Bad News Just Keeps Getting Worse

One press report coming out of the recent GM meetings had the Dodgers 2006 payroll headed down to the $75 million level -- a clear 25 per cent under the $100 million the Dodgers have averaged for more than the past decade. If this report is accurate, it is terrible news for Dodgers fans and yet another indication the McCourt ownership is a far cry from what was pledged early on.

The Dodgers were known for paying at the lower end of the scale for managers, coaches, scouts, farm teams and many other categories this past season -- and it appears to be getting worse.

The Dodgers, who put a mediocre squad on the field last year, can hardly expect to be getting better by spending less rather than more. The only ray of hope in this sad scenario is that it probably will take kids (minor league players) to fill the squad out again -- and the Dodgers wealth of talent is one year closer to the big leagues in not now.

George Steinbrenner is a hard driven owner who is almost impossible to work for -- but he does spend money to put a product on the field. The McCourts have developed a reputation as being absolutely impossible to work for (with the exception of Tommy Lasorda) -- and it is clear they don't want to spend the money necessary to improve. A team that averages over three million fans a year is cheating those fans when they plan to spend like a mid-market team.

There were stories the Dodgers were interested in Nomar Garciaparra, Brian Giles, Alfonso Soriano and other big name, big ticket players at the recent meetings. They will not fit into a $75 million payroll. They are and would be expensive and the Dodgers are working on the cheap.

The reason why baseball people are shying away from the suddenly inept Dodgers becomes clearer by the day.

Let's face it -- the current owners came in as highly leveraged (meaning with less real cash) as any new owner in baseball in decades. They paid the going price for the team as long as they could find 100 per cent financing. Lenders figured the storied Dodgers couldn't be screwed up bad even by unknowns like the McCourts. They were wrong. Raising prices, cutting the product is not a recipe for success or winning.

There isn't anyway you can put an owner on the inactive list, even though there is a good case the McCourts are acting like they deserve it. The commissioner can't put a franchise on the market if the owners are unwilling. So what is to be done? The answer for the fans looks all to much like suffer and bear it. This is the worst situation the Dodgers have been in since the early 1940s when the team was taken over by the New York banks who held the loans on the team.

The bankers' lawyer was one Walter O'Malley.

The Dodgers need an angel, but the only angels in town or a team in the other league.

Last year the storied Dodgers placed Mike Edwards, Mike Rose, Jason Grabowski, retread Scott Ericksen, lame-armed Wilson Alvarez and others on the field -- charging big league, big city, big franchise prices. The team got what it deserved, but not the fans.

The most experienced general manager in the world and a top flight manager is not going to get winning baseball in Dodgers Stadium with a Minnesota Twins budget.

The Dodgers, clearly under orders from the top, are hunkering down, hiding under a veil of silence. But the silence is loud and the signals are evident.

The best comparison might be the unlucky George Custer after he had been surrounded.

The only new expenditure is for new and better seats, but the best seats in the world won't make the fans any more comfortable with a low budget effort on the field itself. Parking lot genius isn't worth two cents if the entertainment product itself isn't worth going to see.

Bill Veeck never had money, but he managed to put aging Satchel Paige on the mound, enlivened the game with midget Eddie Gaedel, and other circus events. Veeck's teams weren't winners, but there was fun.

Where is the fun in the current Dodgers?

Veeck never pretended it wasn't anything other than a circus. The McCourts are trying to make us believe their circus is the legitimate article. The effort is not succeeding.

The Washington Nationals did better than the Dodgers last year -- with no owners. And perhaps that is the model needed in Chavez Ravine.