Dodgers mailbag: Of Manny and the McCourts

In the inaugural mailbag, readers want to know about Manny, the McCourts and who will be the last National League team standing.

Q: Manny said he would play till his 40s: "Three years here, and two in Japan." Do you think Manny will return to L.A.? Or will the Dodgers even make an offer? -- Ryan, Los Angeles

TJ: Ryan, that was just sort of a silly comment Manny Ramirez made to mock the media for making such a big deal out of him saying this was his last year with the Dodgers, something we all pretty much knew anyway even before he said it. I doubt very seriously if he is headed to Japan. But I also doubt very seriously if he will be back with the Dodgers next season.

Q: What are the chances that court hearings will lead the Dodgers to be sold -- hopefully to Eli Broad, Mark Cuban or someone else who actually has the money to run a team? -- Bradley, Monterey Park

TJ: Bradley, I don't think there is much of a chance of the court ruling in favor of Jamie McCourt's contention that she still has a legal claim to part ownership in the Dodgers. However, I also don't quite agree with Frank McCourt's public stance that there is NO chance the court will rule in Jamie's favor. The California court system has done some strange things in the past, and while this case seems black-and-white, you never know how it's going to turn out until it does. If Jamie wins, Frank probably will be forced to sell, whether it's to Jamie and the group she allegedly has lined up to buy the club or to someone else.

Q: Who will be on top in October in the N.L., the St. Louis Cardinals or the Phillies? -- Derek, Osage Beach

TJ: Derek, I have to go with the Phillies. They have been the best team in the NL for the last two years, and I really believe they have widened the gap even further this year. The NL pennant is still theirs to lose.

Q: Has Loney bulked up this spring? I'm pulling for him to have a big year. -- Erik, Los Angeles

TJ: Erik, he isn't noticeably bigger that I can tell. Looks like the same old Loney to me. But I do know Joe Torre has long believed that James can and should hit for more power. I just hope he doesn't mess up his swing trying to do that.

Q: Which version of Manny will show up this year? -- Kevin, Orange

TJ: That's the million-dollar question around here (or should I say the $20 million question). My guess is he'll be better than he was the second half of last year, when he was dealing with the fallout not only of having missed 50 games, but also of having missed a big chunk of spring training. However, he is going to be 38 soon, and I really don't think the Dodgers can count on him to produce the way he did during the final two months of 2008 after they acquired him from Boston.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter or send him a question for his next mailbag.