Dodgers partner doesn't want status of contracts to be playoff distraction
ATLANTA -- Dodgers partner Magic Johnson typically tries to avoid being on the field or in the clubhouse before a game. The last thing he wants to do is serve as a distraction or take attention away from the players who this season earned the National League West title.
Yet prior to Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Thursday, Johnson was on the field -- for only the second time this year, he said -- to take in the postseason atmosphere at Turner Field and briefly hold court in front of the Dodgers dugout. Even still, he waited until the Dodgers had completed batting practice and retreated to the clubhouse to make their final preparations before first pitch.
Though Johnson tried to keep the conversation centered around the Dodgers' postseason run, he also touched base on the futures of ace Clayton Kershaw and manager Don Mattingly. Kershaw is eligible for arbitration after this season and Mattingly does not yet have a contract in place beyond 2013.
"We're going to talk to Donnie. This is not the time to be talking contract right now," Johnson said. "But we know after this is over with, everybody will see where they are and we'll go from there. Right now, I just want everyone to enjoy this moment. I want Don to enjoy it and I want the players to enjoy it."
As for Kershaw, Johnson said the Dodgers' brass has had conversations with the left-hander's agent and know approximately what it will take to keep Kershaw in a Dodgers uniform long term. Whether a stellar postseason from Kershaw could ultimately change those numbers, Johnson said the club knows where it stands in regards to keeping Kershaw around.
"We already know we got to give him a lot of money, so what's a few more zeros?," Johnson joked. "But no, again, this isn't the time to be working those things out, but when that time comes, we'll certainly be ready to do so."
With the Dodgers ready to potentially tie up a significant amount of money in Kershaw, the former NBA star also admitted the team is unlikely to make any other major splashes this offseason -- including making a run at Yankees superstar and free-agent-to-be Robinson Cano.
"When you've got to pay Clayton, there's only so much you can do," Johnson said. "I can't say anything because that's not up to just me. But a year or two from now, we've got Hanley [Ramirez] coming up, too. We've got guys that we've got to keep, and so the numbers probably just don't add up."
For now, though, Johnson remains focused on the Dodgers' task at hand. He's certainly no stranger to the postseason, having won five NBA titles and three NBA Finals MVP Awards during his 13-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He chose to stick to his routine, however, and not deliver a speech or visit with the players in the clubhouse prior to the series opener.
Still, that didn't stop Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis from broaching the subject.
"Honestly, I was walking down the tunnel and A.J. stops me and he's like, 'Hey, have you ever even been to the postseason before? Do you know what it's like?'" Johnson said with a laugh.
He may know what a postseason atmosphere is like, but the 12-time NBA All-Star has no idea what it's like to win a World Series -- or any championship, for that matter -- in the role he's currently in with the Dodgers. Johnson hopes that is something he can cross off his list prior to dealing with all of those questions looming in the offseason.
"It would mean the world to me. First of all, I love this game, No. 1," Johnson said. "No. 2, to come from another sport and to take the franchise from where it was before we bought it and really deliver to the fans and the players -- we've only got a couple guys who've won it all. So I want it for them. And I want it for Don.
"So it's not just for myself. It's for the city of L.A., the players and our manager, too. It'd be incredible."