It's not quite the "Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead" moment yet.
But Frank McCourt has never been closer to becoming the ex-Dodgers owner than he is right now.
But McCourt and Major League Baseball jointly announced overnight Tuesday -- at 1:03 a.m. EDT, to be exact -- that they have "agreed to a court supervised process to sell the team and its attendant media rights in a manner designated to realize maximum value for the Dodgers and their owner Frank McCourt."
Translation: McCourt, cornered from all sides and quickly running out of money, has lost his appetite to fight following two years of lawyers, litigation, obstinance and sheer delusion.
In what amounts to a final surrender, McCourt essentially has agreed to auction off the team and disappear. In return, MLB gets what it wants: The Dodgers wrested from McCourt's cold clutch without a messy court fight in which secret financial details could be publicly revealed. The league will help facilitate the sale through the Blackstone Group LP.
The sale is expected to include the team, Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots. McCourt purchased the club and the properties for $421 million in 2004.
Best-case scenario for MLB, Los Angeles and Dodgers fans: A new owner is in place by opening day.
The Dodgers have been in free-fall since Frank and Jamie McCourt's marriage began crumbling in 2009, and the all-out war that developed between the two turned into one the ugliest and messiest battles in baseball history. Their excessively materialistic lifestyle first provided fodder for Los Angeles gossip columns, and then grist for MLB to seize the team from McCourt after it accused him of "looting" millions of dollars from the Dodgers to finance his over-leveraged personal life.
The aptly named McCourt battled in both divorce court and bankruptcy court trying to keep the Dodgers while remaining financially solvent. It's been clear to everyone but him for more than a year that he was fighting a losing battle.
His last-ditch bid to reverse his fall came when he attempted to arrange a future television contract that would front him millions even while the Dodgers were still operating under a present television contract with Fox. Selig would not allow it, and that was the basis for McCourt's latest battle with MLB.
Frankly, that McCourt stubbornly hung on for this long is an upset, given that there were rampant rumors last summer that he would not be able to meet payroll, which would have given MLB carte blanche to remove him as owner.
Or, as I wrote on June 22: "Welcome to the final days of the Dodgers' banana republic. You can hear the choppers whirring just over the hills. Soon, they'll have the place fully surrounded. It won't be long until Frank McCourt will be forced down from his coconut tree, frisked and exiled."
That time has come. According to financial figures McCourt himself submitted to the Bankruptcy Court, even if he settled his divorce and sold the club's television rights, he would still be far short of what he needs to restore the luster to the Dodgers and to renovate Dodger Stadium. As it is, McCourt has agreed to pay his ex-wife, Jamie, a divorce settlement of $130 million.
On the field, the Dodgers in 2011 drew fewer than three million fans in a non-strike-shortened season for the first time in 19 years and for only the second time since 1989.
Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, has expressed interest in the club. Closer to home, Dennis Gilbert, the one-time agent who headed a group that nearly landed the Texas Rangers in 2010, would be a perfect choice. Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio has been rumored as potentially being interested, and one industry source theorizes that Oakland owner Lew Wolff, frustrated with the Athletics' inability to gain a new stadium, is another possibility.