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False Alarm on Beltre
2004-05-11 08:47
by Jon Weisman

Ross Newhan's article in the Times today, which warns that a great season by Adrian Beltre might price him out of the Dodger salary budget, implicitly casts the team playing in the nation's second-largest city as a small-market squad - if not the smallest.

It's an improper characterization, no matter what your opinion of the new Dodger ownership is.

Newhan writes that the "speculated intent" of Dodger owner Frank McCourt is to cap the player payroll at $80 million. However, Newhan fails to consider or acknowledge that the Dodgers have $46 million in salary committed for 2005 and $1.1 million for 2006, leaving us to wonder how it is possible for Beltre to already be beyond affordability - when, in fact, the Dodger payroll will still be higher than most teams in baseball.

Furthermore, despite the tenor of Newhan's article, you won't find a single person saying that Beltre won't be signable. There are quotes from Scott Boras indicating the prize property that Beltre may well have become, but Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta's response is fairly tame:

"We just hope [Beltre] continues to have the type season he's having," DePodesta told Newhan. "If his contract becomes an issue, it's a problem we'd love to have."

I'm not saying that Newhan invented his speculation out of thin air. The essential truth is that Beltre will command more than his current $5 million salary in coming years - perhaps much more. This, combined with the fiscally restrained ownership of McCourt, is reason enough for Newhan to ask whether the Dodgers can retain Beltre. And of course, if Boras asks for the moon and New York City (if you get my drift), the whole matter may be out of DePodesta's and McCourt's hands anyway.

However, Newhan's article fails to make the case that, even under McCourt, 2004 is so likely to be Beltre's last season in Los Angeles.

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