03/04/08 5:10 PM ET
McCourt realistic about spring complex
Team owner seeks timetable for impending move to Arizona
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"We need assurances that it will be completed in a timely way, so we can mobilize our people to be prepared," said McCourt. "I know how hard they are working and trying to accomplish an awful lot. They wish they had more time. But we need to be realistic.
"This is part of the process. I've spent my whole life as a builder. I have every expectation they'll get it done."
Nonetheless, McCourt sent vice president Craig Callan to Arizona for a meeting this week to get a better line on a timetable for the facility, which the Dodgers intend to share with the Chicago White Sox. If the facility will not be completed in time, the Dodgers have the legal right to remain at their Dodgertown complex another year -- but need to notify city and county officials.
Among the issues McCourt discussed with reporters on Tuesday were the decisions to leave Vero Beach the same spring as the club plays a goodwill series in China, necessitating cutting short what figures to be the franchise's last of 61 Spring Trainings at the former Naval air base.
He said the relocation to Arizona was motivated by wanting to make Spring Training accessible to fans.
"It's not business. It's not about money," he said. "It's about fans being able to come to Spring Training with their family and enjoy a great time of year -- to see a team in formation in a great atmosphere. We'll bring the accessibility and intimacy of Dodgertown to Camelback Ranch. It's what the fans want. And if you do what's best for the fans, it will also be good for business."
He said as he was in a meeting in his Dodgertown office over the weekend that he heard the Holman Stadium crowd cheer -- only to discover they were Mets fans cheering a New York win.
"It's not right," he said of the lack of Dodgers fans at Dodgertown. "It says our fans are not getting here. Those fans were from the East Coast. That's why we're making the move."
Speaking of business, McCourt repeated his goal of drawing 4 million in home attendance at a renovated Dodger Stadium and the belief that the strategy of investing in player development will allow the Dodgers to win consistently.
"The L.A. Dodgers should be a team our fans expect will play every October," he said. "It's my expectation and I want the fans to share that. In four seasons since we've been here, we've made the postseason twice. That's not good enough. No question we're going to do better."
"We could have acquired any player that was available, but it would have cost us. We have to balance that with keeping the nucleus in play and it would have been disrupted. In [Hiroki] Kuroda and [Andruw] Jones, we got what we needed in the offseason and kept all the kids. They are growing up before our eyes. It seems this year the kids understand better what it takes to win. I don't think our fans want us to trade the kids to win. They want us to stay the course."
McCourt said he was pleased with what he's seen of the club on the field and the way the entire baseball operation seems to be running.
"We look like a very good team. [Manager] Joe Torre and his staff have been terrific additions. Everybody seems to be hitting their stride. We're all looking for stability. We're getting the foundation in place so we can improve on a daily basis."
He dismissed concern over new center fielder Jones' weight -- "It's way premature to get overly concerned" -- and that the acquisition of pitcher Kuroda should convince the baseball world that the Dodgers will continue to sign the best players from Japan.
On the upcoming China trip, McCourt said he wishes the club was not in a position where it had to cut short its last Florida training camp, but the opportunity "to make history" in China "was the right thing to do for the long run."
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," he said. "Everybody understands the historic significance."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.