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Frank McCourt Needed Cash Advance from FOX to Continue Running Dodgers?

When the McCourts bought the Dodgers in 2004, they were approved unanimously by their fellow owners. The reason was simple: MLB wanted cheap owners in a major market to help keep player salaries down (imagine an owner that spends like the Yanks or Mets in LA). The McCourts fit that bill perfectly; they did not have enough money to purchase the franchise, so they had to use Frank’s parking lot in Boston as collateral for the loan. Naturally, one of their first items of business was to fire at least one employee per department throughout the franchise.

Seven years later, not much has changed. Frank and Jamie McCourt raised prices for tickets, concessions, and parking almost every single year despite not increasing the payroll correspondingly. We found out they kept team revenue to finance their personal lifestyle instead of reinvesting in the product on the field, that they paid employees hundreds of thousands from charities, and well, we could go on and on and on. The latest charge is the most laughable since the Vladimir Shpunt story.

The LA Times reports that FOX advanced McCourt money to continue financing the team. Frank is trying to maintain ownership of the Dodgers despite divorcing his wife, Jamie. Many figured the team would have to be sold in order for the financial terms of the divorce to be settled, but it appears as if Frank is trying to work his way around things.

This is one of the most embarrassing tenures for an ownership group and the fans deserve much better. MLB should force a sale of the Dodgers to restore order, and most importantly, respect. When the fans are booing the owner, it’s time for a change. And if Frank is really that desperate for money, I think I can find five bucks in my pocket for him.

Pablo Sandoval Reportedly in Good Shape, Down 17 Pounds

I’m not sure what is more surprising: the San Francisco Giants actually winning the World Series last season, or the Giants having a successful season despite a major dropoff from Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval, who hit .345 in only 41 games in 2008, broke out with 25 home runs and a .943 OPS while becoming San Francisco’s best hitter in 2009. The “Kung Fu Panda” movement was born that year, and Sandoval became an instant fan-favorite.

A year after bursting onto the scene, Sandoval stumbled and became one of the biggest disappointments in baseball. He had a torrid April, but followed that up by batting .234 the next two months. By the time the playoffs rolled around, Sandoval found himself on the bench, replaced by Juan Uribe at third base. Uribe’s now a Dodger, meaning the Giants will need Sandoval to regain his 2009 form. They’ve even talked about the possibility of demoting him to the minor leagues if he doesn’t turn things around.

Many critics blamed Sandoval’s struggles on him being overweight and out of shape. True, Sandoval is 5’11” and easily over 250 pounds, but that didn’t stop him from tearing it up in 2009. Regardless, people look for reasons and the weight issue is an easy target. Sandoval has been trying to get in shape for some time and it appears as if he’s finally done so this off-season.

Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle spoke to former Giant Rich Aurilia whose sister’s boyfriend saw Sandoval pass out at 31 Flavors last night who saw Sandoval in Phoenix and said Pablo had slimmed down. Sandoval told Aurilia he has lost 17 pounds this winter, with the goal of losing seven more. I’ll believe it when I see it, but the good news for Pablo and Giants fans is that the Panda seems serious about regaining his top form.

Rays Trade Matt Garza to Cubs

As expected, the fire sale continued on Friday for the Tampa Bay Rays.  In an offseason where the Red Sox have made enormous strides and the Yankees are essentially the same team that won a championship two seasons ago, Tampa Bay has all but given up on contending in the AL East.  The Rays fell further behind for the immediate future on Friday when they agreed to trade ace Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs for a package of minor league prospects.  If you recall, Garza tossed a no-hitter back in July and finished the 2010 season 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA.

Tampa Bay has already let Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena walk and closer Rafael Soriano won’t be returning either.  They traded shortstop Jason Barlett — who had become a fan favorite amongst the handful of loyal Rays fans — to the Padres.  Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton remain with the team, but we can only wonder how long it will be before the Rays start fielding trade offers for the two young studs.

The bottom line is the Rays have become a franchise that needs to either change locations or accept their position as perennial bottom-feeders in the AL East.  Sure, a three-year span where their prospects have an impact and are still under team control could arise again, but unless they find a way to fill the stands they’ll never be able to sustain a talented roster.  Pending a few more trades before the season begins, Tampa Bay will likely revert to the form we grew used to before 2008 came along.

Adrian Beltre Talking with Texas Rangers, Remains Risky Signing

The Rangers and free agent Adrian Beltre are reportedly close to finalizing a deal to bring the All-Star third baseman to Texas. The deal is said to be worth between $90 and $96 million over six years.

Adrian Beltre first broke into the league with the Dodgers as a teenager. He developed into one of the best young players in the game and peaked in 2004 when he hit .334 with 48 home runs, 32 doubles, and 121 RBIs. It just so happened that that was the final year of his contract with the Dodgers, and he used the monster year to cash in as a free agent.

Beltre headed to the Pacific Northwest to join the Mariners on a five-year $64 million deal. He dropped off in most offensive categories averaging 21 home runs, 34 doubles 79 RBI, and a .261 average with Seattle. The numbers were not bad, but not worth the kind of money he was given. However, you can’t knock his defense — Beltre was in the discussion for the Gold Glove every year and won it in 2007 and 2008.

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Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez Finalizing 7-Year 80 Million Contract Extension

Two years after the Oakland A’s gave up on Carlos Gonzalez who underperformed as a 23-year-old, the youngster put together the type of season people had expected from him. In his second year with the Colorado Rockies, CarGo hit .336 with 34 home runs 117 RBIs and 111 runs scored while stealing 26 bases and OPSing .974. He finished third in MVP balloting in the NL and proved he was one of the premier players in baseball.

A month after signing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a new contract extension, the Rockies are doing the same with Gonzalez. Both Gonzalez’s Venezuelan publicist and The Denver Post’s Troy Renck say CarGo will travel to the U.S. to take a physical and sign a seven year $80 million extension.

The Rockies had wanted to sign Gonzalez to an extension in order to keep the team’s young, studly core together for years to come. They already have Tulowitzki under contract for the next decade and will have Gonzalez along with him. Next up for an extension will be pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

One has to wonder if the Rockies aren’t getting too aggressive with a player who’s only produced for one season. That could be the case, but Gonzalez appears to be a star, and if he keeps it up the Rockies would be getting a good deal based on arbitration rates and CarGo’s value as a free agent. At first reaction, I lean towards saying this is a great deal for Gonzalez and more of a risk for the Rockies. They clearly believe in him heavily to invest that type of money in a player who’s only put in one full season in the majors.

Baltimore Orioles Upgrade Infield with Derrek Lee Signing

After finishing a disappointing 66-96 last season, the Baltimore Orioles have made strides to upgrade their team this off-season. First they acquired Mark Reynolds from the Diamondbacks in a trade, and then they brought in shortstop J.J. Hardy from Minnesota in another deal. Now, The Baltimore Sun reports they have agreed on a one-year deal with first baseman Derrek Lee.

Lee is coming off a down year where he only hit .260 with 19 home runs. He got traded mid-season to the Braves and did well, but he only managed three home runs in 129 at-bats for them. Given that Lee smashed 35 home runs with a .972 OPS in 2009, this is a strong signing for Baltimore. On top of consistently playing good defense, he’s a good bounceback candidate for 2011.

Baltimore may not be anywhere near competing in the AL East, but at least they’ve improved their team. The infield consisting of Reynolds, Hardy, Roberts, and Lee is nothing special, but at least it’s respectable. Their pitching is another story, but at least they’re moving in a competitive direction, and I’d much rather have Lee on a one-year deal than Adam LaRoche on a three.

Was Oney Guillen Out of Line for Calling Out Bobby Jenks on Twitter?

Much like his father, the outspoken Ozzie Guillen, Oney Guillen isn’t bashful about sharing his feelings. Oney was fired by the White Sox last Spring Training for being critical of the organization. Now he’s no longer a member of the organization, but his father remains the team’s manager, and he still defends his dad no matter what. Take for instance what happened this week.

Former White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, who signed with the Red Sox after not receiving the type of offer he wanted from Chicago, expressed some disappointment with the White Sox. He event went so far as to criticize Ozzie:

“With the way Ozzie was talking this winter and the way he treated me, I don’t want to fight with the guy. How many times did he question my ability, and then saying how he would love to have me back, but I would have to come to Spring Training and fight for the closer’s role like anyone else?

“Why would I come back to that negativity?” Jenks said. “I’m looking forward to playing for a manager who knows how to run a bullpen.”

Well it’s that type of criticism, and the last zinger about a manager who knows how to run a bullpen, that had Oney livid. The fiery youngster lashed out against Jenks with a couple of nuclear bombs on his twitter account.

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