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Dodgers could use a stimulus plan

The Dodgers are in penny-pinching mode and Fox, which sold the team to Frank McCourt, is again in the market for a major league team. Could this be a perfect match?

August 01, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

Fox wants to own a baseball team again.

No, seriously. The company that paid Frank McCourt to take the Dodgers off its hands now covets the Texas Rangers.

Never mind the Rangers, Fox. You owe us that World Series you promised. Come back to Los Angeles, go into business with McCourt, and give us back a first-class team to represent a first-class city.

That we are waxing nostalgic about Fox speaks to the depths of our despair about the state of the

Dodgers.

Fox preferred Kevin Brown and Carlos Perez to Mike Piazza and Paul Konerko. Fox ran the Dodgers for six years, with five general managers, four managers and no playoff appearances.

But never did any of those general managers do what Ned Colletti had to do Saturday. On a conference call to discuss the acquisitions of Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Octavio Dotel, the general manager of the Dodgers had to talk about how much money the Pittsburgh Pirates had contributed to subsidize a trade.

Think about that: The Dodgers are holding out their hand to the Pirates for money.

Fox has money. Fox made Brown baseball's first $100-million man. The Dodgers had a larger payroll nine years ago than they do today.

Under Fox, the Dodgers led the league in questionable spending and lost tens of millions every year, but no one questioned whether the team could afford a setup man at the trading deadline.

Fox bought the Dodgers to keep them off a planned Disney sports channel, and Fox lost interest in owning them just as soon as Disney dropped its plan. That brings us to the Rangers.

The Rangers go up for auction Wednesday. Fox wants to bid, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Saturday, to ensure that the company does not lose the Rangers' television rights.

Fox ought to be more worried about losing the Dodgers' television rights. The Dodgers are pinching pennies until 2013, when their contract with Fox expires and they can start their own cable channel, one that the team hopes might add $100 million per year to the bottom line.

That is all well and good, except that McCourt might need hundreds of millions to pay off his estranged wife, Jamie, in a divorce settlement.

Investors putting up that much money generally want to run the team. Fox knows better. The company almost ran the Dodgers into the ground, and McCourt has done an admirable job finding revenue streams that went untapped by Fox.

Fox could buy an equity stake in the Dodgers — and their fledgling cable channel — for much less than the cost of buying the Rangers.

Fox would run the TV operation, keep the broadcast rights to the top-rated team in the second-largest market in the country and keep its hands off every other facet of the Dodgers' operation.

McCourt would get the money to pay off his soon-to-be-ex-wife and keep control of the team too. Good times, and profits, all around.

It is unfortunate that so many stories about the Dodgers come down to money. Fox went 0 for 6 in getting to the playoffs, and McCourt has gone four for six.

But it also is unfortunate that the general manager who pursued pitching all season had to offer this honest explanation for why the Dodgers could not land Dan Haren or Roy Oswalt: "Two of the starting pitchers that got traded got traded for young major league starting pitching. We didn't have a young major league starting pitcher we were comfortable trading."

That happens when the Dodgers minimize their talent inventory by minimizing their investments in the draft, and in Latin America. Colletti did not need to add that the Dodgers would not have assumed $32 million in salary to trade for Haren, as the Angels did.

The Philadelphia Phillies assumed $12 million to trade for Oswalt. This is a great time to be a Phillies fan. The Phillies have gone to the World Series in back-to-back years, and they have traded for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Oswalt within 13 months — all, by the way, without trading their top prospect.

Colletti does what he can with what he has. The die-hard fans bemoan the loss of minor leaguers, but who among the 42 players whom Colletti has traded has come back to burn the Dodgers?

Cody Ross, who would be a fourth outfielder in L.A.?

Edwin Jackson, on his fourth team in three years?

Carlos Santana? Probably, but let's give him a full season first.

In three trades, Colletti filled in around the margins. Lilly is a solid arm for the back end of the rotation, Dotel another bridge to closer Jonathan Broxton, Theriot and Scott Podsednik are complementary pieces for the offense.

"They're not going to carry us," Colletti said. "They're going to support us."

If Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez don't hit, the rest of the season is moot. The search for deep pockets continues and, if Fox really wants back in baseball, come on back to L.A.

Forgive and forget?

Sure, except for the Piazza trade.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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