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The Dodgers tell their fans to Think Blue.
West Coast Bias has a message for Dodgers power brokers, also two words in length.
Baseball's two species of fish -- the Rays and Marlins -- are whom the Dodgers should emulate now in response to their worst financial squeeze in decades.
The basic idea is to build for tomorrow, wisely. Collect extra draft picks, invest dollars that otherwise would go to major league payroll into the amateur markets, sell opportunity to players and pitch fans on why even a medium-high payroll doesn't make sense, at least until the club moves well past its financial mess.
The Rays are the model for how to exploit baseball's silly system for draft pick compensation. Tampa Bay gathered enough extra picks to make 10 of the first 60 selections in this month's draft. As the Dodgers now must do, the Rays figured out how to do more with less money. Dodgers personnel should read Jonah Keri's book about the Rays -- "The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First." A more innovative mindset should help, given the Dodgers' financial strain, even if baseball changes terms in its next labor pact.
Like the Rays, the Marlins don't spend much on their major league payroll. Their success, admittedly, distant success, should induce Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti to go ice fishing the next time he's close to handing out fat multi-year contracts. Florida's World Series-winning team in 2003 had only one player who was on a multi-year contract. At Dodgerland, multi-year deals gone bad worth close to $150 million for Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Juan Uribe are blots on Colletti's respectable track record.
In normal times, the Dodgers would invite a backlash from fans and media if they cut the major league payroll to seed for seasons ahead. Fans buy 3 million tickets yearly to Dodgers games. Like the Red Sox, the Dodgers should be among the big spenders at both levels.
But these are atypical times at Chavez Ravine, where a proxy of commissioner Bud Selig is monitoring Dodgers operations as embattled owner Frank McCourt, mired in financial and legal woes, struggles to meet payroll.
The Dodgers need to boost their investments in the farm system, even if it means slashing major league payroll. Sell the youth movement to the fans, but vow to ramp up the payroll after stable ownership is in place.
Colletti, despite losing scout Mark Weidemaier to the Diamondbacks, has several excellent scouts who should reward bolder efforts in the amateur markets and in trades for youn talent. Short term, younger players and vets on one-year deals could hold some intrigue, especially in the forgiving National League West.
Photo: pvsbond, Creative Commons 2.0.