Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Will the Dodgers go the way of the Padres?

SI's Lee Jenkins wonders:

If the Dodgers do not think divorce can affect them, they need only look 120 miles to the south, to a franchise that was paralyzed by the split between owner John Moores and his wife Becky. In 2007, the Padres finished the regular season tied with the Rockies for first place in the National League West. That winter, Becky Moores filed for divorce. The next season, the Padres lost 99 games and finished last in the division.

A variety of factors contributed to their decline -- injuries, underperforming players, questionable personnel decisions -- but none more than divorce. California divorce law stipulates that all assets must be split in half, and since Major League Baseball requires that each team has a principal owner, John Moores decided to sell.

Jenkins notes that Moores stripped down the franchise and quit investing in it before reaching a deal to sell the club to a group led by Jeff Moorad. He goes on to conclude that the Dodgers are better situated to weather the storm than were the Padres for a number of reasons, including talent.

And he's certainly right that the Dodgers don't need to invest in a whole lot of outside help. As Eric Stephen discusses, the Dodgers have a young talent base comparable to what the Phillies built around to win big in recent years. The main pieces aren't going anywhere.

So while there's little reason to fear the Dodger Divorce will lead to a Padres-like gutting, is it fair to worry that the Dodgers' championship hopes might still be damaged? I think so. Until the ownership situation is resolved, it's going to be awfully tough for the organization to make any big moves. Much as the Cubs' uncertain position influenced personnel decisions, Ned Colletti might not have the freedom to make the sorts of deals he could otherwise.

The scarier situation is if the litigation sours further, and control of the club--as the marriage's primary asset--is given to the court. This could be a disastrous outcome, as personnel and financial matters might require judicial approval. Trust me, folks, that takes time. The Dodgers are constructed well enough to weather the storm of the McCourt divorce as it stands now, but all bets are off if the court takes control.

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