Frank McCourt, right, has given day-to-day control of the Dodgers to Dennis… (Jon Soo Hoo / Los Angeles…)
Randy Wolf never has been confused with Johan Santana. However, the Dodgers' recent decision not to offer salary arbitration to Wolf raised concerns among fans.
The Dodgers led the major leagues in attendance last season, advancing to the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive year. Wolf was their most dependable pitcher, and yet the Dodgers decided they could not afford to risk him accepting a one-year contract at an uncertain price.
As Wolf, John Lackey, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay have joined new teams, the pitching-depleted Dodgers have imported no player more significant than utility infielder Jamey Carroll.
The day-to-day control of the team now rests with President Dennis Mannion, whom Frank and Jamie McCourt hired as chief operating officer two years ago. In a career that started in 1982, Mannion has worked in various business capacities for the Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Avalanche, Denver Nuggets and Baltimore Ravens.
No one outranks Mannion at Dodger Stadium, where owner Frank McCourt has fired his estranged wife as chief executive officer and entrusted daily operations to Mannion. Frank McCourt now works out of an office in Beverly Hills, focusing on development opportunities for Dodger Stadium and the parking lots that surround it.
The Dodgers just about broke even last season, according to a high-ranking baseball source who did not want to be identified because clubs are not required to reveal their financial results. For now, according to the source, Commissioner Bud Selig considers the Dodgers no different from many other clubs that have limited spending during these uncertain economic times.
In an interview with The Times, Mannion declined to say how many millions of dollars the team must pay in debt service every year. He discussed a variety of other topics, including the Wolf decision and a litany of others including the series of events that may indicate the team is under financial constraints.
An edited interview with Mannion:
How would you say the divorce proceedings between Frank and Jamie McCourt have impacted the Dodgers' spending this winter? Have you been asked -- by Frank McCourt, by Major League Baseball or by anyone else -- not to take on major long-term contracts this winter?
Our baseball and business decisions have not been impacted by the proceedings. Neither [General Manager] Ned [Colletti] nor I have been asked by anyone to limit long-term liabilities.
So how would you explain to skeptical fans why the Dodgers are not in on any of the best free agents?
Ned has demonstrated a fantastic ability to read the talent market. We made back-to-back NLCS appearances for the first time in three decades as a result of Ned's ability to make the right acquisitions at the right time. We want the same thing our fans want, a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out, and we've been in that position for the last two seasons. We expect that to continue.
As far as development opportunities go, what's on the table?
I think the capital markets have put us in the position of being on hold. In the meantime, I think there's a colossal opportunity in doing basic reconfiguration of the reserve-level concession stands and the loge-level concession stands. I think there's an enormous opportunity, and we're going to do this this year, of adding a great number of portable (concession) locations. With mobility, you can adapt yourself to crowd size and crowd traffic. We're continuing to build our production assets up so that we will be ready to put a new scoreboard and sound system. My hope is that we'll see that in 2011. We're developing a number of events that we'll be announcing for fans to participate in that are on non-game days.
Will these be baseball-related events?
Yes. They run the gamut from mini-fantasy camps to kids' clinics.
Will they be affordable, unlike the $500-per-person batting practice evenings?
Yes. The "Under the Lights," as unaffordable as it was, sold out six times. To your point, we are developing new experiences that are affordable to the common fan.
And what on-field developments can you share?
I do believe there is positive news on its way, coming in due time, and that's Ned's call. Obviously, you could dial in on the coaching staff. As far as it goes relative to player acquisition, that is a very fluid process. It was last year, and it will be this year too. So I have a lot of confidence, and Frank has a lot of confidence, in Ned's ability to work the system and come up with the right opportunities for us.
Does that mean Joe Torre is in line for a one-year contract extension, through 2011, after which he would join the front office and Don Mattingly would replace him as manager?
Right. That's what he's working on.