Commentary

Dodgers, Angels think small (market)

General managers Ned Colletti and Tony Reagins deal in reality of the times

Updated: December 14, 2010, 5:23 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Angels GM Tony Reagins sounded busy when called. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said he was swamped.

Understandable.

It's hard work trying to keep up with all those big-money teams shelling out $100 million contracts.

The final ace fell late Monday night as the Phillies pulled a miracle card on the river to swipe Cliff Lee away from the Yankees and no-longer-bankrupt Rangers.

And we in Los Angeles had a fantastic view of all of it from the upper deck.

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Oh sure, we had that little thrill last week when the Angels were in the running for outfielder Carl Crawford. But their offer ended up falling so comically short of the Red Sox's winning bid that you have to wonder if they were realistically in the running for Crawford at all.

It all feels so ... small market?

The kind of story you'd read in Tampa or Minnesota or Kansas City.

The difference is, those cities are used to it.

But judging by what's happened the past few winters … Los Angeles is going to have get used it.

"We're not frustrated at all, or how some people have tried to paint it, other than that's this business. I understand it, and you move forward," Reagins said of his team's losing pursuit of Crawford.

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Rich Pilling/Getty ImagesIn Game 3 of the 2009 NLCS, Cliff Lee gave up just three hits in eight innings as the Phillies cruised to an 11-0 win.

"It has nothing to do with the Red Sox or the Yankees or any other team, it's just that some teams may value a player more than we do."

None of this is to say that the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies or the handful of other teams handing out these monstrous contracts are making sound business decisions.

They're not.

The contracts given to Jayson Werth, Crawford and Lee are baseball's equivalent of feeling like you have to jump on that subprime mortgage before it's gone.

Irrational, exuberant and the only way of owning a house a couple of years ago.

So is it better to rent?

Sure, if you're in a small market that'll go for that philosophy.

But part of being in Los Angeles is acting like you're from Los Angeles. Teams that don't get ignored.

So, as Samuel Goldwyn once said, "We're overpaying him, but he's worth it."

And in some other (Yogi Berra-ish) words, it might be a bad business decision to give a player a nine-figure contract that stretches into his late 30s, but it's the cost of doing business in baseball these days.

"I think what happens is some of the teams you're mentioning have different revenue streams than some of the other teams," Reagins said, conceding the point a little bit. "When they generate that type of revenue, they can take some more risks that others can't take."

Reagins isn't alone. Actually, he and Colletti sound like they've been on the same conference call.

Over the weekend, Colletti said the Dodgers don't think it's "prudent" to sign players to six- or seven-year contracts.

"There's always risk involved, but I think with each year you add to a deal, your risk escalates at a very high rate," Colletti said when asked about the team's view of six- and seven-year deals.

"You might do it in the right case. If you knew the player and if the player was at a particular point in his career, at an age with a certain predictability, basically."

He's right. It's not prudent.

Why that's happening is a question for those signing Colletti's and Reagins' checks.

The general managers are dealing the best they can with the reality.

"There are other ways around it," Colletti said when asked about the necessity of going after the type of players commanding these nine-figure deals. "It doesn't matter who the player is, there are no guarantees on performance."

You have to give Reagins and the Angels credit for not desperately rushing into agent Scott Boras' arms and dumping way too much money on Adrian Beltre or Rafael Soriano the minute after Crawford spurned them.

Instead, Reagins pivoted toward the far less flashy, but still important, task of shoring up the Angels' bullpen by signing lefty reliever Scott Downs.

"I think when you hear the marquee names being shopped around or portrayed in the media as 'that player is coming to your market,' there's an excitement level, and then when he doesn't come, obviously there's some disappointment by some," Reagins said.

"But you have to go and play 162 games every year. And being able to add bullpen pieces are significant. When you don't have those pieces and your bullpen doesn't perform the way it can, it can really show itself. I'd rather have those pieces than not have those pieces, I can say that."

And with that, I could tell Reagins had to get going.

It's hard work trying to keep up with those big-money clubs.

Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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