Three weeks after the blockbuster trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez to L.A., the Dodgers are 6-10 - not quite what the Guggenheim partners had in mind. Someday, Gonzalez and the others - Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto - might turn out to be productive players, but someday is never the point of a late-season trade. The point is to shore up a team in preparation for the final stretch. And that's not happening, to put it mildly. The Dodgers are in a terrible batting slump, losing last night to the Diamondbacks, 1-0. They're pretty much out of the divisional race, though they could still limp into the wildcard game. Here was my take on this week's Business Update on KPCC:
Steve Julian: Let's also not forget Hanley Ramirez and the other guys picked up this summer. It's a lot of money!
Lacter: It is a lot of money, and it's also kind of a cautionary tale in spending so much over such a short amount of time, not only for pro sports teams but for your typical business owner and manager. Just because you have access to a fat checkbook doesn't mean you're going to use it wisely. It's hard to upsize - in some ways a lot harder than to downsize. Expectations are suddenly raised, the people you hire have to complement the folks already on staff, and of course they need to perform as advertised. You know, the Yankees are always cited as being successful because they have such a large payroll, but money does not guarantee success. Going back 20 years or so, the teams that increased their payrolls from one season to the next improve their record only 50 percent of the time.
Julian: The Detroit Tigers tried that a few years ago.
Lacter: That's right, they added more than $40 million to the payroll in 2008, and wound up winning 14 fewer games the following season. Meanwhile, the 2004 Texas Rangers cut almost $50 million off the books, and won 18 more games the next year. Now, it's entirely possible that the Dodger trades will turn out to be a big plus for the club. But, you do have to wonder about the huge amounts of money being spent by the new owners, Guggenheim Partners. And, you also have to wonder whether these expenses will eventually be felt by fans going to the ballgame.
Julian: But, aren't the new owners really focused on the money from TV rights?
Lacter: They are, and whatever deal they cut will certainly be higher than the $3 billion agreement that former owner Frank McCourt worked out with Fox Sports last year, and which was then nullified by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. The numbers now being thrown around over a 20-year period are $5 billion, $6 billion, $8 billion - numbers that a few years ago would have been considered unthinkable. I mean, we are talking about just one team. It's been reported that Fox and the Dodgers have begun preliminary talks about renewing their TV deal (they can't start real negotiating until next month).