McCourt vows to fight commissioner

As the new man in charge of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Tom Schieffer was hoping for a smooth, orderly transition in his first day on the job. But soon after his plane hit the tarmac at LAX on Wednesday, it was clear there are lines being drawn.

On one side is baseball commissioner Bud Selig. On the other is Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. In the middle: Schieffer.

While he sounded more like a conciliator than a “monitor,” his official title now that he’s running the team, Schieffer suddenly finds himself in the eye of a storm between Major League Baseball and the embattled McCourt.

Schieffer got a taste Wednesday of what he might be in for when he listened to a portion of a conference call in which McCourt said he intends to challenge any effort by baseball commissioner Bud Selig to take away his team.

Speaking with reporters shortly before Schieffer’s scheduled meeting with LA-area media, McCourt, who met with baseball executives in New York on Wednesday, said he’s “not going anywhere.” He called Selig’s decision to take over the Dodgers “absolutely wrong” and “un-American.”

McCourt also accused Selig of meddling in his business affairs, saying the commissioner vetoed a proposed $300 million deal between the Dodgers owner and FOX. McCourt said he believes MLB is trying to wrestle the team from his grasp.

“There is a predetermined end result,” he said. “The investigation is not a genuine one and its ultimate goal is to prevent this transaction” with FOX.

McCourt’s remarks set off some fireworks in MLB’s New York offices. In a statement, Rob Manfred, the league’s executive vice president of labor relations said in part:

“It is unfortunate that Mr. McCourt felt it necessary to publicize the content of a private meeting. It is even more unfortunate that Mr. McCourt’s public recitation was not accurate. Most fundamental, commissioner Selig did not ‘veto’ a proposed transaction. Rather, Mr. McCourt was clearly told that the commissioner would make no decision on any transaction until after his investigation into the club and its finances is complete so that he can properly evaluate all of the facts and circumstances.

“Equally important, there has been no seizure of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr. Scheiffer has been appointed as a monitor, and a multi-page written directive from the commissioner describing his role has been provided to Mr. McCourt.”

Despite the conflict brewing in New York between the two parties with whom he must work, Schieffer said he hopes to meet with McCourt and left open the possibility the owner might still have a role with the team, although he would not specify what it might be.

Schieffer, a former president of the Texas Rangers, referred to McCourt as the team’s owner, adding, “I’d certainly like to listen to him and see what’s he’s talking about. But I’m here to hopefully help the franchise get back on its feet and be successful again.”

Asked if anticipated any friction with McCourt, Schieffer, 63, said, “I hope that there won’t be friction, but that’s really his choice.”

But he made it clear he’s walking a fine line, conducting his business as the team’s overseer but not wanting to engage in a battle with McCourt.

Asked who’s now in charge of the Dodgers, Schieffer said, “The commissioner of baseball.”

“And you are his representative?” he was asked.

“I am,” he answered.

Schieffer said he will answer only to Selig, who he said promised him whatever resources he needs to do his job. Any expenditures over $5,000 will need the approval of MLB.

“He’s a man of his word,” Schieffer said of Selig. “I took the job on that basis. He wants this franchise to work. He doesn’t want to take it away from anybody. He doesn’t have any hidden agenda. He just wants the Dodgers to be a model franchise.”

That task is now in Schieffer’s hands. And although he said he doesn’t plan to get involved in on-field matters, he believes the team can still win this season.

“This doesn’t mean the Dodgers won’t be competitive," he said, "and it doesn’t mean the Dodgers won’t be in the World Series.”

Schieffer said one of his primary charges is restoring confidence in Dodgers fans who might be concerned about the team’s future. He was accompanied to the news conference by Joe Torre, a former Dodgers manager and current executive in charge of baseball operations.

“I hope this will give them some confidence that the instability and the turmoil is coming to an end and we’re going to get to the bottom of whatever the problem is and make a positive difference,” Schieffer said. “Baseball needs the Dodgers. L.A. needs the Dodgers.” wire services contributed to this report.