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Jamie and the Dodgers

Take One for the Team


DO IT, JAMIE: You’ve doubtless heard the expression “taking one for the team.” In baseball lingo, that means standing tall and getting plunked in the ribs with a fastball. You’re in pain, but you struggle down to first base, forcing in the winning run. This makes you a team player, willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.

Barney Brantingham

So I’m calling on Jamie McCourt to take one for the team. After all, doesn’t she claim she’s half-owner of the L.A. Dodgers? (Estranged hubby Frank McCourt says no.) She’s asked for $1 million-a-month support, plus $9 million for her lawyers, as part of the ongoing divorce proceedings. Frank, crying poverty and making only $5 million a year, according to his lawyers, is offering Jamie a humiliating $150,000 a month.

The kids, in this split involving two people living obscenely lavish lifestyles, are the Dodger players, looking at still another season without an ace, the No. 1 franchise pitcher necessary to get them into the long-desired World Series.

But in the preseason, pinchpenny Frank didn’t bother going into the free-agent market or even holding on to Randy Wolf, one of his best pitchers. What the heck. Frank, his eye always on the bottom line, knows the Dodgers will still draw three million fans a year even if they fizzle in the playoffs, as usual.

All I’m sayin’ is maybe Jamie could whittle down her monthly expenses to, say, a frugal half-million. That would free up $6 million to hire a hurler. But the kind of major league talent we’re talking about runs up to $20 mil a season. (They have kids and kids need to eat, don’t they?)

To make matters worse, the season’s about to start, the top free agents have been snapped up, and the barrel is about empty. So maybe Jamie could really get down to a bare-bones, Goleta-style budget, cut back on the daily hair appointments, not fly the jet so often, and try to live on an embarrassing $250,000 a month. Is that asking too much? After all, lots of American wives manage to live on that without undue complaint or applying for food stamps.

That frees up another $3 million. So we’re up to $9 million for a rent-a-pitcher for seven months or so. I know, I know, it’s chump change for people hired to pitch for the love of the game. As for Frank pitching in, well, he’s pretty much opted out of acquiring World Series talent this year, hasn’t he? Also-ran is good enough for him, I guess.

Jamie could also dump one of her seven homes, worth a reported $65 million total, maybe the one she supposedly only uses for laundry or the one where she just swims. But I see no sign of that happening. So we’re back to a crummy $9 mil.

We’ll just have to look elsewhere for spare change to toss into the pot, maybe later in the season, when teams out of contention unload high-priced talent on the meat market. An ace pitcher might pop up then, just in time for the Dodgers’ pennant stretch drive. The savior I’m thinking of is someone who just blew $27 million of her own money in the first 11 weeks of the year, running a media campaign to be elected governor. Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO, could have stayed home, given the dough to the Dodgers for that ace, and done herself a lot more electoral good than running around the state speaking at service clubs.

And she’d still have until the June GOP primary to keep spending $358,000-plus a day campaigning to beat fellow Republican-whipped dog Steve Poizner. Whitman has spent $46 million since joining the race early last year, and there are estimates that she’ll ring the bell at $150 million or more before the votes are counted. After June, assuming she wins the primary, she’ll take on Democrat Jerry Brown. And lo and behold! The ace her money bought might pitch the Dodgers into the World Series, just weeks before Election Day in November.

Does she look good then, or what? How many votes are there in Southern California?

The Dodgers are paying outfielder Manny Ramirez $20 million this year, and I suppose that, mathematically, you could swap him for that pitching ace. But that won’t happen, what with Manny’s disappointing year in 2009 and this year’s uncertainty. Manny’s having a good spring, though.

Much has been written about whether all this off-field fuss will affect the Dodgers on the field. You mean, will a guy watching a fastball sail at 95 mph dangerously close to his cranium be pondering Frank and Jamie’s net worth? Frank denies that it’s affected the team’s off-season spending, even though he’s engaged in perhaps the costliest divorce in California history. Some speculate that the McCourts will have to sell their ATM — oops, I mean the Dodgers — to settle the divorce.

Enter billionaire Meg Whitman. She buys the Dodgers, outdoes the Yankees in renting talent, and runs the state of California with her left hand. So what if she has no governmental experience? Neither did Arnold Schwarzenegger, and look how well he managed the state.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.

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