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.