MILWAUKEE -- So this is what the Dodgers will look like without Frank McCourt.
This is what the Dodgers should look like.
The McCourt Dodgers were a team with a lower payroll than the Twins. The McCourt Dodgers were known for the people who stayed away, the people (fans and players) who left.
The post-McCourt Dodgers will be a big-market team again.
The post-McCourt Dodgers will be the Dodgers again.
We suspected that already. We have more proof of it now, and it doesn't matter that it was McCourt who appeared with Matt Kemp on Monday, after the 27-year-old star outfielder agreed to one of the biggest contracts in baseball history.
McCourt is on the way out, and this contract is just another reminder that he'll soon be gone.
The Dodgers could sign Kemp for $160 million because anyone who would even think about owning the Dodgers could easily afford a contract like that. The Dodgers could sign Kemp for $160 million because it makes sense for a team like this to keep a player like this.
Baseball understands that it makes no sense to keep teams working through bankruptcy (and through court-supervised ownership changes) to continue operating at a high level. It's why the Rangers were able to trade for Cliff Lee in 2010, even as their sale was in progress.
And it's why the Dodgers were able to commit to Kemp, even though Frank McCourt hasn't yet officially left the building.
It never made sense that the Dodgers would have trouble keeping star players they wanted to keep.
It still doesn't make sense that the Mets aren't able to bid seriously on Jose Reyes, and that they could well lose Reyes to the formerly low-budget Marlins.
Someday, the Mets will rejoin the ranks of the big-market clubs.
The Dodgers just did.
They signed a guy who will finish in the top two or three in Most Valuable Player voting when the award is announced next week. He might even win it.
They signed a guy who would have been a free agent after the 2012 season, which is why he had to be signed this winter (and why the Dodgers couldn't wait until a new owner took over).
It's the biggest contract the Ddogers have ever given out, the biggest contract any National League team has ever given out. Five years from now, we may be saying it's a bad contract -- but we could be saying that about any long-term deal.
That's the risk of doing business, the risk of playing with baseball's big boys.
It's a risk that teams like the Dodgers have no choice but to take, but it's also a risk that teams like the Dodgers can afford to take.
Under Frank McCourt, the Dodgers became a franchise that gave away any big-market advantage it had. They were a team that preferred to give away prospects rather than to spend a few extra bucks in a trade.
They were a team that wasn't in on the big free agents, and was no certainty to even keep its own free agents.
They weren't what they should be. They will be again.
The change won't be complete until the new owner walks in the door, and McCourt finally walks away.
But change is coming, and Monday was a sign of what the Dodgers will look like when it does.