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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dodgers' Offer To Manny Final?

That's what Diamond Leung says, anyway:
Citing the unpredictable state of the economy, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt hinted Tuesday that the team would be reluctant to sweeten the two-year contract offer that would have instantly given Manny Ramirez the second-highest annual salary in the game.

He said that the ball was "100 percent" in the court of Ramirez and his agent, Scott Boras, who have not given much of a response to the offer that has since been pulled off the table.

"There's nothing that's gotten better in the economy since that time," McCourt said. "You can interpret that how you like."

"We need to review our priorities a little bit," McCourt said later. The Times story framed it a little differently:
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?"

Update: Kind of a non-sequitur, yes? Who really cares about the Dodgers from the perspective of what they do in the community (although these comments could be aimed at non-fans in the city council)? Why are we remotely worried about charity WRT the Dodgers' payroll? If there were ever evidence that Frank McCourt is getting close to the end of his fiscal rope, it has to be this. Commenter dzzrtratt in today's DT thread (comment 37):
The Times story on the McCourts has me steaming.

They're asking "fans" to tell them whether it's more important to pay for a high-priced free agent or to build 50 urban ballfields???

If they want to build 50 urban ballfields, they should do it with their own money, meaning not the daily operating revenues of the Los Angeles Dodgers, but the checks made out to Mr. and Mrs. McCourt as salary, dividends, bonuses or however they compensate themselves. Perhaps if they started a 50-ballfields foundation and asked me for a donation, I would cough one up. But to ask me as a fan if I'm willing to see the revenue I bring into the Dodgers be diverted away from the team and the fan's experience is an insulting and disingenuous guilt trip. Building youth ballparks or any other charitable activity is one outcome of running a profitable business. It is not, however, the reason the business exists.

What if you went into a department store to buy a jacket and after showing you the jacket, the salespersons said, "would you rather pay $200 for the jacket, or wouldn't you feel better about yourself if you just gave me the $200 and I could donate it to a charity of my choice? If you just buy the jacket, that's your right, but everyone will think less of you." My answer would be: Fine. I won't buy the jacket. But you also can't have my $200. I'll donate it to a charity of my choice. Or maybe I'll buy another jacket in another store.

The worst thing I can say about the McCourt's tactic: Not even Donald Stirling would do this. All those years he underinvested in the Clippers, he never told the fans that he was doing it for the sake of his charities. He just let us all think he was a cheap miser. The McCourts want to keep their money and be admired for it.

Rule 5 stays my hand here. But if this becomes a pattern, I might get a lot less interested in this team. I don't mind lousy baseball, but I don't want to be insulted.

Update 2: More on this from Jon, who riffs on the same theme:
... [Just] focus on getting the best players, and leave the morality out of it. I'll root for an austere team in austere times, but I'll have a lot more trouble embracing hypocrisy.
SOSG has an excellent related post relaying a Forbes story that the Dodgers and Mets are the two most vulnerable franchises in sports based on their recent ticket price hikes and the downturn in the economy.

Update 3: In the BTF thread regarding the LAT article:

The more irritating part is the idea that if they sign Manny Ramirez or the fiasco of the Andruw Jones contract is somehow keeping them from giving to charity. I suppose they could a field a team of all minimum contracts and solve the problem of hunger or homlessness in the Greater L.A. area. Who wouldn't want that? C'mon Dodger fans, suck it up for the greater good!

In that same Diamond Leung post: Luis Maza was signed to a minor league deal with an NRI to spring training.

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And this on the heels of a story hinting that the McCourts are too greedy/cheap/poor to help subsidize the Dodger Stadium shuttle. Indeed, why should they pay anything to help people get to the stadium without having to cough up $15 for the privilege of parking in a lot that takes over an hour to extract oneself from after a game?
The comparison to D. Sterling hit the nail on the head. The McCourts are the best thing that ever happened to Sterling. For the past decade or two, I've marvelled how could there ever be a wrose owner in sports that Donald Sterling? Now I know. As an impassionate sideline observer of the Dodgers who has neither love or hate for them, their continued blundering this winter has reached new depths.

While the McCourts just continue to stoop lower and lower, they open their mouths and top it off by saying such ridiculous things. While Sterling and the Clippers have been pretty inept, he at least has enough sense to generally keep quiet. While the quote about keeping your mouth shut and to be thought of a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt has been attributed to Twain, Lincoln among others, i think the maxim is rooted in Proverbs: Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.

I really feel sorry for Dodger fans.

When they talk about how self-made fortunes are typically squandered by the third generations, history will surely look back at your parking lot magnate as a typical example.
jjack -- don't worry: when the Dodgers' attendance collapses because they're not fielding competitive teams, getting out of the parking lot will be a snap!
Brian -- it occurred to me at the moment that the Dodgers completed the trade for Manny that this offseason would be brutal, and full of recrimination oif they didn't make a serious bid for Manny. It appears this is happening even now.
Milton Friedman said it better than anyone: "There is one and only one responsibility of business-to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stay in the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud."

In other words, the social responsibility of a company is to increase it's profits in either the present or the future, and anything that diverts revenue's away (even if it's something "noble" as charity) is an insult to stockholders, consumers, and, in this case, season-ticket holders, and is unethical and dangerous. In fact, you can always tell which companies are corrupt and vulnerable (in my mind at least), by how much it attempts to "give back to the community," hiding their true colors of greed while their company circles the drain, due to their bad business decisions. The sad reality, though, is that politicans often fall for this gag, going out of their way to reward these companies's "altruism," while punishing those who were honest about their drive towards profit from the get-go, are punished. That's how Fannie Mae gets bailed out by the Treasury and Mark Cuban gets fined by the SEC.

Sorry for the rant.
The other really lame thing about this is that the charity really isn't. While, it's a nice thing for them to do, building fields in the community is really an investment in the future. They are trying to ensure that the next generation of kids has baseball, and the Dodgers, as an integral part of their lives. This is what makes it all the more insulting. Dodgers ownership is basically saying, "Hey, we're going to screw over our paying fans of today to make sure that their grandkids are hooked on our product."
Good points, both.
One could even argue that the Dodgers have a social obligation to give Manny what he wants. In these troubling times, a night at the ballpark provides an escape from the doldrums and despair of our daily lives. Seeing Manny crush baseballs will have a positive impact on the psyche of Dodger fans, leading them to (1) work harder in their day jobs, (2) spend more money at the ballpark, both of which help stimulate the economy.

It's a stretch, sure, but it's no more ridiculous than the McCourts' rationalization that it would be socially irresponsible to spend that much money on Manny. If they came out & said they weren't going to sign free agents so they could reduce the price of tickets, concessions and parking 15% across the board, thereby making their product more accessible to more people, that would be one thing. But I don't see anything in there about reducing the cost to the fan.

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