In the end, as McCourt, Ramirez, general manager Ned Colletti, manager Joe Torre and Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras, watched the sun rise Wednesday morning from McCourt's Malibu, Calif., home, this four-month saga concluded near where it began: somewhere close to $45 million for two years.
Ramirez is happy because he loves playing in Los Angeles. The Dodgers' other players are happy because Ramirez makes them better and gives them a far better chance to win and make more money. McCourt is happy because Ramirez is a cash cow.
When Ramirez left Boston, he told teammates he'd get either a four-year, $100 million contract or a six-year deal worth $150 million. And in November, Boras said he believed it would be a four-year deal. McCourt wouldn't go there.
He and Colletti did make concessions. Oh, there were silly mistakes made with some PR releases that embarrassed the club, but everyone moved on. Boras and Ramirez conceded to deferrals in the contract.
The November offer included a club option for a third year, and if the Dodgers declined and did a buyout, the contract would have had an annual average value of $20 million, which was what Ramirez had in Boston. This deal has a player option, which means Ramirez can play in 2009 for $24.3 million, then -- if he has a big season and the economy turns around -- he can parlay it into free agency or a threat that could get him another multiyear deal. The November deal did not include a no-trade provision; this one does, giving Ramirez more leverage.
And the Dodgers' payroll now is right around $99 million, down $20 million from last season. Because Colletti was able to get the contracts for Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson and Randy Wolf done cheaply and with deferrals, the Dodgers probably not only are the favorites in the National League West but also, with a payroll of less than $100 million, have the payroll flexibility and minor league talent to acquire veteran pitching from economically recessed teams.
Don't worry about McCourt's ending up on a breadline. In 2008, the Dodgers gave up prospects that allowed Colletti to acquire Ramirez, Blake and Greg Maddux. And the Red Sox, Indians and Padres respectively paid the remainder of the three players' salaries, which is how McCourt made between $200 million and $300 million last season.
And don't worry about Ramirez's being ready for the season. He again worked really hard in the offseason at Athletes' Performance -- this time in Pensacola, Fla. -- and probably needs just a bit more than three hours of spring training to be ready to get back on track in his pursuit of Cooperstown.