I've been very hesitant to engage in too much speculation over what might have happened had the McCourts trimmed their personal expenses even a little. I don't buy the notion that, if not for Jamie's jet-setting, Cliff Lee would be leading the Dodgers to their first World Series title since 1988. I have a natural distrust for conclusions drawn from single incidents. But patterns...patterns grab my attention right quick. Shaikin:
Colletti might have gotten Lee if he had Carlos Santana to offer. Santana, a catcher, is a more advanced prospect. Yet the Cleveland Indians already had him, because Colletti had to sacrifice him last year in order to get the Indians to pay the [$2 million] balance of Casey Blake's contract.
The Dodgers have paid $8.5 million in signing bonuses for draft picks over the last two years -- the lowest figure among all major league teams, according to Baseball America.
The Dodgers, so proud of their heritage in Asia and Latin America, today are a non-factor in bidding for top amateur players abroad. In 2008, according to Baseball America, major league clubs combined to sign 115 such players for bonuses of more than $100,000. The Dodgers did not sign one.
Shaikin offers higher-profile examples as well, like the failure to offer C.C. Sabathia a contract or the nondisclosure of what happened to the money saved via Schmidt's insurance coverage and Ramirez's suspension. Maybe it's the new-school in me, but I am far, far more concerned about a reluctance to part with a million here and a million there in order to strengthen the farm system. The Sabathia contract will probably end up being a bad one. And Colletti hasn't even had an offseason to dispose of the Schmidt and Ramirez money. I won't kill him on that yet.
But the pattern of requiring other teams to kick in cash (as long as the Dodgers kick in talent)? That really starts to bother me. How nice would it be to have an in-house option in case Martin's struggles are real? How about shifting Andy LaRoche to second this winter?
I try to avoid playing the what-if game, because it never ends. And so I'll try to quit speculating there. But I can say that the Dodgers' neglect of the farm system over the last couple years puts an enormous burden on the Kemp/Kershaw/Billingsley/Ethier/Broxton core to win very, very soon. When those guys get just a little too expensive, there might not be a ton of help in the wings.
It's impossible to say with any certainty that the McCourts' indulgent lifestyle led to tighter pursestrings which led to restraints on organizational spending. I ask you to consider, though, how much of the McCourts' take came in the form of Dodgers-paid benefits and perquisites. If, in the grand scheme of things, a $2 million payment from the Indians balances a $2 million Net Jets bill, I can assure you that Al Davis, Marge Schott, and Art Modell need to make room at the table for Frank and Jamie McCourt.