Dodgers, Manny starting fresh in contract talks

According to the L.A. Times, Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt wants to start fresh contract talks with free agent Manny Ramirez and his agent Scott Boras.

Manny RamirezMcCourt said the latest phase of negotiations ended the moment agent Scott Boras made him a counterproposal instead of simply accepting or declining an offer the Dodgers made Wednesday of a two-year, $45-million contract with much of the money deferred without any added interest. By Thursday evening, Boras had made two counterproposals, the second one asking for two years at $45 million with an opt-out clause Ramirez could exercise at the end of the first year, only with no deferred salary.

McCourt on Sunday called that counteroffer “too little too late” and said negotiations would resume with “a fresh start.” He said he stressed to the agent that he had wanted a resolution by Friday because he didn’t want the negotiations to dominate conversation Sunday, the day the Dodgers opened the gates of their new spring training ballpark.

But why not consider the offer when the two sides appear to be so close?

“Because we’re going to start from scratch,” McCourt said.

But why start from scratch when you’re so close?

“I answered it twice,” McCourt said.

He looked away from the reporter who asked the question and didn’t say another word until another question was asked by another reporter.

I don’t like to compare athlete’s contracts to the common man’s salary. Athletes and celebrities live in their own worlds and the money they make doesn’t even seem real. Furthermore, who am I to say what an athlete should or should not ask for when it comes to his salary?

But even I have to admit that this contract situation between Manny and the Dodgers is absolutely ridiculous. Every day, more Americans lose their jobs across the country and Boras is fighting the Dodgers for $1.5 million. Ramirez is 36 years old, doesn’t play the field that well and quit on the Red Sox last season. It’s insane for him and Boras to argue over $1.5 million when some Americans are working for $7.50 an hour just trying to get by. Ramirez should have to play for free at this point.

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Five MLB storylines to watch in 2009

The A-Rod steroid mess is finally boiling over, the World Baseball Classic is fast-approaching and making GMs and managers nervous, and the 2009 regular season is a little over a month away. It’s hard to believe we crowned the Phillies world champs a third of a year ago, but time does fly like Jose Reyes around the bases. With that, let’s look at some interesting questions that beg to be answered in 2009:

1. Who will be the surprise team this year? Last year it was the Tampa Bay Rays, who not only won the ridiculously competitive AL East, but also beat the Red Sox in the ALCS to reach the World Series, which they eventually lost to the Phillies. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won 21 of 22 games after September 17, including sweeping the Cubs and D-Backs in the playoffs before losing to Boston in the Fall Classic. In 2006 it was the Cardinals who squeaked into the postseason with an 83-78 record, ultimately winning it all. Who is going to do it this season? Or will it be a big-market, big-money World Series match up such as Yankees/Mets or Red Sox/Cubs? It’s almost impossible to say I told you so at this point to this type of question, but here are the teams I’m telling you to keep an eye on: Indians, A’s, Giants, Marlins.

2. How will the choking of recent seasons affect the Mets, Cubs and Angels? The Mets’ bullpen imploded two years in a row, and GM Omar Minaya went and picked up not one, but two lights-out closers in K-Rod and JJ Putz. Still, the Mets are not going to have an easy go of things in the NL East, and their lineup and starting rotation are bordering on suspect. The Cubs and Angels keep beating everyone up in the regular season only to flame out early in the playoffs. Do these two teams lack what it takes to win, or has the luck and clutch hitting of other teams been their demise? Honestly, you can’t keep talented teams like these three down for very long, and I expect all of them to be playing deep into October this time around.

Read the rest after the jump...

Is Scott Boras screwing himself in the end?

For years, Scott Boras has been known as an agent who gets his clients the absolute best deal possible financially. His clients – Barry Zito, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, etc – have walked away from past contract negotiations with fat bank accounts and big smiles on their faces.

But in playing hardball yet again with another club (the Los Angeles Dodgers) in order to get Manny Ramirez a long-term deal, Boras could be screwing himself in the long run.

From’s Peter Gammons:

Manny RamirezScott Boras has put the heat on Dodgers owner Frank McCourt, and there has been no love lost. The L.A. scouting department has been told it will not draft Boras clients come June.

That may hold true for a number of teams. With the economy in its current state, the Yankees, Red Sox and perhaps two or three other teams may be willing to ignore the commissioner’s office’s attempts to fix draft prices. Boras and other agents may determine that high school players would be better off coming out in 2012 when the economy should be more stable.

Boras represents outfielder Donavan Tate, Baseball America’s top high school positional prospect, and could decide that Tate will be better served playing quarterback and baseball at North Carolina and allowing MLB and the NFL to set his price in 2012. Without the Dodgers and Tigers in the bidding, there may be very few teams other than the Yankees and Red Sox that may even contemplate Boras’ price on a high school player.

Boras has cashed in for years on clubs’ dimes, but in doing so it appears that he has alienated himself in the process. Teams like the Dodgers are finally fighting back against bully agents like Boras, who might lose clients soon if he doesn’t change his negotiating tactics. He relies on two or more teams being interested in his clients and then he wages a war between the two clubs, who are often more than willing to drive up the price so that even if they don’t eventually acquire said player, the team they’re fighting against will have to pay top dollar.

But in the recent case of Manny Ramirez, Boras has one team that’s officially interested (the Dodgers) and one team that might-kind-of-sort-of be interested (the Giants). And unless the Giants pony up and officially offer a long-term deal soon, the Dodgers will continue their refusal to budge on their one-year, $25 million offer. And worse yet, now the Dodgers are instructing their scouts that no Boras client will be drafted and apparently other clubs are doing the same.

Boras is losing the Manny-contract battle and soon yet, he might be losing more than that.

Dodgers vs. Giants: The Manny Ramirez standoff

One of the more underrated and overlooked stories in sports right now is the battle going on with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Manny Ramirez. Manny and his agent Scott Boras want at least a five year contract, while the Dodgers want Manny and his agent Scott Boras to look up “realistic” in the dictionary and get back to them.

The Dodgers’ standoff is admirable; finally a club is willing to stand up to a player that probably won’t be worth what he’s asking for in the long run. Manny is a weakness in the outfield, is known for quitting on plays and even worse, quitting on his team. But the guy is still one of the best hitters in the game and given how weak the NL West should be again, the Dodgers would be instant favorites to win the division if they can re-up with Ramirez.

But another battle brewing under the surface is the one between the Dodgers and Giants. San Fran has shown interest in Ramirez, but has balked at his asking price and reports state that they’re no longer a potential suitor. But does anyone truly believe that the G-Men are taking themselves out of the running and just handing Manny over to their rivals (the frontrunners for Ramirez) at a discounted price? Not a chance.

The Giants are several bats away from competing for a World Series title or even an NLCS berth. But they’re seemingly one big bat away from at least competing in the NL West and the postseason. Their pitching staff is solid and they have enough decent hitters in Bengie Molina, Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Edgar Renteria (assuming his bat returns to form now that he’s back in the NL) to be a contender if they can sign Ramirez.

The problem is that after they chose not to re-sign Barry Bonds, Brian Sabean and company pledged to rebuild. Of course Sabean then went out and signed Molina, Dave Roberts and Rich Aurilia – all players well into their 30s – so the Giants can’t use the rebuilding excuse as the only reason not to sign Manny. Still, the team finally has chemistry again and tossing a personality like Ramirez into the mix could ruin an otherwise drama-less atmosphere in the clubhouse. And for what? A shot to maybe contend in the West and then lose in the postseason?

The Manny Ramirez battles have only begun and it’ll be interesting to see who cracks first. Ramirez could get tired of waiting for the Dodgers to offer him a long-term contract and take one of their initial proposals for 2 or 3 years. Worried about the Giants making a move, the Dodgers could also start to get antsy and cave to Boras’s demands. Or the Giants, in fear of wasting good pitching for another year, could seize the moment and put the power hitter smack dab in the middle of their lineup.

I’m sticking with my prediction of a few months ago: Manny will return to the Dodgers. The Giants are too freaked out about another Barry Zito-deal and will stick to their rebuilding plan. I imagine L.A. retains Ramirez with a 3-year contract.

Dodgers interested in Dunn and Abreu, Manny still first choice

The Los Angeles Dodgers are reportedly interested in free agents Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu, although Manny Ramirez remains their top priority.

Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times talked to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who said Manny Ramirez is the team’s first choice. Colletti hasn’t heard from Manny’s agent Scott Boras since Mark Teixeira signed a week ago. As reported yesterday, the Dodgers have interest in Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu as backup plans. Pat Burrell and Garret Anderson are not on the team’s radar.

At this point, I think it would be wise for Boras to sit down with Colletti and figure out a reasonable contract. The biggest spenders – Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets – aren’t interested and I doubt Manny’s going to find a better deal than the one the Dodgers are offering him.

Go be an icon in L.A., Manny.

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