When Frank McCourt purchased the Dodgers many doubted he had the financial wherewithall to compete against the big boys. The doomsayers were saying he'd slash payroll and sell the land to developers. None of that happened, instead every winter the McCourts have done extensive capital improvements to Dodger Stadium while keeping the Dodger budget well over 100 Million.
But things are looking a bit suspiscous these days from an outsider.
1. Many reporters have reported that the McCourts are very unhappy with attendance, which I expect means they are unhappy with the daily cash receipts compared to previous years. Remember ticket sales are counted not by how many butts end up in a seat but how many tickets are actually sold. As anyone can attest, going to a game from Mon-Thurs you can pick and choose to sit anywhere you want because of the large number of season ticket holders who don't bother going to the game. Each person who does not go to a game costs the McCourts (15.00 Parking) + (20.00 Concessions).
2. They were unable to take on salary during the trading deadline and had to resort to selling prospects to get players like Blake, Manny, and Maddux.
3. All of this is hearsay except for the how the Dodgers are going about selling playoff shares to season ticket holders. To me this is the compelling evidence that the McCourts are having cash flow problems. The McCourts have raised ticket prices every year they have been owners. I think it would be safe to say that most season ticket owners have seen an increase of 35% since new ownership took over. In the past when post-season tickets became available, you would purchase them and then get credit when they quickly lost in the 1st round or failed to make the playoffs, thus getting your money back by November. This year the Dodgers added a new wrinkle. If you buy the post-season package they have guaranteed your season ticket price for 2009 to be the the same as 2008 as long you choose not to have your post-season package money refunded, but instead get a credit toward your 2009 season tickets. So they are willing to eat money on the increase in ticket prices in 2009 so that they can keep the money from Nov - Feb. The interest earned on the cash would fall several million short of what they would collect on the ticket price increase. Just for simplicity sake:
Let us say they have 30,000 season ticket holders with an average price of 30.00 per ticket(Conservative). At 81 games a season they are booking 72,900,000. Now if they keep that cash and earn interest from Nov-Feb at let say 7.5% they make roughly 1,800,000. However if they do their normal 10% price ticket increase in 2009 they would book 80,000,000. So they are losing about 5 million in future revenue to keep the cash now.
I don't know squat about the complexity of the McCourts finances. What I do know is that strange decisions are being made and this bodes ill for the future of the franchise. Sure we wasted money when you look at Schmidt/A Jones/Pierre/Furcal/Loaiza but that budget was set back in January and if the McCourts are having cash flow problems that means the revenue is not reaching expectations. Maybe it is other parts of the McCourt empire that is having problems? Are fewer people parking in the Boston parking lots? Was the budget predicated on a playoff run?
Hopefully this is but a blip, but the Dodgers don't draft low enough in the draft and don't spend enough money in the international market to get away with selling prospects as a long term plan.
In all the years as a Dodger fan I can never remember the team trading(selling) a prospect as highly regarded as Carlos Santana to avoid paying salary. Some think that Santana was a fungible asset but from I've read, he is either going to be ranked number 1 or 2 when BA lists the Indian prospects. Pablo Sandoval is tearing up the NL at the moment. For most of the year he did his act in the same league as Carlos Santana, and Carlos Santana was the better hitter. As Andrew said Carlos Santana probably had a better year then the ballyhooed Matt LaPorta.
The best way to nip this in the bud would be for the Dodgers to go deep into the playoffs. They then not only get the TV revenue, they get to keep the playoff revenue while re billing for the 2009 season. When bloggers and fans lambast the Dodgers for trading the future for now, I don't think the McCourts have any choice. They need this team to get into the playoffs. And I think if you are a fan you need them to do the same, or you might just see more Carlos Santana deals in your future.
Many of you claim to be thinking long term when you say you hope the Dodgers don't make the playoffs so that Ned gets canned. To me that is short term thinking. If we don't make the playoffs who knows what we may be looking at in the future.