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Dodgers fans getting the same old schmooze

McCourts are under fire, but general manager deserves some of the heat for his part in the Dodgers' collapse.

July 17, 2011|T.J. SIMERS

PHOENIX — From day one there was always the feeling here you couldn't trust a thing Frank McCourt had to say.

The McCourts placed an inordinate emphasis on image, their own image, and hired some of the top PR experts in the business to make them appear more appealing.

Some folks bought their act for a while, including the mayor of Los Angeles and most recently civic leader Steve Soboroff.

So, here we are with most everyone disgusted by what we've come to learn about the deceptive pair of owners. But General Manager Ned Colletti is apparently the exception.

I would guess the last thing that Dodgers fans would want to hear from someone in authority now is more spin designed to mislead them.

This is the time for Colletti to be honest, if for no other reason than to separate himself from the McCourts.

But so far Colletti is following McCourt's lead and telling Dodgers fans what he thinks they want to hear.

He says he's not sure what to make of this Dodgers team, a scary declaration when the top baseball guy in the Dodgers' organization is the last to know his team stinks.

Colletti says he doesn't know if the Dodgers will be buyers or sellers at the trading deadline, as if McCourt has enough money these days to buy a Dodger Dog.

I asked Colletti how he could possibly say the Dodgers might be buyers given Frank's court filings a day earlier seeking relief from spousal support.

Colletti said he was unaware of such a development, and do you believe that?

If money is a key component in almost anything the Dodgers do these days, wouldn't you think the general manager would keep up to date on financial developments?

He says he hasn't asked management if there will be any money available if he has a deal to make. Wouldn't you think he would be interested in knowing if there is?

He says it will be up to Frank McCourt to make that decision. He didn't mention Jamie.

"We'll wait to see how the team does," Colletti says. When it's suggested he's misleading Dodgers fans into thinking whatever they might do now might make a difference, he changes his tune.

"The odds are we stand pat," he says.

If the Dodgers make a money-free deal, maybe trading a James Loney for a power-hitting first baseman who will become a free agent at season's end, a few months from now they will have to pay for that first baseman or be in worse shape without any first baseman.

The Dodgers are who they are, and probably will be for some time the team that Colletti built.

Nicknamed "The Schmoozer" here when he took the job, Colletti was trained as the Cubs' PR guy years ago to put a positive spin on everything. Tough to put a positive spin on this fiasco, but he's trying.

When he was hired I said he would remain in the job longer than most because he is The Schmoozer, and it plays so well with reporters who will always give a nice guy the benefit of doubt.

It probably explains why no one has come down hard on him for allowing the Dodgers' minor league system to deteriorate as it has. When baseball folks talk about the Dodgers improving in the years to come, almost no one suggests it's going to come from within.

Colletti says things haven't gone well for some time in the Dodgers' system, but he's been working on it.

Ask him about the players who have let the Dodgers down, like Juan Uribe and Ted Lilly -- two of his off-season signings -- and Colletti says, "I'm not going to go after anyone individually."

Why? Afraid Uribe and Lilly might quit and be even worse than they are now with two more years remaining on each of their contracts? What's wrong with holding millionaire pros accountable? Afraid of bruising their feelings? Try watching them play.

"The free agent thing to me is the most volatile part of the whole thing and where you're liable to make your biggest mistakes and cost you the most," he says. "That's why people always say they'd rather draft and develop their own."

And that's why the Dodgers have had to gamble and sign shaky free agents. Colletti has failed to hold those in charge of player development accountable.

There's one school of thought Colletti has done as good a job as he can given the McCourts' situation. I argue the Dodgers are in this fourth-place position in large part because of Colletti.

Colletti has yet to offer a discouraging word when it comes to the McCourts, like most everyone else who chooses to remain employed not going after the guy who is going to ask the bankruptcy judge to make sure he gets paid.

But this latest McCourt revelation is a doozy. The McCourts are in trouble again because of their extravagant lifestyle, apparently learning nothing after they spent more than $100 million on themselves leading to the Dodgers financial woes.

Jamie, who claims to be co-owner of the Dodgers, owns seven homes, a reality TV show there somewhere: "Guess Where Jamie Sleeps Tonight."

Frank's unhappy because she has made no move to sell a house or take in renters and he has to make payment on the homes. He says he spent only $600,642 on personal expenses, which includes Beverly Hills hotel lodging at $40,000 a month. Holiday Inn has a wonderful frequent-stay program.

We learn once again there is no change whatsoever in the McCourts. Everything is still all about them.

That gives Colletti the singular chance to be the Dodgers spokesman, a wonderful chance to let fans know he's as disappointed and hurt by this team's performance as the empty seats indicate.

Somebody ought to be doing it between McCourt revelations. Unfortunately I don't think The Schmoozer has it in him to tell it like it is.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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