Is Dodgers owner Frank McCourt souring on Manny? (cont.)
McCourt's dissatisfaction with the tenor of talks is well-known in Dodgers circles, and people close to the team say they believe GM Ned Colletti and manager Joe Torre are currently cast in a role to calm McCourt, which presumably means they will try to steer him from doing anything rash that might upset Ramirez and drive him to their chief rival.
The dueling e-mails suggest both sides have complaints about each other. In Boras' latest salvo, he wrote that he wanted to "make sure the value is stated accurately and appropriately," a reference to strategic Dodger leaks a week ago claiming they'd offered $45 million over two years without mentioning that the precise offer was to pay Manny $10 million each of the next four years and $5 million in the fifth year. "That's really $45 million over five years, not two," the competing owner said (of course Manny would only have to work for two).
The Dodgers' well-oiled publicity machine (they have to be the only team with a p.r. guru making more than the GM) seems intent on spinning the story their way, but that slightly misleading claim regarding their bid appeared to hurt their credibility, even with some L.A. outlets. Since then, the Dodgers have yet to make another offer, or respond to any made by Boras/Ramirez.
It didn't take a baseball insider on Sunday to see the team is missing some serious star power. The fans who came for their opener at Camelback Ranch (and they were about 2,000 short of a sellout in the 3-2 defeat to the White Sox) had to settle for Tommy Lasorda and American Idol Jordin Sparks. Without the Man-child, left field was manned by the lovely but light-hitting Juan Pierre.
Torre politely declines to answer all Manny questions now but did say the team is currently working hard to become more aggressive on the base paths, apparently to compensate for missing its great threat. Torre also said, resignedly, "You play the players you're dealt," though surely he'd like to be dealt more than the current $77 million payroll, which smacks of small-to-mid market.
Ramirez's main leverage may be the Dodgers' glaring hole, or glaring need. He is a rare player with the power and patience to wait things out, a la Dodgers Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, who staged the most famous spring holdout nearly a half century ago. However, depending on McCourt's next move, he could also eventually be driven to try to work a comparable deal with the Giants or someone else.
Around the camps
Three Mets people said they believe there's no way Johan Santana will miss Opening Day, painting a much more hopeful picture than the more circumspect pitcher. Mets people, who are notoriously optimistic (though no one knows exactly why), cited the fact that Santana has experienced similar elbow issues in the past and never missed any time. Mets people do say they will proceed cautiously with their most valuable commodity, however.
Some owners are talking again about the possibility of contraction, and Bill Madden's column in the Daily News cited the Marlins and A's as the two prime candidates. Until further notice, this talk should probably be viewed in the context of those two teams' efforts to secure new stadiums. The A's just abandoned their plans to build in Fremont, significantly south of Oakland, while the Marlins have begun running into road blocks in their efforts to land a stadium at the Orange Bowl site. Sorry, but the citizens of South Florida (of which I am one) are being hit as hard as anyone by foreclosures, and the last thing they need to be subsidizing now is a new stadium. That project should be abandoned until South Florida starts to heal.
The Nationals took their first and best step toward normalcy when they forced the resignation of GM Jim Bowden, who claimed he was leaving because he didn't want to become a distraction, as if he's ever been anything but. Assistant GM Mike Rizzo, who engineered great drafts in Arizona, looks like a logical replacement, at least on an interim basis.
If the Dodgers don't get Manny, at least new second baseman Orlando Hudson is looking good here. And so is that contract of his, which is full of deferrals. Maybe that bargain deal, which guarantees Hudson less than his Diamondbacks replacement Felipe Lopez, has emboldened McCourt to play hardball with Manny.
The Camelback Ranch is pleasant enough, though McCourt insisted to media members it's the best spring facility ever. Personally, I miss Dodgertown.