acting and it could be a gigantic mistake for the long-term future of the entity known as Major League Baseball.

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3 thoughts on “How Does A Precedent Become A Precedent?

  1. After Mark Cuban almost ended up with the Rangers, the last thing MLB wanted was to have a bankruptcy court deciding who ends up with the club. I’m sure that factored in to why MLB acted now.

    I expect litigation because Frank McCourt has nothing to lose at this point. MLB might have to settle just to get him to go away.

  2. He’d have to be a bit crazy to go through with a lawsuit. I’m not convinced he’s NOT crazy. So there ya go.

    I think MLB made the right decision (ultimately). If you don’t have any money you shouldn’t own a team.

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