Manny talks will 'start from scratch'
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt envisioned Sunday as a day for fireworks, ceremonial first pitches and a wall-to-wall celebration in conjunction with the opening of the new $100 million spring training facility that his team will share with the Chicago White Sox.
Instead, McCourt spent the bulk of a 30-minute press conference discussing Scott Boras, deferred money, and the team's decision to "start from scratch" in its negotiations with star outfielder Manny Ramirez.
He did not sound pleased.
"It's fair to say that I'm a little frustrated,'' McCourt said. "The reason we wanted to have this wrapped up by Friday was because we wanted to celebrate the opening of Camelback Ranch and be talking about Manny as a Dodger, instead of talking about Camelback Ranch and the Manny Ramirez negotiations.
"Today is a day to say welcome to Dodger and White Sox fans, and that's why it bothers me. The distraction it causes is just unfair.''
While Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti spoke with Boras on Saturday, there was no news to report Sunday, and no definitive indication from the team on when it expects negotiations to resume.
The Dodgers, who've made three offers to Ramirez this offseason in addition to an offer of salary arbitration, proposed a one-year, $25 million deal this week that included a player option for a second year at $20 million.
But $25 million of the Dodgers' offer was to be deferred with no interest -- which in reality brought the actual present-day value of the team's proposal to about $42 million.
When Boras presented a counterproposal for a two-year, $55 million deal, which was soon followed by a two-year, $45 million offer with no deferred money, McCourt said the team took it as a no and a signal that negotiations had "terminated.''
"It wasn't multiple choice,'' McCourt said.
So in effect, the Dodgers are talking about walking away from the table and starting anew even though the gap between their latest offer and Boras' recent proposal amounts to a mere $3 million.
Although McCourt said the Dodgers have made it "crystal clear'' they want to bring back Ramirez for 2009 and possibly beyond, the public tone of talks has grown testier -- at least from the club's end. McCourt said Boras's objection to deferred money is "disingenuous,'' because the agent had been initially receptive to the idea as a way to increase the overall value of the package.
McCourt also referred to Boras's stance as a "side show,'' a "smokescreen'' and a "red herring.''
Boras issued a statement Sunday refuting some of the charges.
"We have continued to work with Ned and the Dodgers to do away with the artificial barriers and attempt get a deal completed," Boras said. "There is no issue with deferral money being part of any contract; just want to make sure the value is stated accurately and appropriately.
"Our most recent offer Saturday morning covered two years with some deferred compensation [$43.5M net present value]. Manny directed me to compromise between the Dodgers last offer of $42 million net present value [$45 million with deferred compensation] and our $45 million without deferred money. However, we have yet to hear from them on our last three offers."
Ramirez said in a statement: "I would not allow negotiations to take place without being involved and talk to Scott nearly every day. I have given Scott offers that he has given to the Dodgers and he has given me all offers from the team."
McCourt indicated that with the recent economic downturn, the Dodgers' financial parameters might be different from what they were even four months ago.
"Every day things are changing, and we need to be mindful of that,'' McCourt said. "We kept our offer virtually where it was in November. And you know what? The world isn't anything like it was in November. So we're going to start fresh and look at this the way we'll look at it sometime next week.''
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com.