As we start another offseason of Dodger baseball, this one seems to have a much bigger impact on the landscape of the franchise than most.

With the McCourt’s fighting over the control of the team, free agency questions looming, and deciding on weather to hold on to or cut ties with some of the young faces that have helped mold the franchise. And all this while the Dodgers are breaking in a new manager, Don Mattingly.

The McCourt ownership in Los Angeles seems to have been built on a very unstable foundation to begin with. In 2004, Frank McCourt’s purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers was financed mainly by debt.

So maybe this all shouldn’t come to us as such a shock. Questions have always loomed regarding the allocation of the teams profits. So are the McCourts just interested in living the lavish billionaire lifestyle?

Their many multimillion dollar homes located around Southern California and the dwindling Dodger payroll sure paint that picture.

Since taking over the Dodgers in 2004, under the McCourt ownership, the team has a 601-541 record. Now that’s nothing to look down on, but with the divorce running the organization through the mud; how much longer can it last.

Last year was a tough season for Dodger fans to sit through and the frustration is really starting to built (news of higher ticket prices in 2011 isn‘t helping matters).

This is not the type of selling point you would like to go into free agency with. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti will have his work cut out for him this offseason, as he tries to lure top free-agent talent with mid-level dollar contracts. With payroll mostly likely not to claim for the 2011 season, the Dodgers most avoid contract disasters such as the recent Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre, and Andruw Jones.

The Dodgers need arms and they don’t come cheap these days. And what do the Dodgers do about free agents to be Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Vicente Padilla? With the exception of Padilla’s bulging disk, all were viable starters. With Kershaw and Billingsley under contract (Billingsley is eligible for arbitration) spots three through five are open for the taking.

Other than Hong-Chih Kuo and the surprising Kenley Jansen, the bullpen is in need of a major makeover. And with another season in the books and yet another Broxton second half meltdown has caused the Dodgers to scramble for closer; a role they thought they had locked up for years to come. Maybe the young catcher turned hurler, Jensen, can fill that spot for the blue crew.

It wasn’t only the pitchers having trouble getting and staying on track, but Ethier, Kemp and Loney all failed to produce the type of numbers in the second that they showed prior to the all-star break. Colletti has shown his support for his young core in LA since seasons end, being quoted saying, “As of right now, I still have a lot of faith in them. But they all need to be better next year for us to be successful.”

The biggest position question this year is behind the plate. With Russell Martin still recovering from a hip injury suffered during the season and Brad Ausmus announcing his retirement; that leaves A.J. Ellis and free agent to be Rod Barajas as their options before free agency starts. Colletti is expected to make a run at Barajas.

Don Mattingly kicked off his managerial duties on Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona. Mattingly managed the Phoenix Desert Dogs of the AFL to a 8-3 loss against the Mesa Solar Sox. Mattingly does have one change that he plans to inject into this Dodger farm system: “discipline.” He’s off and running.

For just a minute, let’s remember what drove us to the ballpark in truck loads for the late evening night games under the lights and those beautiful warm summer day games under the sun. Here’s to hoping for bright blue skies and the starry nights under the LA nights once again…And hoping they can field a contender with the turmoil surrounding the organization.

Because this really is the dark days of Dodger Blue.

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