Frank McCourt Agrees to Sell, Fans Look Ahead to Change

Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball set the transition in motion with an agreement announced Tuesday night

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Frank McCourt

    Frank McCourt fought for two years to maintain control of one of baseball's most prized and storied franchises, but the McCourt era is nearing and end after the team owner reached an agreement Tuesday night with Major League Baseball.

    Dodgers: The Changeup

    So, what's next for the Los Angeles Dodgers?

    The McCourt-Major League Baseball dispute might start winding down as the two enter a "court supervised process'' to sell the team and its media rights. As with all proceedings in the team's ownership saga, that's probably going to be another lengthy legal process.

    The Blackstone Group LP will manage the sale, which could include Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. In a statement, the team and MLB said the process will be conducted "in a manner to realize maximum value for the Dodgers an their owner."

    The agreement came just before a showdown in bankruptcy court scheduled for later this month. The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection in June.

    The real question among Dodgers fans: Who will buy the team?

    Major League Baseball would like to have an owner in time for opening day. A new owner would have to be approved by the league.

    Mark Cuban is one name you'll hear, but it will take more than a website and pleas from devoted fans to convince the Dallas Mavericks owner to buy a baseball team. The group behind markcubansavethedodgers.com has scheduled a rally Wednesday night outside Dodger Stadium for the man they want to lead the team back to World Series-style glory.

    Cuban offered to buy the Dodgers months ago, but refused to enter negotiations after McCourt said the price would be $1 billion to $1.2 billion, according to the LA Times. A spokesman for McCourt told the Times McCourt has not talked with Cuban.

    Forbes magazine estimated the Dodgers' worth at $800 million. McCourt bought the team in 2004 for $430 million.

    A group organized by former MLB star Steve Garvey also got into the mix during the summer. The "exploratory ownership" group includes former pitcher Orel Hershiser.

    "It hurts my heart," Hershiser said of the team's situation during a season clouded by upheaval in the front office.

    Bill Burke, founder of the LA Marathon, has indicated he could put together an offer to buy the team and all that comes with it -- the stadium, parking lots and other properties. In September, the LA Times reported a group of Chinese investors and other were involved in the $1.2 bid, which was met with skepticism.

    A new owner would be the third since Peter O'Malley sold the team to News Corp. in 1998. The Dodgers had remained in the O'Malley family since Walter O'Malley moved the team from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958.

    Many fans have called for O'Malley's return. Last fall, O'Malley said the "Dodgers ownership has lost all credibility throughout the city."

    Other possible bidders include Dennis Gilbert, a White Sox exec and former agent and former agent who bid on the Texas Rangers.

    Businessmen Ron Burkle and Alex Gores are other names that have been linked to a possible bid. Another Southern California businessman, Alan Casden, showed interest in buying the team before McCourt bought the franchise in 2004.

    Change is not something to which loyal Dodgers fans are accustomed, but a change at the top might re-energize an organization that has been mired in mediocrity. There were glimmers of hope that fizzled in the National League Division Series. Manny Ramirez was the answer before he wasn't. 

    The cycle of frustration continued with a barely .500 season in 2011. Despite some outstanding individual performances, most notably Matt Kemp and pitcher Clayton Kershaw, a shadow of uncertainty followed the team.

    Major League Baseball has placed the blame for the team's demise and its dwindling fan base with McCourt, who bought the team seven years ago.

    "The Dodgers are in bankruptcy because Mr. McCourt has taken almost $190 million out of the club and has completely alienated the Dodgers' fan base," baseball attorneys wrote in court documents after the team's June bankruptcy filing.

    For now, all we know for sure about next year is that Vin Scully is coming back. That's reason enough to look forward to opening day.