Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine has a long but very interesting and very comprehensive article up about Frank and Jamie McCourt, their ownership of the Dodgers, their divorce and what it’s done and continues to do to the team. It’s must-read material for Dodgers fans or anyone who is interested in the politics of baseball ownership. It’s still highly entertaining reading for anyone else.
For all of the stuff about the legal battle and the McCourts’ opulent lifestyle, this passage stood out to me:
While the McCourts were living large, the Dodgers, in 2008 and 2009,
spent less than any other MLB team on the draft and international-player
signings, an area the team once dominated. Frank told reporters during
spring training that the divorce has nothing to do with the payroll; and
multiple former club execs say there’s truth to the claim. “It was
Frank’s plan all along to run a team with a payroll of about $80
million,” says a former high-ranking club official speaking on condition
of anonymity. “His thinking since he bought the team was: ‘This isn’t
the AL East. Why would I spend $150 million to win 98 games when I can
spend half that to win 90, if that’s all it takes to make the playoffs
in our division?’
All along I had been dismissing McCourt’s claims that his divorce had nothing to do with the Dodgers’ decisions to skimp on player development and payroll. Turns out I was wrong. It’s not the divorce doing that, it’s McCourt’s very business plan.
Too bad that “I can spend half that and win 90” logic falls apart when the major leaguers you depend upon get old and you have (a) no farm system to replenish the roster; and (b) you’ve arranged your business affairs in such a way that upping Major League payroll to go get free agents to make up for it is impossible.
Lost in the nifty base running by Dustin Pedroia that won Sunday’s game against the Rays, the Red Sox set a new major league record by striking out 11 batters in a row, per Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Starter Eduardo Rodriguez struck out the final six Rays he faced and reliever Heath Hembree struck out five Rays in a row after that. Tom Seaver had the previous consecutive strikeout streak of 10, set on April 22, 1970 against the Padres.
The Red Sox also set a team record with 23 strikeouts in total: 13 by Rodriguez, five by Hembree, one by Matt Barnes, and four by Joe Kelly. Per Abraham, that’s the most strikeouts in a 10-inning game since at least 1913 and the most in a game of any length since 2004.
For Rodriguez, Sunday marked the first double-digit strikeout game of his career. He has pitched quite well since returning to the rotation at the start of the second half. Over 13 starts, the lefty has a 3.10 ERA with a 70/23 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings.
Dodgers second baseman Charlie Culberson delivered a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning, clinching the NL West for the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. What a way to celebrate Vin Scully’s final home game behind the microphone.
The Dodgers were trailing 2-1 in the seventh inning, but shortstop Corey Seager tripled in a run to tie the game. Rockies outfielder David Dahl untied the game in the top of the ninth with a two-out solo home run off of Kenley Jansen. But Seager once again rose to the occasion, blasting a game-tying solo shot in the bottom half of the ninth against Adam Ottavino. That would set the stage for Culberson in the next frame.
Culberson, a former Rockie, came into the afternoon with a .591 OPS and zero home runs in 53 plate appearances. He finished the afternoon 3-for-5 with the homer.
It’s the fourth consecutive season in which the Dodgers have won the NL West. The Cubs have clinched the best record, which means they’ll play the winner of the Wild Card game. The Dodgers will play the Nationals in the NLDS. The Nationals have a 1.5-game lead over the Dodgers for home-field advantage, so both teams are still playing for something of importance in the regular season’s final week.