Mar 31

TV one-season wonders

For Variety, I’ve written a couple of blog posts that I think are kind of fun: celebrating TV’s top series that only received one season on the air. The first post deals with the 2000s, the second with the 1990s. If I missed a show you liked, it might be because I didn’t see it, didn’t like it or that it actually ran for more than one season – but let me know what you think.

Mar 30

Ted Lilly will start season on DL

Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun at Camelback Ranch today. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Ted Lilly will start the season on the disabled list thanks to a stiff neck, while Chris Capuano will start the Dodgers’ third and seventh games of 2012. J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. have details.

Lilly might make his first start as soon as the Dodgers’ ninth game, April 14. Needing only four starters in their first week, Los Angeles will carry an extra reliever, possibly Josh Lindblom.

Meanwhile, Ramon Troncoso cleared waivers and is headed to Triple-A Albuquerque, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

* * *

In their 9-4 split-squad loss to the Brewers, Capuano struck out seven in six innings while allowing one run on three baserunners. But Jared Wright allowed three unearned runs in the eighth and Todd Coffey four unearned runs in the ninth.

Andre Ethier continued his insane spring, doubling and homering for four RBI and raising his OPS to 1.373. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has a piece at Fangraphs today in which he explains why he expects Ethier to go on to have a great regular season.

Dylan Hernandez of the Times adds that contract extension talks for Ethier could take place during the season.

There were brushback pitches in today’s game; Jackson gives you the breakdown.

In their other split-squad game, the Dodgers beat the Cubs, 6-3. Dee Gordon tripled in two runs, while Luis Cruz had a pair of hits and RBI.

* * *

Jamie Moyer will start 2012 in the Colorado Rockies rotation. Rob Neyer comments at Baseball Nation:

So this is really going to happen. Barring a terribly disappointing injury in the next few days, Jamie Moyer will soon become the second-oldest man to start a game in Major League Baseball’s long history, and the oldest to start more than once.

In 1965, Satchel Paige started one game for the Kansas City Athletics. He was 58 years old, and pitched three scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox. But that was obviously a stunt; it was Paige’s first appearance in the majors since 1953, and would be his last.

Aside from Paige, the oldest major-league starter was Phil Niekro, 48 when he made 26 starts in 1987.

Satchel Paige was a performer; Phil Niekro was a knuckleballer. Meanwhile, Jamie Moyer is just another (relatively) conventional pitcher, except that he’s 49 years old and has officially earned a spot in the Colorado Rockies‘ pitching rotation. …

Fun as that is, I continue to be amazed by projections that find the Rockies will be dramatically better than the Dodgers in 2012.

* * *

  • San Francisco placed two starting pitchers on the disabled list today, Ryan Vogelsong and Eric Surkamp, according to The Associated Press.
  • Bill Bene, the Dodgers’ No. 1 draft pick the year that Clayton Kershaw was born and the team won its last World Series, “agreed to plead guilty on federal charges he operated a counterfeit karaoke business and didn’t pay taxes on sales,” according to Lindsay William-Ross of LAist.
  • Sam Miller has not one, but two good pieces at Baseball Prospectus today. Check ‘em out.
  • Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick gets a nice review from Mike Downey in the Times, as Alex Belth of Bronx Banter notes.
  • Allow me to recommend the second-season soundtrack of Treme as a great listen.
  • If your favorite Dodgers were Burt Hooton, Eric Karros, Eric Gagne, Duke Snider and Tommy Lasorda – and you really liked Karros –  you might be able to buy into the team now.
Mar 30

Sox it to me: Money doesn’t change everything

With a more relaxed payroll, the Dodgers might well have been determined John Lackey and Carl Crawford to free agent contracts after the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Lackey, who went for $82.5 million over five years, has a 5.26 ERA in 61 starts in his first two seasons and will miss the 2012 season with Tommy John surgery.

Crawford, who went for $142 million over seven years, had a .289 on-base percentage and .694 OPS in his first season with Boston and is sidelined until at least May with wrist problems.

A big payroll does help you absorb setbacks more easily. But in the end, it’s not just about money. It’s about being smart and fortunate.

 

Mar 29

Report: Rachel Robinson to join Dodger board of directors

From Josh Kosman of the New York Post:

… The Jackie Robinson Foundation, created by Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s widow, in 1973, is a partner in the Magic Johnson-Guggenheim Partners group that this week announced a record-setting $2.3 billion deal to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers, The Post has learned.

In addition, Rachel Robinson will sit on the Dodgers board of directors. The not-for-profit foundation is in talks with the group about getting an equity stake in the storied franchise, sources said.

“Magic thought about Robinson a lot,” one source familiar with the bidding group said last night.

Johnson was honored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 2002, the source noted, and it was then that he got to know Rachel. …

… Johnson’s group has quietly been working with the Robinson Foundation for months as part of the buying group. But because the foundation works closely with Major League Baseball, it stayed in the shadows so there would be no fallout if Magic’s bid came up short, a source said. …

* * *

Does the NFL have a future at Dodger Stadium? Sam Farmer of the Times examines the possibilities.

Mar 29

The coyote’s after you

Underneath this clip of the Roadrunner from earlier this week is some news from Dodger beat writers Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Dylan Hernandez of the Times, J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News, Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com and Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A.

  • A decision on whether Ted Lilly will go on the disabled list is expected Friday.
  • Josh Bard and Cory Sullivan were released from their contracts.
  • Josh Fields is close to making the Opening Day roster.
  • Matt Kemp is striking out a lot this spring and hitting a ton when he isn’t.
  • Aaron Harang is ready to go, throwing 104 pitches today in the Dodgers’ 3-1 loss.
  • Walter Hamilton and E. Scott Reckard of the Times profile new Dodger owner Mark Walter.
  • Vin Scully and Magic Johnson chatted Wednesday, writes Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now.
  • Juan Pierre has made the Phillies and will earn $800,000 this year, writes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
Mar 29

Here, diagonally

You’d be amazed how often I still hear that “Tiny Mighty Mos” song in my head. And I must have seen that “Stay Alive” commercial a thousand times. The line deliveries are worthy of Olivier.

Don’t even get me started on “Life” or “Connect Four.”

Mar 29

One for the bullish

My longtime friend, former Stanford Daily colleague and all-around smarter-than-your-average bear Mark Rogowsky has analyzed the Dodger sale and comes to the conclusion that the finances more than hold up. It’s lengthy but definitely worth your time. Read it here.

* * *

  • Bill Shaikin of the Times was interviewed by PBS News Hour about the Dodger sale. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy passes along the video.
  • Frank McCourt’s farewell e-mail to Dodger employees was posted by Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com.
  • Grant Brisbee of McCovey Chronicles offers a San Francisco perspective on the Dodger sale.
  • Featuring a big giant graphic, Beyond the Box Score looks at the Dodgers’ roster commitments between now and 2017.
  • Third-generation major-leaguer Jerry Hairston Jr. talked to J.P Hoornstra of the Daily News about the connection between Jackie Robinson and Magic Johnson.
  • The Dodgers released minor-leaguer Jared Lansford, son of Carney Lansford, according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America, after barely a month in the organization.
  • At age 28, Chin-Lung Hu failed his physical with the Phillies, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • The New York Times gives the background on its 1966 story that inspired the opening scene of the season premiere of Mad Men.
Mar 28

Optimistic despite the warning signs

Eight years ago, I placed myself firmly among a small group of skeptics concerned about the qualifications of Frank and Jamie McCourt to be owners of the Dodgers, and never left.

This week, despite the presence of a greater number of skeptics worried about whether the $2.15 billion outlay by the Dodgers’ new ownership group is sign of trouble, I find myself aligned with the optimists. Tonight, I wondered why this was.

  • It’s not because I’m a contrarian. For one thing, there are probably still more optimists than pessimists out there right now.
  • It’s not because of the greatness of Magic Johnson. I love Magic, but I know his role is too small to make all the difference. I also remember Magic’s coaching days with the Lakers and, yes, The Magic Hour. In fact, what pessimism I have comes in part from my recognition of his limitations – if anything, I’m not quite enjoying Magic’s ascension to the Dodger royal family as unabashedly as I’d like.
  • It’s not because I’m happy that McCourt still has a shelf in the Dodger pantry.
  • It’s not because I can’t see the possibility that the new owners went a little crazy and got a little fuzzy with their math, to an extent that even the TV rights windfall can’t save them.
  • It’s not because I’m not wondering whether a majority owner based in Chicago with no real connection to Los Angeles or the Dodgers truly has the franchise’s best interests at heart, regardless of what his minority partners desire.
  • It’s not, in short, that I don’t think the new owners have the same fallibility as so many other owners throughout the world of sports.

Those factors, and maybe a few others I can name, have bridled my enthusiasm for the new owners – but haven’t reversed it. Because …

  • OK, Magic. Magic. I’m really of two minds with him. I know his influence is small, but I know his determination is huge. It’s hard for that not to affect me. I’ve got Magic on my team.
  • McCourt reportedly does not have a controlling interest in any Dodger operations, on or off the field. This is the third-best-case scenario out of at least seven involving McCourt that I have in my head, including one where he rides a missile from space toward Dodger Stadium while waving a cowboy hat and yee-hawing at the top of his lungs.
  • The money. The McCourts should have had The Borrowers be the title of their memoirs – until other titles came to mind. Despite the stratospheric purchase price this time around for the new guys, the new guys are without a doubt better equipped financially to face the challenges of ownership. And the TV money coming in is still astronomical, in ways I think most people still don’t grasp.
  • The McCourts came in with no understanding of the Dodger community or the sports world. I’m not sure they came in with any understanding of human relations, to be honest. I believe Johnson, Stan Kasten and Peter Guber have it. They might not always do what we want, but the odds are much better.
  • The pessimists are saying that the new owners can’t make this work. With all the potential on the table, including the possibility that the Dodger debt was wiped out by money down, I can’t go that far.

And, admittedly, there’s one other thing. Maybe I’m tired of all the negativity. I’ve been locked into pessimism about Dodger ownership for so long now, maybe I’m just ready for that lifeboat. If these new owners were another set of McCourts, I think I’d still be able to recognize it, but I am liking giving the benefit of the doubt.

So it’s possible I’m committing the same sin of naivete that others were guilty of eight years ago. But I just feel I’ve got enough reason to feel light.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what I feel now, or what any of us feel now. It just doesn’t matter. The future will tell us all we need to know.

Mar 28

Cash for the merchandise, cash for the button hooks


Bill Shaikin of the Times corraborates a Wall Street Journal report by Matthew Futterman. that the new Dodger ownership is paying all cash for the Dodgers, wiping out the team’s debt without using the TV money. Skeptics remain, however.

“The bid was described as a ’100% cash offer,’” Futterman wrote. “Mr. Walter is making a significant personal contribution to the purchase price, with Guggenheim Partners, of which he is chief executive, playing a substantial role in financial contribution.”

Adds Shaikin:

… the deal is all cash and no financing, so it wouldn’t add to the Dodgers’ already significant debt load. The purchase price for the team itself is $2 billion — roughly $1.6 billion in cash and $400 million in debt assumption. An additional $150 million is for a joint venture between the Johnson group and outgoing owner Frank McCourt to control the parking lots surrounding the stadium.

Under terms of the deal, no development would take place on the lots unless the Johnson group and McCourt agree. The deal also ensures that McCourt can retain partial ownership of the lots and share in any future development revenue.

The money fans pay to park at Dodgers games goes to the new ownership group. …

Whether there are some games being played to facilitate this all-cash payment, I don’t know.  Andrew Zimbalist is among the economists who are aghast at the sale price, according to this Arash Markazi piece at ESPNLosAngeles.com. Despite reports otherwise, they seem to believe that the Dodgers’ future TV money is being used to fund the deal.

The importance relates to what’s left over to invest in the team after the sale is done. Chad Moriyama reminds us that if the Guggenheim group has the cash to fund the Dodger purchase, we shouldn’t worry if they overpaid. Everything centers on that “if.”

At this point, I’m not sure any pundit really knows. And with this much money at play, I’m also not sure the Dodger operating budget — small by comparison — depends on how much cash was paid up front. Let’s put it this way: The Dodgers are certainly less likely to reject a star player than they were before Tuesday, let alone let someone like Hiroki Kuroda walk away for a million or so. I’m still much more worried about which star players the new management thinks are worthwhile to begin with.

Meanwhile …

  • Bill Plaschke of the Times has a news interview with Johnson, Kasten and Walter. It’s worth the click. ESPNLosAngeles.com and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com had similar conversations.
  • Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon think they could beat Magic Johnson in one-on-one basketball today, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Times. I’m not so sure … and Tony Gwynn Jr. agrees with me.
  • Former Dodger owner Peter O’Malley told Shaikin that he believes in Johnson and Kasten.
  • Joe Flint of the Times says that your cable TV bill (if you have one) will help fund the Dodgers’ acquisition.
  • Ross Newhan wonders if the sale of the team was destined for Magic all along.
  • Phil Gurnee writes at True Blue L.A. about how amazing it is for us Dodger fans who grew up adoring Johnson to see him in this position.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness shares his thoughts.
  • J.P. Breen of Fangraphs looks at possible future free-agent targets for the Dodgers.
  • If you want to go back and read my Variety story on Johnson’s plans to launch family-friendly cable channel Aspire, here it is.
  • Let’s hear it for 44-year-olds! Omar Vizquel will be on the Opening Day roster of the Blue Jays, according to The Associated Press.
  • The turnover of former Dodgers continues, with Chin-Lung Hu and Joe Thurston headed to the Phillies, as noted by MLB Trade Rumors.
  • Katie Sharp of ESPN.com examines whether Chad Billingsley’s problems last year related to his slider.
  • Oh yeah – the Dodgers played today.
Mar 28

Variety interview with Peter Guber

Peter Guber, partnered with Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton, Todd Boehly and Guggenheim Partners in the new Dodger ownership group, was a keynote speaker at Variety’s Sports Entertainment Summit in July. A longtime Hollywood executive and producer, Guber is also a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, and he and Johnson are co-owners of the Dayton Single-A minor-league team.

Here’s a link to the 43-minute conversation Guber had at the Summit with my colleague, Stuart Levine, talking about all aspects of entertainment and sports, including ownership.

Peter Guber – 2011 Variety Sports and Entertainment

In addition, I’ve posted a new story at Variety about how the Dodger sale illustrates the immense faith in the dollar value of the Dodger local cable rights.

Mar 27

What’s next for the Dodgers’ new owners?

My initial thoughts on the sale of the Dodgers can be found at ESPNLosAngeles.com:

Dodgers fans, you can come out of your hiding places.

I can’t promise what you’ll find on the outside, but it’s time to tiptoe back into the world.

Tonight’s announcement that Frank McCourt has agreed to sell the Los Angeles Dodgers, pending approval by federal bankruptcy court, is unequivocally a new door being opened to fans of the franchise, even if McCourt is regrettably remaining a partner (though thankfully, not the sole owner) in a separate group that will retain control of the land surrounding the stadium.

There is every possibility for things to go wrong under the new ownership, fronted by local hero Magic Johnson and underwritten by Chicago financial firm Guggenheim Partners, but there are also primary reasons to have faith that things will go right. …

Read the entire piece here.

Mar 27

SOLD: Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten acquire Dodgers

“The Dodgers have reached an agreement to be sold to Magic Johnson’s bidding group, according to a baseball source,” tweets Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

Update: “Breaking from WSJ: Magic Johnson-led group buys LA Dodgers for $2 billion, shattering all previous prices paid for sports franchises,” tweets Dennis K. Berman of the Wall Street Journal.

That has to include the parking lots, right? Right?

Update 2: From the Journal:

… With a bid of $2 billion, Johnson and partners Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly beat out a group of some of the wealthiest businessmen in the country to land a team that is one of Major League Baseball’s flagship franchises. The sales figure shatters the previous record sales price for a U.S. sports franchise, Steve Ross’s purchase of the Miami Dolphins for $1.1 billion three years ago. …

Update 3: Official statement:

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt Announce Agreement With Guggenheim Baseball Management

LOS ANGELES, March 27, 2012 – The Los Angeles Dodgers and Frank McCourt today announced an agreement under which Guggenheim Baseball Management LLC (“GBM”) will acquire the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2 billion upon completion of the closing process.  The purchasing group includes Mark R. Walter as its controlling partner, as well as Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, Bobby Patton and Todd Boehly.  Mr. McCourt and certain affiliates of the purchasers will also be forming a joint venture, which will acquire the Chavez Ravine property for an additional $150 million.

The Los Angeles Dodgers stated, “This transaction underscores the Debtors’ objective to maximize the value of their estate and to emerge from Chapter 11 under a successful Plan of Reorganization, under which all creditors are paid in full.”

Frank McCourt stated, “This agreement with Guggenheim reflects both the strength and future potential of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and assures that the Dodgers will have new ownership with deep local roots, which bodes well for the Dodgers, its fans and the Los Angeles community.  We are delighted that this group will continue the important work we have started in the community, fulfilling our commitment to building 50 Dream Fields and helping with the effort to cure cancer.”

Earvin “Magic” Johnson stated, “I am thrilled to be part of the historic Dodger franchise and intend to build on the fantastic foundation laid by Frank McCourt as we drive the Dodgers back to the front page of the sports section in our wonderful community of Los Angeles.”

“Fantastic foundation.” Yeah, that’s what it says.

Update 4: The initial report from Bill Shaikin of the Times is live.