Penurious McCourts Are Killing the Dodgers


The LA Dodgers are one of the most storied franchises in baseball history, and they play their games in the second-largest city in America.

Unfortunately, their owner would be better suited for a market like Florida, because he has little in the way of baseball knowhow and lacks the requisite money to represent LA with any consistency.

While Frank McCourt made his fortune, such as it is, by developing parking lots, he still managed to royally screw up the parking situation at Dodger Stadium – just when you didn’t believe it could get any worse in gridlocked Chavez Ravine.

Most big-city owners rely on experienced baseball minds to run their franchise, but McCourt has installed his wife Jamie as Dodger President, despite her utter lack of credentials. Just to fully affirm that he believes in the power of nepotism, he’s also hired his son as marketing director.

McCourt first tried and failed to buy the Red Sox, before zillionaire John Henry and his merry band swooped in and outclassed his bid. Now the ex-Bostonian desperately grabs every former Red Sox he can get his hands on: witness the conga line of Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lowe, Bill Mueller, and for the love of God, he actually thought it was a good idea to hire Grady Little!!

McCourt’s evident Northeast bias hasn’t been ALL bad for the Dodgers in the McCourt era: McCourt made a decent move by hiring Joe Torre after the should-be Hall of Famer was let go by the Yankees, and the Manny Ramirez trade carried the Dodgers into the postseason.

All that’s well and good, until you realize that the Dodgers basically got Manny for free, and now that it’s come time to pay up for a playoff-caliber MVP, they’re pinching pennies again.

The perma-grumpy TJ Simers gripes today,

I think I understand why CC Sabathia wanted to play for the Dodgers, then talked to Frank McCourt on the telephone and signed with the Yankees.

It will be five years next month since the Boston Parking Lot Attendant bought the Dodgers after a failed attempt to buy the Red Sox and told everyone at a news conference the Dodgers have the best fans in sports.

I immediately followed that up with a question: Had you been successful in buying the Red Sox, what would you have told Boston fans?

Never have trusted much of what the guy has to say after that, and he hasn’t given much of a reason the last five years to change my mind.

We’re not talking mistakes here, the hiring of Lon Rosen and his plans for loud music and a Dodgers mascot, or the Tipper Gore Lady, $2 Tuesdays, the wife’s sudden affection for Little League fields or flip-flopping on Paul DePodesta and Grady Little.

It really doesn’t have anything to do with the ridiculous chants of “Hee-Seop Choi,” or J.D. Drew’s escape clause. This isn’t about Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones or Jason Phillips.

And it’s more than keeping the poor folks from using the new concession stands and restrooms on the field level once the game has started, or the decision not to upgrade the concession stands and restrooms everywhere else this off-season.

It’s a matter of trust, McCourt promising five years ago at a packed news conference to be “transparent” in everything he does, while saying, “I know what it takes to inspire and to lead,” and “I’m not afraid to spend whatever it takes to bring a world championship back to Los Angeles.”

Now that you know him, do you believe him?

Do you believe he’s not afraid to spend whatever it takes to bring a world championship to Los Angeles?

Do you think he knows what it takes to inspire and lead?

Do you feel McCourt is transparent, as the dictionary defines it, “open, frank and candid?”

OK, so I’ll give you “Frank.”

mccourt manny
Hey theah buddy, how does an incentive-based one yeah deal sound to ya?

Despite getting a playoff run for the price of disappointing prospect Andy LaRoche, the Dodgers refuse to pony up for Manny, sticking to their guns on a 2-year, $45-50 million dollar deal. This is almost assuredly not enough to get the job done, yet McCourt and GM Ned Colletti seem to naively believe that their efforts are sufficient.

“I just find it curious,” Colletti said. “We made a [contract] offer and never heard back. We made a [salary] arbitration offer and never heard back. Maybe we have to look into the communications we’re using.”

So what are the chances that Ramirez will be a Dodger next season?

“If he shows up in spring training, we’ll find him a hat, we’ll find him a shirt and we’ll play him in the field and figure it out then,” Colletti said. “But I can’t wait until the day he shows up to go after a third baseman or a shortstop or another reliever.”

Huh?? Is this some kind of a joke?

The only reason the Dodgers got a free trial of Manny being Manny is that the two $20 million per year options held by the Red Sox were not sufficient compensation in the eyes of Ramirez and his agent, the nefarious Boras.

And now they don’t understand why a contract offer of the same length and only slightly more per year isn’t inducing the wacky outfielder to sign on the dotted line?

Without Manny, the Dodger offense in 2008 was limp; with him, it was potent. Sure, it’s never good to overpay for an aging slugger, but it’s ALSO never good to give away one of your top prospects for a half-season rental. A reasonable, market-price contract offer to Manny is the difference between the Dodgers competing for the playoffs in 2009 and disappointing their fans for another year.

Apparently in this time of economic apocalypse, 3 or 4 years at $25m per is out of McCourt’s reach.

The lowlight of the Dodgers’ flaccid pursuit of Ramirez was when team prez Jamie McCourt suggested that the megabucks it would take to sign Manny might be much better spent on a bunch of charity baseball fields:

Would Dodgers fans react negatively if the team were to pay big money to free agents when the nation’s economy is in sharp decline and many Americans are losing their jobs?

That was the question posed by Dodgers President Jamie McCourt as she made an appearance with her husband, team owner Frank McCourt, Tuesday at an event where it was announced the club’s charitable foundation would help build 42 youth fields around Southern California.

“If you bring somebody in to play and pay them, pick a number, $30 million, does that seem a little weird to you?” Jamie McCourt asked in an interview at the Evergreen Recreation Center in East Los Angeles. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out. We’re really trying to see it through the eyes of our fans. We’re really trying to understand, would they rather have the 50 fields?”

The Dodgers recently made a two-year, $45-million offer to slugger Manny Ramirez that they later withdrew, and the McCourts seemed to be hedging against lavish spending during a time of such great economic uncertainty.

Jamie McCourt said the fact that the majority of contracts were guaranteed was a significant issue.

I think, oddly enough, maybe if things weren’t guaranteed, then we could pay for it,” she said. “If people can’t play anymore, it’s like, ‘Oh well, see ya.’ Different story. Whatever money they are guaranteed could be money that we could otherwise have given to community.”

HUH? What is this, Moot Point Debate Society?

If you hate guaranteed contracts so much, you shouldn’t have purchased an MLB franchise, lady.

frank jamie

There’s certainly a strong argument to be made that signing Manny to a 4 year deal will result in overpaying him for one or two seasons.

But Dodgers fans have been overpaying to see a mediocre team for the last 20 years.

Yet, as Simers goes on to point out, the Dodgers have had no hesitation about laying out dollars and/or years to some pretty crappy players:

We’ve all been trained here in the Entertainment Capital to know better, never thinking of the Dodgers as big-time bidders, and doesn’t that say something about the McCourts’ ownership reign?

Maybe if Teixeira is free, McCourt pounces — the acquisition of Ramirez and Boston’s agreement to pay the remainder of his salary the highlight so far of the owner’s time on the job.

As for offering money, the Dodgers gave a five-year guaranteed deal to Juan Pierre a few years back and recently a three-year guaranteed pact to [Casey] Blake.

But they have offered only two guaranteed years to Ramirez, the only player in the last 20 years to put the Dodgers within a sniff of the World Series. The Dodgers pick the oddest places to play hardball.

Now maybe McCourt and Ned Colletti have already put their heads together and come up with a winning plan, and for the record, I did not laugh out loud while typing that sentence.

But as transparent as McCourt and Colletti have been to date, one wonders if they have anything in mind other than waiting and picking through the leftovers.

One player who they won’t be retaining is shortstop Rafael Furcal, who’s apparently agreed to a three-year pact with the team he originally came up with, the Braves.

After Furcal had an injury-plagued 2008 season, the Dodgers decided to offer him an insultingly incentive-laden contract. The Braves, meanwhile, noticed that when Furcal’s back wasn’t bothering him he played tremendously well, and they got the deal done.

While the Dodgers delude themselves, making idiotic decisions like inking Andruw Jones while spurning far more useful options, the Artists Formerly Known as the Anaheim Angels have made big signings like Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter, have been perennial playoff contenders, and won a title in the not-too-distant past, which makes it a lot easier for their fans to accept when players like Francisco Rodriguez get poached by Northeastern baseball titans.

The big-market West Coast teams will never have the endless sums of money that the New York and Boston franchises can draw upon, but they have no excuse for not making SOME quality snags in the free-agent market. If 36-year-old Manny is deemed to be too big a risk, then there are – or at this point, WERE – other middle-of-the-lineup or top-of-the-rotation options available.

Casey Blake ain’t one of them, though.

Hey, it could be worse – the team could still be owned by FOX.

UPDATE: Clearly stung by our criticism, the Dodgers have reportedly re-engaged Furcal’s representatives even as a deal with Atlanta was imminent! That’s more like it, McCourt!

About Alpine McGregor
Just like you, man. I got the shotgun, you got the briefcase. All in the game, though, right?

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