Ramirez effect extends to future Dodger contracts
LOS ANGELES (AP) -Manny Ramirez's presence will be felt long after his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers ends. The slugger's recent signing has inspired the club to institute a so-called "Ramirez provision'' in all of its future contracts.
Players signing with the team will be required to donate a portion of their salary to the Dodgers Dream Foundation, team owner Frank McCourt said Thursday.
"Every future Dodger will be asked to fill in a blank line,'' he said in remarks to Town Hall Los Angeles. "They're making a lot of money, these players. We won't tell them how much to contribute, that wouldn't be right.''
Ramirez agreed to make a $1 million donation when he accepted a $45 million, two-year deal earlier this month to return to the NL West champions. He can void the second season of the deal and again become a free agent.
"He reacted extremely positively to a Manny clause,'' McCourt said. "He really liked it.''
McCourt said he went into a 6 a.m. meeting with Ramirez and the player's agent Scott Boras at the owner's Malibu home on March 4 ready to call it quits.
"It was a crucial meeting,'' McCourt said. "We were fully prepared not to sign him if that meeting didn't go well, if he didn't embrace the way we do business, the Dodger culture.''
The face-to-face meeting came after weeks of protracted negotiations that led to offers and subsequent rejections.
"His agent is a challenge. It's not a secret,'' McCourt told an audience of about 150 business leaders and high school students at the Millennium Biltmore hotel.
"The economy made it a challenge. Manny had an expectation of a much longer and much bigger contract, and that just wasn't going to happen in this economy.''
Re-signing Ramirez wasn't a typical negotiation for McCourt, a businessman used to wheeling and dealing.
"What made this different was the public interest,'' he said. "We got great feedback. We were in sync with our fans from the get-go. We were doing what our fans wanted - bring him back with parameters.
"We clearly have the best team we've had since we came here (five years ago).''
Not all of McCourt's deals have panned out, most notably Andruw Jones, a $36.2 million bust who was released in mid-January.
Heralded as the answer to the Dodgers' power-hitting void when he agreed to a two-year contract in December 2007, Jones was injured part of last season and out of shape. He was mostly ineffective otherwise, hitting only .158 with three home runs and 14 RBIs in 75 games.
"I'm the same guy who said, `Go sign Andruw Jones,''' McCourt said. "That's how smart I am.''
McCourt is gambling that Ramirez's tenure will bring much better results.
"I think this is going to be the best phase of his career, better than Cleveland and Boston, but we'll see,'' he said.
The worldwide economic meltdown impacted Ramirez's hoped for price, and it's having an effect on the Dodgers, too.
"Our sponsorship sales are hanging in there very, very well,'' McCourt said. "What we'll see is a change in our ticket sales, increased individual game sales and a drop-off in full-season sales.''
McCourt said it's too early to project the exact downturn in season ticket sales.
The team's $500 million plan to continue renovating Dodger Stadium by adding shopping and restaurants behind center field and escalators connecting all levels is in the approval process, which could take about eight months, he said.
Funding will come later, even if it causes the project to miss its completion date of 2012, he said.
"What is the economics of the game going to look like in a year?'' McCourt said. "I'm an optimist and I believe there's tremendous opportunity out there for those who are willing to take a risk. Doing it right is far more important than when it's finished.''
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