Sunday, December 9, 2012

Were the New Dodger Owners Not Supposed to Spend?

            By Ross Newhan

            So, what is another $183 million, the Dodgers' latest outlay, not counting the $25.7 million posting fee they had to pay the South Korean league for the negotiating rights to Ryu Hyun-jin, who beat Sunday's deadline by agreeing to a six year, $36 million contract?.

           The deal with Ryu came a few hours after the Dodgers reached agreement on a six year, $147 million contract with Zack Greinke, which made him the highest paid right handed pitcher in baseball history--eclipsing Matt Cain's five year, $112.5 million extension of last April--and who now has the highest average annual salary (among pitchers) of $24.5 million, surpassing  C.C. Sabathia's $23 million a year.

          These latest two signings, lifting the multi-year salary commitments since Mark Walter and his partners took over as the Dodger owners to about $630 million and assuring that their 2013 payroll will be the highest in baseball at more than $200 million (it was less than $100 million in Frank McCourt's last season as owner), is bound to create some raised decibels among other owners, but what is/was Walter and Co. to do?

         Spending $2.1 billion on a flag franchise that was operating at half mast and required restoration as an organization and market at a time when there was virtually no help in the farm system, the new owners have had little choice but to demonstrate they are dedicated to that restoration and understand it had to be done quickly.

       For all of their spending, of course, the Dodgers aren't guaranteed of anything except that Manager Don Mattingly will be carrying a lot of pressure.

      The New York Yankees have produced a $200 million plus payroll in each of the last five years and won only one World Series.

     Can Ryu, 25, jump from Seoul to a major league rotation? Does Greinke have the mental fortitude to cope with that record contract and his premier status given that he has coped with mental issues in the past?  
     At $200 million plus, there are other questions. The left side of the Dodger infield hinges on Hanley Ramirez proving he can play shortstop. There is no bonafide leadoff hitter, and left fielder Carl Crawford needs to prove he can still be Carl Crawford.

     But should the Dodgers have left Greinke go elsewhere and not taken a chance on Ryu?

    Should they have not made that blockbuster trade with Boston even if, in the long term, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is the only meaningful part of it?

    With Clayton Kerhsaw and Greinke at the top of the rotation, and possibly Chad Billingley, Josh Beckett, and Ryu forming the rest of it (where Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Aaron Harang fit in isn't clear), the Dodgers may have a rotation potentially competitive with that of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.   .

     They are also in the verge of a multi-billlion dollar TV deal with either Fox or Time-Warner, presuming they don't initiate their own network.

     The point is that the new owners set a record to buy in, recognizing the market's and brand's potential. They have recognized, as well, what had to be done and the time frame in which it had to be done. The TV potential, restoration of the fan base, eventual revitalization of the stadium and the internal strengthening of the front office aimed at improving domestic and international scouting will ultimately pay off to a larger extent than all these pay outs.

    In the aftermath of the sordid News Corp. and McCourt ownerships, I don't see where the club's rooters have anything to complain about, despite the ruckus that some in the industry may create.       

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