There's nothing funny about the fall of Frank McCourt and his ongoing battle with Major League Baseball, which is ushering him out as owner of the Dodgers. But around MLB's offices in New York, some people are having a hard time not laughing about McCourt's claim Commissioner Bud Selig is ducking him.
"There is no owner who during the period Frank has been in the game (2004-11), who has consumed more of the commissioner's time, more of the commissioner's office's time," MLB executive vice president for labor relations Rob Manfred said Friday.
Selig, who appointed former diplomat Tom Schieffer to operate the team as ownership groups assemble to buy out McCourt, declined comment on the situation. But a highly ranked MLB source said Selig will meet with McCourt "in due time."
McCourt, who seems to have read the Rod Blagojevich manual on damage control, lambasted MLB after a meeting with Manfred and others Wednesday. He was disappointed Selig didn't attend the meeting and claimed he's working to "solve a problem, not make a problem."
"It has been the issue of the week every week," one MLB source said. "He always has gone to the commissioner with things that he needs — rules to bend, paths to pave. It's always something with the guy. For him to say, 'All I want is a meeting with Selig,' is a little wacky."
Since he bought the Dodgers from Rupert Murdoch's Fox Entertainment Group, the overriding issue between McCourt and MLB has been compliance with baseball's rules on the ratio of debt to equity, according to the source. And frequently he has misrepresented the situation or his plans to address it.
That's partly why MLB has taken control of the Dodgers but is working with Fred Wilpon to help the Mets solve financial issues, which stem from Wilpon's relationship with Bernard Madoff. MLB and his fellow owners consider Wilpon highly reliable, which buys him patience no longer shown McCourt.
According to two MLB sources, Selig soured in his dealings with McCourt after feeling he had been misled. McCourt, in the past, has given Selig assurances he would structure deals in one way and then executed them differently, causing him to lose credibility in MLB circles.
McCourt, who has gone through a costly and very public divorce with his wife Jamie, paints a scenario in which he could remain a viable owner of the Dodgers if MLB only would approve a deal to sell future broadcast rights. That pending agreement with Fox Sports could bring the Dodgers $300 million immediately and be worth up to $3 billion over 17 years, according to McCourt.
But this is the same type transaction that Selig would not allow the overleveraged Tom Hicks to make when he tried to hang onto the Rangers. It would handicap a club heavily in the future, when it could find itself operating without television revenue for a few years after that money was used to pay old debts.
Pushing: The Phillies have become the rare team with two closers on the disabled list, and manager Charlie Manuel is steaming about criticism he overused Jose Contreras once Contreras proved capable of replacing Brad Lidge.
Contreras landed on the DL with a strained forearm after making five appearances in a week. Manuel had pushed him hard — GM Ruben Amaro Jr. noted he had been used "quite a bit" — but the manager wonders what he was supposed to do?
"The object of it is, like I tell our guys in the meetings — the brass — the object is for us to win the game," Manuel said. "Every day we come to the ballpark, that's the object, to win the game. Now do you want to win or do you want to lose? To me, I want to win, so I'll put the best team I possibly can on the field that day."
It's clear Amaro's mild comment stung Manuel.
"If I'm going to be accountable for my job, then you let me do the whole thing," he said. "You basically let me do my whole job. I don't need nobody to tell me how to do it. It's up to me to do it."
Everyday players: Michael Young asked the Rangers to trade him because he didn't know how he fit in after the defending AL champs added Adrian Beltre. But along with Beltre and second baseman Ian Kinsler, Young was one of three players to start each of the first 25 games.
"Michael is a team player and all he wants to do is win," manager Ron Washington said. "He's here and his attitude is the same, he has dealt with everything as best as he could, and I'm trying to get him on the field as much as possible."
Primarily a designated hitter, Young had five starts at second base (when Kinsler was the DH) and three at first. He entered the weekend hitting .337 in a team-high 101 at-bats, on pace for a 220-hit season.
No one-man show: Like the Padres on Adrian Gonzalez, the Marlins have counted heavily on Hanley Ramirez in recent years. But they have been one of baseball's best teams out of the gate this season despite a horrible start from Ramirez.
He entered the weekend hitting .197 with no home runs and one extra-base hit since April 7, making him a target of boo-birds.
"It's good, it's good, because they expect a lot of things from me," Ramirez said. "I'm not doing it right now, but thank God we have five months to go. It's 25 guys. If I can't do it, you have 24 more. We just have to stay together and pick each other up."
Marlins catcher John Buck said he was warned about Ramirez's selfishness but has been impressed with his maturity.
"When I'm punching out or getting out, he's the first one patting me on the butt," Buck said.