One of the best "tips" we got this year was that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was looking into filing an actual lawsuit against center-fielder Andruw Jones as a way to recoup some of the $36 million he spent for two years of his "service." McCourt's frustrations made sense—Jones finished the year with a .158 average and just 3 HRs—but it was hard to envision a world where owners were allowed to sue their players basically for "sucking."Reader Mike Kraus shot me an email before I went to bed last night asking how McCourt could go about doing this if he really was so inclined. My answer is that he probably can't, and even if he technically could, he probably wouldn't. Why? Because, without actually seeing Jones' contract, I can think of only two legal theories under which McCourt could proceed, and both of them wouldn't be worth his effort:
Sue Jones for breach of contract on the grounds that he did not honor his commitment to keep himself in good physical shape, which I'm fairly certain is a standard provision in player contracts.
Basis: There was talk in the spring that Jones reported to camp fat.
Problem: He wasn't that fat. I mean, it's not like he was 300 pounds or something. More importantly, McCourt wouldn't dare take this tack because any player who ever fluctuates in weight -- and there are many -- would be really hesitant to sign with L.A. if he thought his love of In-N-Out Burger was legally actionable. For example: do you think CC Sabathia would want to sign with the Dodgers this winter if he felt like his weight would be used against him the first time he had a bad season? I think McCourt knows that too and is too smart to go there.
Theory # 2:
Some fraud claim related to his injuries.
Basis: Maybe Jones showed up injured and wasn't honest with the team doctors? Maybe he said later in the season that he was healthy to come back but wasn't? If there was a sense that Jones' lack of candor related to his condition led to more injuries or the devotion of playing time he should not have had, maybe he could be liable for a portion of the money the Dodgers, rather than an insurance carrier, had to pay him.
Problem: Given how much a team is responsible for examining its own players and assessing their health, this strikes me as a longshot. Also, isn't suing on this kind of theory the same thing as saying "my team doctors are incompetent"?
Assuming McCourt ever actually put voice to the notion of going after Jones for money -- and this comes from a snarky ESPN Magazine piece, so take it for what it's worth -- I think it was bluster designed to make the press or the season ticket holders feel better about the team and its owner for making what now looks to be such an awful signing. Ultimately, we won't see a lawsuit or an attempt to grab back money from Jones at all.