Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said Saturday that even if the team didn’t have financial problems, it would be made up of the kind of players it has now.
The Dodgers, who are in third place in the National League West, have a payroll of about $110 million. The figure includes $15 million in salary deferrals from previous seasons.
The Dodgers’ payroll ranks 12th in the majors, according to USA Today’s salary database. Their roster includes four players who went into spring training on minor league contracts and doesn’t include an everyday left fielder.
Asked whether the composition of the team is a reflection of the organization’s economic troubles, McCourt replied, “No.”
So, even if everything were OK, this is the kind of team you would field?
“Yeah, I think we have a very, very good team,” said McCourt, who took out a personal loan to meet last month’s payroll obligation.
In an interview that lasted five minutes at a youth-field dedication in Boyle Heights, McCourt was vague about his future payroll plans if a proposed multibillion-dollar television contract with Fox were to be finalized.
Asked whether a completion of the deal would result in increased spending on players or whether fans should expect more of the same, McCourt replied, “I’ve said over and over again that the media transaction that this team has before it is a very, very important transaction. … It is a very important piece of the overall puzzle for us to be able to compete at the same level as our competitors who have those media deals in place.”
McCourt wouldn’t say whether the deal would allow the Dodgers to be one of baseball’s top-spending teams alongside the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
“I’m not going to get into the specifics, but I will say in very general terms that the media transaction, in whatever form, is a critically important component for this organization,” he said. “It always has been. This is something that other teams have the benefit of and it’s time for the Dodgers to have the benefit of it, so that we’re able to have the additional resources that other teams enjoy.”
Commissioner Bud Selig has said he won’t accept or reject the Fox contract until his office has completed an investigation of the team’s finances. Fox doesn’t intend to move forward with the deal until the company is assured it won’t be contested by Jamie McCourt, Frank McCourt’s ex-wife.
Frank McCourt offered no insight into his recent conversation with Selig, other than to say, “I think there was a little progress made.” He declined to comment on Fox’s stance.
McCourt said he is “very pleased” with how the Dodgers are performing on the field.
“It seems like a disproportionate number of injuries to some of our key players,” he said. “Our guys continue to battle, play hard and play as a team. I think [Manager Don Mattingly] has them in a great spot in that regard and I’m proud of the way they’re playing. I think if we can continue to do what we’re doing until we get healthy and get on a little bit of a run, I think we’ll be just fine.
McCourt said he believes the Dodgers are a playoff-caliber team, provided they overcome their health problems. The Dodgers have six players on the disabled list — Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Marcus Thames and Hector Gimenez.
“Instead of letting that be an excuse, they’ve pulled together as a team, continue to play hard and grind away,” he said. “Really, that’s a great sign for where we are.”