Unless you have been living under a rock, you have of course heard about the acrimonious divorce between Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie. Their battle has been raging since October 2009 and shows no signs of coming to a resolution anytime soon. Sadly the Dodgers, and us fans, have been caught in the middle of this tug of war. Both Jamie and Frank want ownership of the team and neither is willing to give an inch to the other. The finances of the estranged couple, and the finances available to the team, have been locked up in their legal battle and enormous cost to keep up their luxurious lifestyle.
As a result, the team has had to stretch and strain to find the money to sign players. The Dodgers just don’t have access to the ample revenues and resources that they have had in the past. In order to get some money to make some additions to the club, according to Jayson Stark at ESPN, the Dodgers were able to get a much needed advance on their television money. While this helped to alleviate some concerns for this season, things need to be resolved sooner rather than later. There are no indications that the divorce proceedings are coming to a close in the near future however.
I cannot help but wonder, can’t MLB do something? It is becoming more obvious that whoever “wins” the Dodgers in the divorce will not be able to afford it. Can’t Bud Selig force the McCourts to sell the team before the team is run into the ground? Isn’t it better for baseball that the Dodgers are a viable contender with big name players rather than see them become the Pirates or the Indians? This franchise is one of the crowned jewels in all of professional sports. I do understand that the team’s payroll is going to be over $100 million this year but a portion of that is deferred money to players who are no longer on the team. And there is no way that they will be able to sustain that level if things continue as they currently are. Many of the free agents signed were signed to one year deals. Coincidence?
Better yet, why can’t McCourt and his soon-to-be ex-wife do the honorable thing and sell the team? Surely they would be able to find someone, or a group, with deep pockets who would love to own a pro team in the second largest media market in the country. They could use the money to pay off their legal fees and start new lives. There have been no indications that this is going to happen either but a fan can dream.
While the McCourt fiasco has severely tied the hands of GM Ned Colletti, I have to give the man credit for what he was able to accomplish this offseason. It is undeniable that the team simply did not have the resources to go out and compete for the likes of a Cliff Lee or a Carl Crawford in free agency this year. Imagine how much differently this team would look if they could have gone out and signed a true number starting pitcher. Or what about bringing in Adrian Beltre to play third base and add some pop to this rather lethargic lineup? Sadly we can only dream as the ownership situation made that impossible.
So Colletti was left to fill the many holes in the roster with a combination of mid-level talent and role-players. Colleti brought back starting pitcher Ted Lilly and added righty Jon Garland to bolster a rather thin rotation. Juan Uribe was signed to play second base at a rather hefty price. This move continues to baffle me. Uribe is a good, solid player but I cannot help but wonder why sign Uribe to play a position that is not his primary one for $21 million? Orlando Hudson could have been signed for considerably less and he is a better defensive player. At least we were able to stick it to the Giants in the process…
But are we really supposed to be excited about bringing back Vincente Padilla or Dioner Navarro? Are we really expected to believe that Marcus Thames and Tony Gwynn are going to put the team over the top? I don’t hold Colletti at fault, except perhaps for over-paying Uribe, as he has a limited budget and players are not going to play for free. The ownership situation needs to be fixed and fixed soon.
Let’s hope that the financial situation of the team does not worsen. It is already questionable if the team has enough payroll flexibility to add a player or two down the stretch if the team is in contention. If things get worse, the team may be forced to shed some payroll whether they are winning or not and the dreams of winning the pennant anytime soon will be gone. In our next post, we will take a look at the new face of the franchise, new skipper Don Mattingly.