LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt kept silent as his divorce trial with former team CEO Jamie McCourt played out like a bad soap opera for all of baseball to see.
Now, McCourt is going on offense after Major League Baseball sent a monitor to oversee the Dodgers' operations and find out why one of baseball's most-storied franchises is in disarray.
In a rapid-fire interview with The Associated Press, McCourt has one clear message for those who doubt he can restore his good name and feel the Dodgers are better off under a new owner.
"I like to apologize to fans to say, 'I'm sorry,'" a contrite yet composed McCourt said as he sat in his office at Dodger Stadium on Friday night before a game against San Diego.
"I'm sorry that my personal mess has affected their lives and their enjoyment of supporting the Dodgers. I'm sorry that I've been a source of embarrassment for them."
McCourt admits he has an "uphill road" ahead of him. One of his first orders of business is to get a 17-year television deal with Fox, possibly worth more than $3 billion, approved by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. So far, Selig has balked, waiting for a full investigation into the club and its finances.
McCourt said it's vital to land the television contract. When asked twice if he has enough money to make payroll — he recently took out a $30 million loan from Fox — if MLB doesn't approve the deal, he pointed out that other franchises have received approval for similar arrangements.
"It's preposterous to think we are going out and have a Plan B or a Plan C with baseball sending in somebody that nobody is quite sure whether they are a receiver or a monitor or what their role is and we have a transaction completely negotiated and done," McCourt said.
"At some point in time if the transaction isn't approved, of course there's going to be a financial situation that has been precipitated by the lack of approval."
McCourt said the television deal didn't need approval from his former wife, with whom he has been embroiled in a nasty and costly divorce battle. Court documents revealed the former couple had taken out more than $100 million in loans from Dodgers-related businesses.
A Los Angeles judge recently threw out a postnuptial marital agreement the McCourts signed after buying the Dodgers in 2004 that gave Frank McCourt sole ownership of the team. The ruling cleared the way for Jamie McCourt to seek half of the Dodgers under California's community property law.
McCourt also met with Tom Schieffer on Friday, appointed by Commissioner Bud Selig to monitor the Dodgers. Schieffer said he got his first detailed look at the Dodgers' finances since beginning his new job three days ago and approved the team's latest payroll, although he said he didn't recall the total amount.
"It was all within budget," said Schieffer, sitting in the stands before the Dodgers opened a homestand against San Diego, having polished off a Dodger Dog slathered in ketchup and mustard.
Schieffer declined to provide specifics on his meeting with McCourt, who reacted angrily earlier in the week when Selig announced he was sending Schieffer to watch over the team.
Both men said the meeting was cordial and McCourt was trying to get clarity as to what Schieffer's role will be.
"He wants to know what I think my role is and I was trying to explain to him I think my role is to be the last check on what's going on," Schieffer said. "He understandably would prefer that we weren't here, but I didn't have any problem with that and he promised cooperation.
"McCourt is still the owner," he said. "We have not seized anything."
Asked if he had identified specific problems with the team, Schieffer chuckled.
"I think I'm going to probably hold up on commenting on that," he said.
McCourt sought to reassure fans who believe he is the root of what is causing the Dodgers ills. He asked for a second chance to prove the naysayers wrong and promised change, although he was short on specifics.
"I'm confident that when the fans understand what's going on here and the fans understand how passionately I feel about this team and this community and how committed I am to them, they will support me," McCourt said.