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 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.

Mar 19

Spanish-language Dodger telecasts coming to airwaves

Fox Sports is going to begin producing dedicated Spanish-language broadcasts of the Dodgers this season, along with the Angels and Clippers. I have some details in a story this morning at Variety.

… Time Warner Cable will air the Fox-produced games even as it moves toward its proposed Spanish-language channel dedicated primarily to the Lakers, scheduled to launch before the 2012-13 NBA season. Time Warner and Fox are primary rivals for the post-2013 cable TV rights to the Dodgers.

FSN said it would produce more than 100 Spanish-language game broadcasts this year and more than 150 in 2013, with an eye on continued growth down the road. The productions will include Spanish-language play-by-play, graphics, player interviews. Announcers and a full game schedule remain to be announced, but the first game for the Angels will be April 6 and for the Dodgers will be April 11.

There will be a handful of Clipper games in Spanish before the regular season ends April 25.

Fox is not charging distributors any additional fees for the broadcasts, but rather only requiring that they be made available on expanded digital as opposed to a paid tier. Ad sales will be the primary source of revenue. …

* * *

Dee Gordon’s potential is praised by Buster Olney at ESPN.com.

Dee Gordon asks a lot of questions, something that Barry Larkin noticed the first time he worked with the Dodgers shortstop in the offseason. Precise questions, about how you hold the glove in making a play at the second base bag, about how you make sure you hit the ball on the ground when you want to, about your mental approach.

This curiosity is part of the reason Larkin came away from his conversations with Gordon believing that the son of former relief pitcher Tom Gordon will become a good player — a really good player. “He’s got the ability to be an All-Star — and a perennial All-Star,” Larkin said over the phone Friday, from Arizona. …

* * *

  • Sportswriting legend Furman Bisher has passed away, at age 93. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where Bisher spent 59 years, has more, while Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew points to Bisher’s seminal piece on Shoeless Joe Jackson.
  • At the Daily Mirror, Mary Mallory has a long piece on original Dodger Stadium organist Bob Mitchell, whose career in music dated back to the 1920s.
  • Maury Brown takes a look at the Dodger ownership finalists at Baseball Prospectus.
  • Sandy Koufax had more trouble with Hank Aaron than any other hitter, according to this post by William Juliano at Bronx Banter. Willie Mays also gave Koufax fits.
Mar 18

Soon-Shiong tilts Dodger bidding process toward Cohen

Check (n)

1) a piece of paper that can represent big bucks with which to buy a baseball team
2) a position in chess indicating imminent victory

OK, so it’s not exactly Webster’s. Nevertheless, “check” seems to be the operative word now that, according to Bill Shaikin of the Times, Los Angeles multibillionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong has joined the ownership group of the richest man in the running for the Dodgers, Steven Cohen.

From Shaikin:

… Soon-Shiong would be the owner of an undetermined minority share of the Dodgers, the people said. Cohen had submitted a bid under which he would own 100% of the team.

The new bid, if successful, would put the Dodgers in the hands of primary investors worth more than $15 billion.

Soon-Shiong, 60, is a doctor, biotech investor and philanthropist. Forbes this month estimated the net worth of Cohen at $8.3 billion and Soon-Shiong at $7.2 billion.

Cohen last fall retained Populous, a prominent sports architecture firm, to recommend improvements to Dodger Stadium. Cohen is prepared to commit close to $2 billion to buy the Dodgers and renovate their stadium without financing any of that amount, according to a person familiar with the sale process.

Tim Leiweke, the president and chief executive of AEG, said he has met with Cohen to discuss the Dodgers. Leiweke is familiar with Soon-Shiong because of his investment in the Lakers.

“We both agree Steve would be a great owner,” Leiweke said. “He has the resources. He certainly has the passion to do it.

“He certainly gets the commitment it’s going to take with the team and the stadium.”

Leiweke said AEG has rejected overtures to join a Dodgers bidding group but would be willing to cooperate on stadium rehabilitation. …

With under two weeks to go until we’re supposed to hear a decision, it seems more and more likely that we’ll need to get to knowin’ Mr. Cohen.

Mar 16

Can you spare a square for the Dodgers’ next Jami?

Rangers at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.

Over at Variety, I indulged my TV-Dodger nexus with a short post on the potential that actress Jami Gertz could end up in the Dodger owners box. Here’s a quick excerpt …

With Tony Ressler a principal member of one of the final four groups currently in the running to buy the Dodgers, that leaves open the possibility that the franchise could have a new first lady from the world of television: Ressler’s wife, actress Jami Gertz.

GertzGertz has spent three decades in show business, but for me, she is famous for two particularly square roles: as one of the stars of early 1980s TV series “Square Pegs” (with Sarah Jessica Parker) and from the memorable “Seinfeld” episode, “The Stall,” as the girlfriend of Jerry’s (and phone sex operator on the sly) who couldn’t spare a square of toilet paper for Elaine. …

 

Mar 14

How big a gap between the Dodgers and the NL West favorites?

Dodgers at Reds, 7:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., CF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Adam Kennedy, 1B
Jerry Sands, RF
Trent Oeltjen, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Wallach, DH
A.J. Ellis, C
Justin Sellers, SS
(Clayton Kershaw, P)

I don’t think I’ve ever posted about Vegas odds as they relate to pennant races, but this set of numbers, e-mailed to me from Bovada, jumped out.

Odds to win the 2012 NL West
5/4 San Francisco Giants
2/1 Arizona Diamondbacks
11/2 Los Angeles Dodgers
7/1 Colorado Rockies
15/1 San Diego Padres

I wouldn’t make the Dodgers the favorites in their division, but I don’t think their chances of winning are so much worse than Arizona’s, and I think San Francisco should be even closer. Why the Giants would leap into preseason pole position, I’m not entirely clear.

* * *

Peter Guber’s a pretty familiar name around my office. During my first few years at Variety, the Hollywood producer (and Golden State Warriors minority owner) co-hosted a TV series with longtime Variety editor Peter Bart, and he also appeared as a keynoter at our Sports Entertainment Summit last July.

Guber has joined the Magic Johnson-Stan Kasten ownership group bidding on the Dodgers, reports Bill Shaikin of the Times. According to Shaikin, the field has been narrowed down to this group and only three others: the ones led by Steven Cohen, Stan Kroenke and newly partnered Michael Heisley and Tony Ressler.

As hard as it is to believe, we’re nearing the zero hour.

* * *

Headlines that say it all, or at least a lot: “Gun battle interrupts Mexican League game, sends players diving for cover.” Frightening.

Mar 12

Principal owners

Rockies at Dodgers, 1:05 p.m.
Dee Gordon, SS
Mark Ellis, 2B
Matt Kemp, CF
Andre Ethier, RF
Juan Rivera, DH
Jerry Sands, 1B
Scott Van Slyke, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Matt Treanor, C
(Chris Capuano, P)

The principal at my kids’ elementary school seems to me quite different than the principals I had in elementary school growing up.

No. 1, she seems fun and caring and truly looking out for the kids. The principals I had might have been looking out for the kids, but behind their stern demeanor, I couldn’t really tell. My first childhood principal had switches mounted on the wall behind his desk, and I don’t mean light switches.

This relates to my feelings about impending new Dodger ownership and whom we, as fans, might have running our schoolyard.

* * *

Forbes: “The bidding groups for baseball’s bankrupt Los Angeles Dodgers appear to have been whittled down to five from seven tonight.”

Mar 11

Fields emerges as leading Spring Training underdog

Cubs at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., DH
Mark Ellis, 2B
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Sands, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Trent Oeltjen, RF
Tim Federowicz, C
Justim Sellers, SS
Matt Angle, CF
(Ted Lilly, P)

Though I’m not wishing to take away anything away from Cory Sullivan, whose ninth-inning grand slam lifted the Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the White Sox late Saturday, I find myself thinking more this morning about Josh Fields.

No matter what he does in the spring, Sullivan is a 32-year-old fringe outfielder on a team with several stronger candidates. Never say never, but he remains a longshot to make a difference to the Dodgers and a much safer bet to become a Jason Romano-like footnote.

Fields, on the other hand, is still only 29 (younger than A.J. Ellis, for example), and he plays a position where the Dodgers are incredibly thin: third base. He also has power: 34 home runs in 713 major-league at-bats. That doesn’t mean he’s still not ultimately a Hector Gimenez in disguise, but there is a greater chance for Fields to mean something to the team.

The bar at third base for the Dodgers is so, so low: Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy. Fields is 7 for 11 with three extra-base hits so far in the spring, and if he keeps that up, you can see where he might play his way into the 25th spot on the roster and earn some starts at third base (and at first base against right-handed pitching, with Jerry Sands getting more seasoning in the minors).

Again, I’m not getting my hopes up that Fields is anything more than a 2012 version of Corey Smith, who went 7 for 12 last year in March and then disappeared. I’m also not convinced that his shaky glove (that includes 24 errors and negative Ultimate Zone Rating in 158 career games at third base) wouldn’t undermine his contributions at the plate. But I do know that the Dodgers need all the help they can get at the position, and that they would be much better off if Uribe were their top utility infielder instead of a primary starter at third base.

It can all all apart in a minute, but for now, Fields is one unexpected Spring Training sensation that I’m not going to reflexively dismiss, but rather will keep an eye on.

* * *

Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers a status update on the Dodger ownership race, a subject that I find myself with no desire to cover, despite its huge importance.

Feb 27

Dodger ownership chase narrowing down

From a press release:

The Los Angeles Dodgers (“LAD” or “the Dodgers”) today stated that the Dodgers and Blackstone have evaluated the bids submitted on February 23rd and have notified the parties that have been selected to advance to the next round. The identities of these parties are being provided to Major League Baseball and they will be meeting with the MLB Ownership Committee, consistent with the agreement between the Dodgers and MLB regarding the sales process.

Update: , “Bidders advancing in Dodgers sale: Cohen, Magic/Kasten, Hindery/Barrack, Kushner … and at least two more.” Bill Shaikin tweets.

Update 2: “Bidders still in running: Magic/Kasten, Cohen, Hindery/Barrack, Kushner, Kroenke, Disney/Gold, Casden,” Shaikin tweets.

Update 3: A blog post from Shaikin with more details.

Feb 23

McCourt digs in heels on parking lots

Bad, bad news. From Bill Shaikin of the Times:

Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn a joint bid to buy the Dodgers, three people familiar with the sale process said Thursday.

Caruso cited owner Frank McCourt’s refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the sale process.

Caruso could reenter the bidding if McCourt were to agree to sell the parking lots, the people said. McCourt has told people he has at least one bid in which the buyer would let him retain ownership of the parking lots. …

It’s extremely disappointing, though perhaps to be expected, that someone is willing to make a deal with the figurative devil in this case. This is the strongest indication yet that Dodger fans will not be free of McCourt.

“The history of the L.A. Dodgers began with people who didn’t want to move out of the parking lots. And it continues,” comments Bob Timmermann.

Feb 21

Even without ownership, O’Malley should remain a part of Dodgers’ rebirth

Peter and Walter O'Malley (courtesy www.walteromalley.com)

Peter O’Malley’s bid for the Dodgers appears to have ended, based on this report by Bill Shaikin of the Times. Although I didn’t believe he would end up with the team, if for no other reason than Frank McCourt had the final say in the bidding process, I’m a bit saddened. I really believe an O’Malley-led group would have been good for the franchise.

O’Malley is the one person bidding on the Dodgers whom I think I could call a friend, a relationship that began shortly before he agreed to write the forward for 100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. We have had lunch periodically over the past four years, and he is every bit as warm and genuine as you might imagine. He and Vin Scully are birds of a feather.

Because of this relationship, I held off making much public comment one way or another about his bid, because I didn’t want to seem biased toward him – or more accurately, biased against anyone else. I do think he would have been a great owner.

  • He absolutely would have prioritized the health of the franchise, on the field and off.
  • He understood that his duty included finding a proper long-term steward to run the team.

Those comments will draw derisive laughter from some who still hold O’Malley accountable for part of the Dodgers’ post-1988 drought and for selling the team to Fox in 1998, paving the way for even rougher years. Hindsight tells us that the sale to Fox was unfortunate, but if you take the context of the moment into account, I do think it’s excusable. The bidding process then was nothing like the bidding process today, where suitors are coming from everywhere. Plus, O’Malley had been led astray by the different forces that were trying to at once build Staples Center and bring the NFL to Los Angeles.  From 100 Things:

… Though the O’Malleys could have talked themselves into continuing as owners, the changing face of baseball began sapping them of incentive. By 1997, the O’Malleys were the one of a few remaining family owners of a major-league baseball team. With salaries rising, they had to compete with corporations for whom baseball was only a part of the whole – teams could be used as loss leaders. Further, baseball’s contract with the players’ union, following the 1994-95 labor dispute that had shut down the game, called for more extensive revenue sharing, which meant the Dodgers would be further subsidizing other teams. Under commissioner Bud Selig, the then-Milwaukee Brewers owner who became acting baseball commissioner in 1992, small-market teams were gaining more power over large-market teams like the Dodgers.

However, even the shifting economic playing field was not a sole determining factor.  It took another dose of cold water to push O’Malley into the sale. Los Angeles found itself without a National Football League franchise after the Raiders moved back to Oakland in 1995.  That August, mayor Richard Riordan asked O’Malley to lead the effort to bring the NFL back to the city, and O’Malley was happy to oblige. A football stadium built on the land surrounding Dodger Stadium emerged as a viable possibility to draw a team, diversify the family business and attract new business partners for the O’Malleys.

A year later, after vigorous investment in research, the city asked O’Malley to abandon his efforts and support the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum’s bid to be the home of the team. O’Malley assented reluctantly, but his disappointment by his own admission was palpable. (In a well-researched piece, T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times wrote that power brokers in Los Angeles had contrived a quid pro quo deal in which they exchanged support for the Coliseum and the proposed downtown basketball arena that would become Staples Center, and O’Malley had been “caught in the middle.”)

With the signs discouraging on multiple fronts, O’Malley decided it was time to sell.

There were no illusions about the suitor O’Malley settled on: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. would use the Dodgers as a means to an end, as a flagship team whose games would be televised by a sports network intended to rival ESPN and boost the Murdoch media empire. Sallie Hofmeister of the Times noted that the $311 million outlay “says more about Hollywood than about baseball. … The purchase price, about double the going rate in major league baseball, is so far out of the ballpark that it’s highly unlikely the team will make money.” That did not suggest a brighter immediate future for the talent on the field at Dodger Stadium. …

Of course, when the sale was announced, attention focused not on who was coming in, but who was going out.

“There’s a very empty feeling in my house tonight,” Vin Scully told Mike DiGiovanna of the Times, “and there will be for a long time to come. There’s a feeling of a definite loss, almost like a death in the family.”

The O’Malley family wanted to sell the Dodgers, was entitled to sell the Dodgers and made the best deal it could make for the Dodgers. If there were a lesson to be learned, I trust him more than anyone else to have learned it.

There might be a better candidate for Dodger ownership out there, but I dare say there are worse ones – and certainly whoever does earn the rights to the team would do well to embrace O’Malley as an adviser. People say that sometimes it’s better to go with the devil you know; it’s better still to go with the angel you know.

Feb 16

A moment of future Dodger owner exasperation

This’ll just make you shake your head and sigh. From Ross Newhan at Newhan on Baseball:

… sources also revealed that none of the investors are particularly happy with the Dodgers’ eight-year, $160 million, backloaded signing of Matt Kemp, and the two-year, $19 million contract to Clayton Kershaw.

“Who with the Dodgers is giving out those kinds of contracts at this point?” said one of the sources. “I mean, two years to Kershaw when you are not buying out free agency or arbitration? That’s almost as much as (two-time Cy Young Award winner) Tim Lincecum got from the Giants.”

“None” are happy? I can’t quite believe this, though it’s coming from the pen of Newhan, one of the most experienced baseball writers around.

If the premise is correct, then how are we to react? Putting aside the astonishment someone is having over the concept that Clayton Kershaw would deserve “almost as much” as Tim Lincecum, you’re still left with the whining over the best two players on the franchise (a franchise for which you’re bidding well over a billion dollars) getting competitive salaries. Sheesh.

Yes, ideally the Kershaw deal would be longer, but you get the sense that the source would still be complaining if it were. In any case, it’s not as if you can’t make a Kershaw extension your first order of business.

Dear owners: In case you’re not aware what’s going to happen after the Dodger sale is completed, here’s a news flash. You’re going to have to pay your players. And the good ones deserve a lot of money. You’re buying a baseball team, not a McDonald’s franchise.

It’s not as if Frank McCourt were going to prepay all the players through the end of the next TV contract. If you’re bidding on the Dodgers and chagrined by the Kemp and Kershaw contracts, you need to really rethink what you’re doing.

Going forward, I have to believe this narrow-mindedness doesn’t reflect the views of the next Dodger owner.

Jan 27

Dodger ownership bidding moves forward

Potential ownership groups featuring Peter O’Malley, Magic Johnson, Joe Torre, Steve Cohen and Stanley Gold are among those whom Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com is reporting have gained first-round approval in the bidding for the Dodgers.

Bill Shaikin of the Times has reported that Mark Cuban and Dennis Gilbert did not advance, though The Associated Press initially had a conflicting report on Cuban. Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal writes that a group led by cable investor Leo Hindery and New York financier Marc Utay did advance.