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Category: Steve Dilbeck

Every bidder for the Dodgers needs to withdraw right now

Mccourt

What a mess. What a complete mess. It’s orchestrated by Frank McCourt, so the shock factor is nil, but still.

You wonder how any human being can be so completely clueless, but then we’ve been watching this sorry excuse for an owner for way too long now.

His latest fantasy has him selling the team but keeping the parking lots completely surrounding Dodger Stadium. Hey, now there’s a sweet deal. Thursday marked the first day the siege of the Alamo began in 1836. Getting surrounded by the enemy is never a very good idea.

So every single one of the nine remaining bidders on the team need to get out of the Dodgers pool right now.

Follow the lead of Joe Torre and Rick Caruso. No parking lots, no bid. No auction. McCourt is not only still left in bankruptcy but with another lesson to learn.

He thinks the fans boycotted the team last year? Try mudding up the sales process so badly he’s still holding the team after April 1. Outrage will be so rampant that he’ll be lucky to average 20,000.

You may not have been the biggest fan of Bob Daly when he ran the Dodgers for Fox, but he was dead on when he told The Times’ T.J. Simers last month:

"Here's the test to see if we get a smart or stupid owner. If you make a deal and allow McCourt to keep the land and parking lots, you are out of your mind.”

So listen up, you nine remaining bidders. I don’t care if you’re Magic Johnson or Stan Kroneke or gazillionaire Steve Cohen. You buy the team and are willing to let McCourt keep the parking lots, you are not wanted. You don’t deserve the Dodgers.

No one can require McCourt to include the parking lots. That’s the lousy deal Major League Baseball, in its eagerness to rid itself of McCourt, made. In another McCourt specialty, the lots are held in a separate entity and aren't in bankruptcy court.

It may be wishful thinking to entertain the idea that an MLB team in a major market, with the history of the Dodgers, with a huge TV deal coming, won’t find one idiot willing to make a deal with the devil. McCourt is already claiming he has one such bid.

If so, that person needs to withdraw the offer immediately.

Bankruptcy never should have been allowed in the first place. It was a desperate dodge to avoid MLB taking over the team, selling it and pushing McCourt out. MLB was never going to allow team creditors to go unpaid. They weren’t in real danger.

Now McCourt wants to sell the team and keep the lots to develop them? Really? What local developer would go into business with the most despised man in Los Angeles? It’s almost delusional. It is a complete mess. It is all McCourt. And L.A.’s ongoing nightmare.

RELATED:

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Dodgers have to be liking the dreamer in Matt Kemp

Jerry Sands is happy with this day job

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Frank McCourt. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.

I'll always forget my first time: Dodger Ronald Belisario

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Ah, the wonder that is Ronald Belisario. What to make of our hard-throwing Venezuelan right-hander?

Say this for him, he’s in camp on time this year, a first for him in his four years with the Dodgers. Of course, last year he never did make it.

He told a Venezuelan newspaper he was late to spring training last season because he lost his passport. In a stunning development, on Wednesday he admitted it was not true. He told reporters in Phoenix he could not leave his native country because he had tested positive for cocaine.

If only things were so simple. Because then he added he had only used the drug once, could not remember when he was tested or what entity had tested him.

I don’t know, wild guess, but if you had only used cocaine once in your life and it was only a year ago, just maybe you’d remember snorting the white powder. And particularly where you were tested and by whom when busted. Particularly, you know, since you only tried coke once.

The Times’ Dylan Hernandez has learned from an individual familiar with the situation that Belisario was actually tested by the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela when applying for a visa. Not that you could expect him to remember that. He was tested because of a previous DUI arrest in Pasadena during the 2009 season.

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Turns out Peter O'Malley won't be going home again

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Well, so much for that little fantasy. Peter O’Malley has given up the ghost of returning as owner of the Dodgers.

I was never convinced he had a real shot, not after he came out publicly and criticized Frank McCourt’s ownership, saying it had lost all credibility and he needed to sell the team.

Not that every word spoken wasn’t completely true, but this was back in September 2010, before everyone and his Aunt Gracie was calling for McCourt to step down, long before Major League Baseball’s invasion and team bankruptcy.

Plenty said more severe things, but you had to figure O’Malley’s words particularly stung McCourt. They came from the long-time head of the family that owned the team for 47 years, the family ownership McCourt said he wanted to emulate when he bought the Dodgers from Fox in 2004.

O’Malley was probably the last person in Los Angeles whom  McCourt wanted to hear disparagement from –- though he had never actually mentioned McCourt by name –- and probably the last one he wanted to see come riding in as a white knight.

The O’Malley group, apparently sponsored largely by the South Korean conglomerate E-Land, had made it through the first round of cuts in this odd ongoing auction. But a new, and understood, higher bid is due in the next round this week.

It’s possible that O’Malley, 74, simply looked at the escalating numbers involved in the auction --  speculation is the winning bid will run $1.5 billion to $2 billion -– and determined that the price had  skyrocketed to a completely impractical realm, huge TV contract waiting or not. O’Malley had warned in November about the new owner overpaying; he sold the team to Fox for $350 million in 1997.

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Count on the Dodgers for these early rites of spring

Dodgers pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring-training camp Tuesday morning, and I am positively certain each one of these things will transpire:

-- Ronald Belisario will not only be there on time, he’ll proudly be wearing a lanyard around his neck holding his visa.

-- Catcher Ted Federowicz will arrive without sporting that 1970s-style mustache. Actually, I have no idea if this is true, I just hope it is.

-- The hearts of every hitter in the National League will skip a beat when Clayton Kershaw announces he has been working with Fernando Valenzuela to develop a screwball.

-- Manager Don Mattingly will have to take 267 razzings for good-naturedly wearing a dress for a charity performance of the "Nutcracker." In the first two hours.

-- Rubby De La Rosa will announce he’s at least two months ahead of schedule in his return from Tommy John surgery.

-- Catcher A.J. Ellis will tweet that Chad Billingsley already looks like he’s in midseason form.

-- Ted Lilly’s fastball will appear another 2 mph slower, and he will somehow manage to use it to his advantage.

-- John Grabow will go around the locker room and shake hands with every player, coach and media member, just to remind them he’s left-handed.

-- Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt will explain to some first-time camper how he was actually the only pitcher to beat the Dodgers in the 1988 World Series.

-- In his first time on the mound, Kenley Jansen will throw absolute smoke.

-- Mike MacDougal will again claim to be 185 pounds.

-- Mattingly will say he’s crazy about his rotation and in love with his bullpen. Heartbreak arrives with the hitters Feb. 27.

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Frank McCourt to Bud Selig: I can never thank you enough

For the Dodgers, change is in the wind, but not on the field

Profit at Dodgers' spring home drops 65% in two years

-- Steve Dilbeck

Frank McCourt to Bud Selig: I can never thank you enough

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I don’t know what the world record is for emerging from bankruptcy with the greatest amount of wealth, but you have to think our good buddy Frank McCourt is a serious contender.

Bankruptcy is designed to make sure creditors are paid, and you have to wonder at this point if there was ever any danger of that not happening. But McCourt chose bankruptcy, the courts accepted and it has led to a historic auction, the likes of which Sotheby’s has never imagined.

Hall of Fame baseball writer Ross Newhan finds it incomprehensible that after leaving the Dodgers the laughingstock of baseball and dragging them into bankruptcy, McCourt could not only get the record $1.5 billion he was looking for, but possibly $2 billion and still own the parking lots.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin reports that, aside from TV rights, team revenue and the parking lots, whether the sale price is ultimately closer to $1.5 or $2 billion could largely depend on how much renovation Dodger Stadium is deemed to need.

McCourt now claims it doesn’t need significant renovation, which sort of goes against his grand 2008 plan for a transformation that was estimated then to cost $500 million. And, oh yeah, was supposed to be completed before the start of the 2012 season.

In a stunning development, McCourt found financing a tad difficult to come by.

Yet despite everything, despite the embarrassment of bankruptcy, an ugly public divorce that exposed his and wife Jamie's horrendous greed and perhaps the worst year in team history, McCourt is about to exit richer than anyone –- no doubt including him -- ever dreamed.

The McCourts purchased the Dodgers for $430 million in 2004 without spending a dime of their own money, using equity in a Boston parking lot. Now even after paying Jamie a settlement of $131 million once the team sells, paying off $573 million in debt and possibly more than $200 million in sales taxes, McCourt could walk away with around $1 billion?

Wonder if Jamie would like to rework that settlement.

No one has any real clue which of the 11 surviving bidders will get the team, though if it does become more of a vanity purchase than a practical one, the deep pockets of Steve Cohen and Magic Johnson’s group are impressive. Newhan said the Joe Torre-Rick Caruso group has picked up the backing of a member of the David Thomson family, the wealthiest in Canada. Groups could yet merge, and still floating out there are local billionaires Ron Burkle and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

No one knows this better than Frank McCourt. His feud with Commissioner Bud Selig is looking like the best thing that ever happened to him.

__ __ __

Newhan also had this interesting mention in his blog post:

“… sources also revealed that none of the investors are particularly happy with the Dodgers' eight year, $160 million, back loaded signing of Matt Kemp, and the two year, $19 million contract to Clayton Kershaw.”

Jon Weisman at Dodgers Thoughts found this particularly unsettling, arguing the Dodgers were simply giving competitive salaries to their two best players.

Which is true, of course, but if you’re about to be the new owner, no doubt you would like to be the one negotiating the salaries. It is your future debt, and neither contract had to be done now.

Kemp’s salary, compared to subsequent deals signed by Albert Pujols ($240 million) and Prince Fielder ($214 million), could prove a relative bargain if he continues to produce anywhere near his 2011 level.

Of course, the difference is Pujols and Fielder have performed at the highest level for several years. Kemp reached true elite status only last year, and the Dodgers are counting on the 2011 version and not the 2010 one.

Kershaw’s deal is another matter. Two is an unusual number of years to give a player in the first year of arbitration. The Dodgers guaranteed him $6 million this season, meaning he gets $13 million next year. For that, they essentially got nothing in return, save for avoiding a year of arbitration.

So the Dodgers have taken an expensive gamble that Kershaw doesn’t blow out his elbow. Normally if a team does make that kind of commitment, the contract is extended to at least buy out a year or two of free agency.

RELATED:

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What is the Dodgers' backup plan if Dee Gordon falters?

Fan loyalty to Dodgers took a tumble in 2011, survey says

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Commissioner Bud Selig with Dodgers owner Frank McCourt during a ceremony in 2006. Credit: Ric Francis / Associated Press

What is the Dodgers' backup plan if Dee Gordon falters?

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Of all the things the Dodgers are crossing their little fingers on, none may be as significant as the play of shortstop Dee Gordon.

They’re basically all in with him, because there is really no viable Plan B should he fail to deliver. Or, given his slight frame, go down to injury.

Last year as a rookie shortstop, Gordon played essentially a little over a third of a season (224 at-bats). His numbers, for the most part, were encouraging.

Enough so that the Dodgers proclaimed him their starting shortstop for the 2012 season. It’s great that the Dodgers are giving an exciting young player who doesn’t call the mound home an opportunity, but the commitment hardly comes without risk.

Gordon is expected to bat leadoff, understandable for someone with his electric speed and who stole 24 bases in 31 attempts last year. A full season equates to more than 60 stolen bases.

But Gordon, 23, struggled to get on base (.325 percentage), walks hardly his forte. He had just seven all last year. He’s young and inexperienced, of course, so that’s a part of his game he can still develop. In his four seasons in the minors, he had a combined on-base percentage of .355.

And then there is his build, which is reminiscent of the "before" drawings in old comic book ads for bodybuilding. You have to wonder if that frame can hold up through the rigors of a 162-game season, when he’s leading off and getting more at-bats than anyone on the team. He already went down last year with a shoulder injury he suffered during a routine rundown.

So what if he doesn’t deliver or falls victim to injury? What do the Dodgers do then? None of the choices are particularly attractive.

Justin Sellers was called up in August when Gordon went down and proved to be a hustling, versatile player. He’s a better defensive shortstop than Gordon, who is more skilled but still makes the occasional wild throw.

The trouble was, Sellers could not hit. Not after a nice initial start, anyway. In his last 20 games he batted .145 and looked overmatched. He finished with a .203 batting average.

Which is actually .001 behind the more likely alternative, Juan Uribe. The 2011 season's biggest disappointment was signed as a second baseman but mostly played third, where he is now ensconced as the starter. Uribe, however, mostly played shortstop for the Giants during their 2010 championship. He has a rocket arm, though covers little ground.

If you move Uribe to short, of course, somebody has to play third. And those alternatives ain’t attractive either. Adam Kennedy can play third, but he also hit .234 last season and is on the wrong side of 35.

Jerry Hairston Jr. can play either shortstop or third, though he appeared in only two games at short last season. He’s valuable, but probably not someone you can count on to play every day. In the past nine seasons, he’s had more than 430 at-bats just once.

Which means, Gordon best deliver. Because if he can’t, the patchwork won’t be pretty.

RELATED:

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It's time for the Dodgers to lock up Andre Ethier

Daily Dodger in review: Dee Gordon, the future is now

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon slides safely home ahead of the tag by Angels catcher Hank Conger to complete a double steal in an interleague game at Angel Stadium last summer. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times / July 1, 2011

It's time for the Dodgers to lock up Andre Ethier

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If the Dodgers believe in Andre Ethier, if they are confident he will rebound and have a successful 2012 season, they need to sign him to a long-term contract. Like soon.

If they wait and he puts together another season like he did in 2009 (31 homers, 92 runs, 106 runs batted in) or even approaches a full season like the start he was off to in 2010 before breaking his pinkie, it could either cost them a serious amount of dough or his services completely.

It’s a risk worth taking, and I know when talking about the moody Ethier, risk is inherent.

At the end of the season, Ethier will become a free agent for the first time. He was already talking about leaving the team on the eve of last season, so it’s not hard to imagine his heading elsewhere next winter.

Ethier is coming off the worst season of his career (11 homers, 62 RBIs, a .421 slugging percentage). He is coming off knee surgery.

He is unlikely to ever be cheaper to sign to a multiyear contract than he is right now.

But if he puts together a big season and enters free agency, the Dodgers might have to compete with the likes of the Red Sox or Yankees and the price for the two-time All-Star takes off.

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No one on the Dodgers has more at stake in 2012 than Ned Colletti

Ned3
Ned Colletti is all in this season. His career as the Dodgers general manager is on the line. It is every season, of course, but more so in 2012, with the Dodgers about to undergo new ownership.

It’s also true for Don Mattingly as the manager, but more so for Colletti. New owners typically don’t come in and announce everything will operate just as before. They want their people in charge, making decisions, reformatting the team in some new image.

When Frank and Jamie McCourt purchased the team in 2004, the first thing they did was start searching for a new general manager. In what should have been a complete indication of things to come, they actually made existing general manager Dan Evans apply and interview for his own job. They hired Paul DePodesta, about as miscast to lead an operation as Barney Fife. He was gone after two quick years.

Someone is going to be named the next Dodgers owner by April Fools' Day. They are going to want to place their stamp on the team. It’s hard to imagine Colletti survives — unless the Dodgers win this season.

So you can criticize his off-season moves, but no individual has more at stake on the outcome of this season than Colletti.

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Why I owe Vin Scully cookies (and you owe me)

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Vin Scully called me at home the other night.

This is the part where I sit back and gloat. Ha, ha, ha. I don’t care if you forgive me or not. I need to write it again.

Vin Scully called me at home the other night.

I witnessed the Lakers finally beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals at the old Boston Garden, Kirk Gibson’s home run and Muhammad Ali light the torch, but this rated right up there on my personal list of greatest sports moments.

“Hello, Steve, this is Vin Scully …”

My first reaction was, “Who do I know who can do such a great Scully impersonation?”

But as he went on, and began to explain his call, I realized this was the one and only. Now I’ve had the great pleasure of knowing Scully for more than 30 years and spoken to him hundreds of times, but never before had he found cause to give me an unexpected phone call.

The impetus was a post I’d written that day on the Dodgers releasing their 2012 spring training broadcast schedule. In it I had one paragraph that read:

“The only sigh-inducing element is that Vin Scully will not broadcast any games from Camelback, so he won’t be heard from until April 3 when the Dodgers and Angels meet at Dodger Stadium. Maybe we should have sent him some cookies.”

The latter was a reference to when Scully announced on TV last August he’d return for a 63rd season of broadcasting the Dodgers while holding a pair of cookies sent to him by Woodland Hills costume designer Marti Squyres, and said then:

“God's been awfully good to me, allowing me to do the things that I've always wanted to do. I asked him for one more year at least. He said, ‘OK, and be quiet, and eat your cookie.' I'll do the same thing.”

Less than a half-hour after the post about the Dodgers’ spring broadcasting plans came an email update from the team saying Scully was now scheduled to do a pair of games March 17 and March 18.

Scully said when he read my post about the broadcast schedule, and the cookies, he decided, “I could use a little spring training, too. So I’m going to do the St. Patrick’s Day game on March 17 against the Giants and then the following day against the Angels.”

In appreciation I promised him cookies, the responsibility of which was immediately passed on to the wife. She is very excited.

Now maybe that’s not exactly the way it all unfolded and how he decided to do a pair of 2012 spring games, but you’ll never convince me otherwise.

Because Vin Scully called me at home the other night.

RELATED:

Frank McCourt: A few words in praise of Dodgers owner

For Matt Kemp, the season doesn't start on Opening Day

Dodgers' sale: Falling deeper into the Frank McCourt rabbit hole

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Vin Scully shares a laugh before a game at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

Frank McCourt: A few words in praise of Dodgers owner

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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?

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