Dodgers try to build case against MLB

DOVER, Del. -- The Los Angeles Dodgers asked a Delaware bankruptcy judge on Monday for permission to gather evidence on how Major League Baseball has dealt with other teams as lawyers for the Dodgers and the league prepare for a court showdown that will determine the ball club's fate.

Judge Kevin Gross last week scheduled four days of hearings starting Oct. 31 to consider dueling motions by the Dodgers and MLB. The team is seeking court approval of a process for selling television rights to future games, saying a media rights sale is the best path out of bankruptcy for the Dodgers. The league, which is providing bankruptcy financing to the Dodgers, wants permission to file its own reorganization plan, which calls for owner Frank McCourt to sell the Dodgers.

In scheduling the hearing, Gross said the league will not have to give the Dodgers information about its dealings with other teams, and that the court fight will be restricted to the league's relationship with the Dodgers.

But attorneys for the Dodgers argued in a court filing Monday that such a restriction will impair their ability to prove that commissioner Bud Selig has not dealt with the Dodgers in good faith, as required under the agreements governing Major League Baseball, in deciding not to approve any plan proposed by the Dodgers to license television rights.

"Evidence that the commissioner is applying a different set of rules for LAD than has been his prior practice in dealing with other parties to the baseball agreements is clearly probative of the commissioner's lack of good faith and fair dealing, particularly when those other parties have sought approval of comparable transactions," the Dodgers attorneys wrote.

A spokeswoman for the Dodgers said in a prepared statement that expanding the scope of discovery will allow the court to determine whether Selig is using "a different strike zone" for the Dodgers than for other teams.

Gross issued an order a short time later saying he would hear arguments on the Dodgers' motion Wednesday. The judge said objections to the motion must be filed by Tuesday evening.

The Dodgers sought bankruptcy protection in June, blaming Selig for refusing to approve a renegotiated multibillion-dollar TV deal with Fox Sports that McCourt was counting on to keep the franchise afloat.

The Dodgers now argue that auctioning off the television rights to future games is the best way to maximize the value of the bankruptcy estate for the benefit of all stakeholders.

The league has said any plan to sell television rights without its approval is "dead on arrival" and would spell the end of the ball club. League attorneys argue that such a sale would breach the Dodgers' existing contract with Fox Sports, leaving the team subject to substantial legal claims, while also providing grounds for termination from the league for failure to abide by its covenants.