It struck me as I watched my favorite team go up against one of the money machines in the league that an owner of a major league franchise needs to be ready to pay to play or he should never buy the team.
Enter Frank McCourt and suddenly the Dodgers go from being a struggling big market franchise to filling holes where their system has not produced. Their money is so stupid, of course, they can still go out and get players even when they are eating contract disasters like Jones and Schmidt. And they do have an inherent market advantage because of being the LA franchise.
But still, before McCourt came in and started throwing some money on the table, this franchise was languishing. McCourt has complemented their farm system that is producing young and barely above average, but solid players, like Martin, Loney and Ethier, to go with blossoming stars like Kemp, with Furcal, Ramirez and Hudson.
Now comes Bob Castellini. He buys into a stadium, modest contract obligations, and a sleeping giant baseball market. But what money has he put on the table? Payroll? Same level as at buy-in. He has invested in some stadium upgrades, but the Pirates teach us that arguably the nicest ballpark doesn't mean jack. He invested in a manager and a closer, which are arguably two positions that can be had on the cheap if you spend your money correctly in other places, like a SS and a power hitter. To his credit, he has invested a lot of money in Latin America, so lets hope that long-term investment pays off.
But I don't think BC has paid to play yet. Sure, he has invested some long term capital improvement money, but he has not bumped up the working capital in any measurable way that I see that would allow his organization to bid on some talent at key positions where there are holes in the organization. I am growing increasingly impatient with that fact and think that he needs to pay to play in 2010 or get out of the game.
Next year, he has young talent that looks very similar to the Dodgers, with Bruce, Votto, Phillips already in place, some rookie contribution possibilities from one or more of Stubbs, Heisey, Frazier, et al, but he is going to need at least two established players to add if the team is going to be anything but average. If there ever was an offseason to invest some cash on players, this is the one. Quit churning dollars like some two bit construction contractor, Bob, and put down some cash to get you over the top. Your franchise is languishing.
Pay to play, buddy.