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.