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BILL PLASCHKE

Frank McCourt, Scott Boras playing dangerous game

Dodgers' owner and Manny Ramirez's agent are acting like kids and have let negotiations get personal. Both could wind up being the losers, along with Dodgers fans.

February 28, 2009|BILL PLASCHKE

Stop it, both of you.

Put down those egos. Unclench that pride. Get up off the arrogance.

Stop it, now, or both of you will lose, and the price of this defeat will be far higher than anything being negotiated.

After a winter of slings and arrows, one thing has become outrageously unfortunate.

The biggest obstacles to Manny Ramirez's being a Dodger are the two guys trying to make him a Dodger.

It is physically impossible for Frank McCourt and Scott Boras to draw up a contract with their hands on each other's necks.

Having spoken with both of them Friday, it is clear that this has become about kicking and screaming instead of dollars and cents.

They are angry with each other. They are wary of each other. They have been reduced to stalking each other, right here in this newspaper, black and white and red all over.

One is a learning owner fighting for turf, the other is a legendary agent trying to protect his turf, yet right now they are two Mannys being Manny.

They are both right. They are both wrong. They are throwing roundhouses at each other, yet the only ones being punched are -- surprise -- the fans.

The current fissure started with Thursday night's Dodgers news release in which McCourt announced that not only had Boras rejected his latest offer but, well, the guy is sort of a jerk.

The real story behind the release?

McCourt had asked Boras for a final "yes" or "no" answer to a two-year, $45-million deal that was about $45 million above any other real offer elsewhere . . . and Boras responded with a $55-million proposal.

After spending three months with zero leverage, is it really that productive to counter your opponent's most fair and generous offer with something $10 million higher?

Smart McCourt, silly Boras.

But, aha, there was a real story behind the response.

Boras claims his counteroffer was compensating for the fact that the Dodgers' offer was actually five seasons' worth of deferred salaries with no interest, beginning with $10 million next season, far below the $25-million salary the Dodgers seemingly promised.

This was news. This should not have been news. No, the Dodgers never lied about this, they always said there were deferred payments involved, but, c'mon.

When $45 million is spread over five years with no interest, it's not really $45 million, is it? The Dodgers can't be only partially transparent. Not disclosing the exact nature of a deferred contract, particularly in these tough economic times that the Dodgers discuss so much, smacks of being a bit of a public scam.

Smart Boras, silly McCourt.

So each guy blew it. Then each guy blew his top, both of them believing the other was coloring the truth.

Children, children. The only color that matters here is green. And the only truth that matters is that Ramirez needs to play at least one more season for the Dodgers, as nobody else wants him and the Dodgers desperately need him.

McCourt and Boras, fighting for respect not only in major league baseball but in their own backyard, need to start fighting for the player.

So Boras made an absurd counteroffer Thursday night? So what? That's his job. McCourt needs to shrug it off.

So McCourt's money is deferred? So what? He confirmed Friday that he could pay Ramirez the entire salary each year. But why should he when there are no other bidders?

"It seems like we have been negotiating against ourselves, and I'm not going to do that anymore," McCourt said.

Boras has known about the deferred schedule all along. He has had a chance to get more money elsewhere for months. He couldn't. If you can't beat the deferred payments, then he has no choice but to join them.

No other bidders.

This is a concept Boras needs to understand.

No other sluggers.

This is a concept McCourt needs to understand.

After being stunned by Thursday's news release, Boras made one more proposal.

Fine, he said, Ramirez would sign a two-year, $45-million contract as long as there were no deferred payments.

This is not a structure the Dodgers ever offered, so this is not one they will likely offer now. McCourt meant it when he said he wanted to start from scratch.

But McCourt needs to be careful here. The New York Yankees and Mets have plenty of scratch, and could steal Ramirez at the drop of a Benjamin.

Boras also needs to be careful here. With every missed day of spring training, his aging client increases the risk of an early-season injury that could eventually render him even less valuable.

C'mon fellas. Break it up. Figure it out. It's easy.

Give Ramirez a one-year deal worth $22.5 million with no deferred payments.

It is $2.5 million more than Ramirez would have been paid if he kept his option with the Boston Red Sox, saving Boras face.

It is $2.5 million less than the Dodgers offered earlier this winter, saving McCourt face.

Best of all, it will allow weary, aggravated Dodgers fans to put both of them in a six-month timeout.

--

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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