SBD/March 29, 2012/Franchises

Guggenheim Baseball Management Expected To Invest Big In Dodgers' Payroll

Fans showed up at Dodger Stadium to buy tickets following announcement of deal
New Dodgers Owner Guggenheim Baseball Management has "plenty of money to both own and operate the Dodgers" after agreeing to pay $2.15B for the team, according to a source cited by Tim Brown of YAHOO SPORTS. After the Basketball HOFer Magic Johnson-led group "fell from the sky" on Tuesday, what followed nationally "was an entirely rational fear Guggenheim Baseball Partners had overextended itself and the Dodgers, sunk by" former Owners Frank and Jamie McCourt over eight years. But reports indicated that Dodgers tickets were "moving well in L.A. as word of Magic’s involvement spread." And the chatter among players was that "Magic was coming, that a baseball man in [co-Owner] Stan Kasten was coming, that an owner with room on his credit cards was coming" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/28). Johnson said, "The Dodger fans are excited because they get a guy who lives there, who understands the tradition, who wants to bring it back, the winning ways" ("MLB Tonight Live," MLB Network, 3/28). In L.A., Becerra, Landsberg & Esquivel in a front-page piece note yesterday marked a day for "many to be proud of the Dodgers." People arrived at work "wearing their Dodger blue." Others drove to the stadium "ready to start buying tickets again and even some merchandise" (L.A. TIMES, 3/29). Meanwhile, the Dodgers announced yesterday that the club's '12 home opener on April 10 against the Pirates is sold out. The game will also launch the club's season-long celebration of Dodger Stadium's 50th Anniversary (Dodgers).

BIG BUCKS, NO WHAMMIES: CSNBAYAREA.com's Andrew Baggarly noted the sale is "being heralded in SoCal as the rebirth of one of baseball’s jewel franchises." There is already a "current of thought that the Dodgers will look to make huge splashes in free agency this winter." There is usually "one team every winter that wants to make a huge splash." Baggarly: "Look at the Miami Marlins a few months ago" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 3/28). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote, "If you think that an ownership group that just agreed to spend about 2.5 times more than has ever been spent for any baseball team is going to keep the Dodgers' payroll among the row houses of baseball, well, you might also think that Frank McCourt is beloved in Los Angeles." With the investment return for Guggenheim Baseball Management coming "largely through television revenue," there will "never be an offseason in which the Dodgers' biggest acquisitions are No. 4 starters and utility men" under the new owners (ESPN.com, 3/28). In S.F., Henry Schulman cites an agent as saying not only did Giants P Matt Cain "just make more money, but every player did." The agent said, "It really shows how healthy and vibrant the industry is. Plus, every agent knows that the Dodgers are about to spend a lot of money" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 3/29). Dodgers co-Owner Stan Kasten's friends have said that he "believes in paying for stars -- and now he will be in Los Angeles, a town that craves stars." FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote Kasten "became frustrated during his tenure as president of the Washington Nationals when ownership declined to spend big." Rosenthal: "Rest assured, the Dodgers will not be bystanders when pitchers such as Cole Hamels and Matt Cain hit the open market next offseason" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/28). In a Q&A with the L.A. TIMES' Bill Shaikin, Johnson said, "You'll see the team invest money. But Stan will have his plan, and [Dodgers controlling Owner & Guggenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter] and I will support that plan. ... I'm going to be out in the community, selling the team and selling the plan. When Stan sets the plan, we're going to execute it. Mark and I will make sure the business of the Dodgers gets handled" (L.A. TIMES, 3/29).

WITH POWER COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes as the "initial celebration fades and the close examination begins, Dodgers fans need to see proof that this dream team won't just turn into another nightmare." Johnson said yesterday, "You know I'm going to do this right. I would not be putting millions of my dollars into this if we weren't going to do it right." Plaschke writes, "The questioning started here with Johnson. Will he be more than just a new Dodgers face and voice? Will he have the freedom to help run the Dodgers with his considerable business acumen and competitive spirit?" Johnson confirmed that he has "already picked out a Dodger Stadium office and that, although he still has other business interests, this will be his main job and focus." Plaschke notes in promising to do things the right way, Johnson will "probably be the owner who will answer and explain when they are done wrong" (L.A. TIMES, 3/29). Also in L.A., Helene Elliott writes at “first blush, the group’s agreement to purchase the Dodgers for $2.15 billion is a win-win-win scenario all around.” Fans win because McCourt “goes away for the most part.” The sale price makes this deal “a huge win” for MLB, as it is the “largest price paid for a sports franchise.” But for this to be successful “where it matters most, the new owners must provide resources for the team to succeed on the field.” Finally, the owners “must restore the stability and class the Dodgers once exemplified but lost under their last two owners” (L.A. TIMES, 3/29). MLB Network's Tom Verducci said, “Immediately what they need to do is send a signal that Dodger Stadium is safe and secure for people to bring their families and enjoy a baseball game. That perception has been there, rightly or wrongly, (that) it has not been a welcoming atmosphere” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 3/28). 

NO LOVE LOST: SI.com’s Lee Jenkins wrote the “best trade in the history of the Dodgers was made Monday night.” Johnson is “an emblem of L.A. in the ‘80s, Showtime at The Forum, Kirk Gibson at Chavez Ravine.” McCourt is an emblem of “America in the ‘00s, wannabes buying what they can’t afford, and waiting for someone to bail them out” (SI.com, 3/28). CBSSPORTS.com’s Ray Ratto wrote under the header, “Face Of The Dodgers? As Long As It’s Not McCourt, It’s All Good” (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/28).

TAKE BACK THE CITY: In California, Mark Whicker writes, "This story sort of wrecks the Angels' plans for market domination, although the market is certainly big enough for two warring galaxies." It also "changes perception." Anytime a Dodgers fan "had to wait three minutes for a hot dog, owner Frank McCourt got ripped, while the recent ticket fiasco at Angel Stadium was largely excused or ignored." Whicker: "The Teflon that encases [Angels Owner] Arte Moreno doesn't compare with the 32-year-old love affair Johnson and L.A. have shared" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 3/29).
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