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Frank McCourt: A few words in praise of Dodgers owner

Frank3
Hey, I didn’t say they were my words.

It must be understood that despite racking up almost a billion dollars in debt and taking the Dodgers into bankruptcy, Frank McCourt still has supporters. They mostly point to the team’s four playoff appearances in his eight years of ownership.

And then there is General Manager Ned Colletti, who during Tuesday's announcement of Clayton Kershaw’s two-year, $19-million contracttook the time to commend McCourt for trying to leave the team in good condition.

Colletti based this on McCourt’s off-season signing of Kershaw and Matt Kemp (eight years, $160 million), and his efforts to sign Prince Fielder.

“When you think about how we were able to complete a deal with Matt for eight years, get the go-ahead to go after Prince and sign Clayton for a couple of years, you have to give Frank credit,” Colletti said.

“These are things he didn’t have to do. We could have not pursued Prince and let the next owner deal with Matt and Clayton. To his credit, he’s trying to leave the organization in the best place possible.”

Just makes you see ol' Frankie in a completely different light, no?

OK, there are a few problems with this line of reasoning, forgetting for the moment that McCourt gave Colletti his first job as a general manager and that Colletti continues to be in his employ. Wouldn’t you really love to hear what the GM really thinks about being financially hamstrung for most of the past six years?

It was interesting to note that Colletti publicly acknowledged for the first time the Dodgers did try to get in on Fielder, though it was so very late in the process the cynic in you — that’s you, not me, of course — has to wonder if it was not largely a PR move.

But as to the signing of Kershaw and Kemp, McCourt receives minimum kudos. Like in all his off-season signings this winter, he was able to induce both to accept a lower salary in the first year of the contract, before it balloons in the second.

After deferring $2 million of his salary this year (another McCourt specialty), Kemp will actually make $8 million this season before his contract jumps to $20 million in 2013. Kershaw is also deferring $2 million, meaning he will actually only make $6 million this season before his contract jumps to $13 million next year.

It’s contributing to an almost artificial team payroll of about $94 million for 2012, which of course, just happens to be the period where he is showing his projected profit-and-loss estimates to potential team owners.

Both Kemp and Kershaw would have actually made more this season if they had gone through the arbitration process. Now the new owner has to figure out how to make it all work when the host of larger contracts kick in the following season.

The best part of the Kemp contract is, the later signings of Albert Pujols ($240 million) and Fielder ($214)are making it look like a potential bargain. Give credit to McCourt for that if you’d like.

Those, of course, would be your words, not mine.

RELATED:

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The Dodger who can have the greatest effect on the 2012 season

— Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers owner Frank McCourt. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

 
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