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The Dodgers’ acquisition of 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LF Carl Crawford, P Josh Beckett and 2B Nick Punto Saturday from the Red Sox for 1B James Loney and four prospects was a “stunning development,” and the latest example of the "Dodgers' new ownership group, Guggenheim Partners, investing heavily in a win-now approach,” according to Hernandez & Dilbeck of the L.A. TIMES. The Dodgers “picked up salaries totaling more than a quarter of a billion dollars in the deal” -- Gonzalez is owed $127M the next six seasons; Crawford is owed $102.5M the next five seasons; Beckett is owed $31.5M over the next two years; Punto is owed $1.5M (LATIMES.com, 8/25). ESPN L.A.'s Mark Saxon noted the trade was a “bold and expensive move for a new ownership group that has made it clear they’ll spare no expense to put a winning team on the field as soon as possible” (ESPNLA.com, 8/25).
MONEY BALL: In L.A., Bill Shaikin asked, “If the Dodgers can add $260 million to their payroll in one trade -- and close to a half-billion dollars in four months -- is there a limit to their spending?” Dodgers Chair Mark Walter said, “Somewhere, I suppose.” Dodgers investor Magic Johnson: “We want to win now. We understand that you have to spend money to be good in this league.” Walter added, “I don’t think of it as a spending spree. We were in a position to make the team better” (LATIMES.com, 8/25). Dodgers President Stan Kasten said, “I haven’t found (a cap) yet. I’ll let you know when we get there. We really do evaluate those things secondarily. We think the most important thing is building a team” (MLB.com, 8/25). USA TODAY's Jorge Ortiz in a sports section cover story notes Walter “shrugged” when informed the Dodgers salaries taken on by the team represent the “largest figure in MLB history.” He said, “It’s payroll. I didn’t write a check for $200 million and we’re not giving them raises. We’re paying them what they were being paid.” Ortiz notes other baseball owners "have been put on notice: There’s a new version of the New York Yankees operating on the West Coast, but with less fiscal restraint” (USA TODAY, 8/27). Dodgers ownership “said they would spend money and they’ve spent plenty of it -- more than $300 million so far and counting” (ESPNLA.com, 8/25).
TV TALK: REUTERS' Ronald Grover cites sources as saying that Fox Sports and the Dodgers “began preliminary talks in May on a multi-billion dollar cable TV deal.” A deal would be “the latest in a string of rich cable TV contracts for teams in the largest U.S. TV markets.” The Dodgers and Fox “cannot formally begin talks until Oct. 15, under terms of their existing TV contract, but the renewal being discussed includes joint ownership of English and Spanish language channels” (REUTERS, 8/27). ESPN’s Steve Berthiuame asked the L.A. Times' Dylan Hernandez, “Does the Dodgers ownership really have all of this money?” Hernandez: “TV deals now, they tend to run in the billions of dollars. When you really look at it, okay, they’re really taking on about $260 million. If you’re going to get, who knows, maybe five, six, seven billion dollars, it’s possibly a good investment” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 8/25). In N.Y., Joel Sherman wrote the trade was “inspired by cable TV money.” The Red Sox signed Beckett, Crawford and Gonzalez to their “current outsized deals, in large part, to feed the beast of NESN while the Dodgers accepted those contracts in near total because of a cable deal expected to be finalized this winter that could make the Yankees’ YES arrangement look like something the bunny-eared antenna dragged in” (N.Y. POST, 8/26). Also in N.Y., Bill Madden wrote, “When reports of the historic deal began to surface, the howls of the small market clubs -- decrying the approval of the $2.15 billion sale of the Dodgers to the Guggenheim Partners in the spring -- could be heard all over baseball." Club's complaints are that the Guggenheim Partners "is an insurance company with unlimited financial resources that aren’t coming out of the owners’ pockets.” And team officials are also “looking at landing an MLB-record TV deal when their current one expires after next season” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/26).
DEEP POCKETS: In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs wrote, “The fact that the Dodgers are eating all but $10 million to $12 million of the $270 million due those three guys blows me away. A year ago, the Dodgers were bankrupt.” Jacobs: “In the short term, the Dodgers win. In the long term, the Dodgers will pay dearly” (HARTFORD COURANT, 8/26). In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote, “Welcome to your Los Angeles Dollars” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 8/26). Also in L.A., T.J. Simers wrote, “Ownership is spending money like it said it would, and while it has to increase the star power to win a richer TV contract, everyone benefits” (L.A. TIMES, 8/26). CBSSPORTS.com’s Jon Heyman noted, “Several baseball executives, who are only getting accustomed to the ways of the new Dodgers ownership group, were having trouble coming to grips with the calculation that led the Dodgers to take $130-million in bad deals (and surrender the pair of righthanded prospects) just for the privilege of one fair superstar deal, the Adrian Gonzalez contract.” One NL exec called the Dodgers’ end of the trade “insane.” A competing team owner, in reference to the Dodgers’ insurance monies, said, “This is what [happens] when you have other people's money to spend. This makes them the favorite in the National League to get to the World Series.” Heyman added, “Unquestionably, they are the new financial bully on the block” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/25). CBSSPORTS.com’s Scott Miller wrote, “Either the Dodgers have a printing press rivaling that of the U.S. Mint stashed somewhere near the mailroom, or George Steinbrenner has been reincarnated as Magic Johnson and Guggenheim Baseball ownership.” A source referenced Crawford by asking, “Who takes on a $100 million deal for a guy who just had Tommy John surgery?” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/26).
NEW IDENTITY: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jeff Passan wrote the trade will “cement the Dodgers' rise from the nadir of Frank McCourt's ownership to their place as baseball bailout kings, the franchise that will chase talent no matter the price.” Passan: “No longer are the Dodgers a baseball team. They are a conglomerate comprised of a multibillion-dollar television contract, an iconic venue in Dodger Stadium, a brand that again means something, marketing and merchandising arms that drive revenue and, sure, a ballclub onto which each of the aforementioned arms gloms” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/26). ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, who labeled Dodger ownership “winners” of the trade, wrote, “In less than four months, these owners have managed to completely rebrand the franchise, and, even if the Dodgers don’t make the playoffs this year, they’ve set themselves up for a major bounce forward in attendance and interest and team success in 2013” (ESPN.com, 8/25). ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden noted, as promised by Johnson, the Dodgers “have become the New York Yankees of the West Coast.” The move “brings back memories of the late George Steinbrenner,” as the Dodgers’ “commitment to winning is being demonstrated by their actions and pocketbooks rather than by words, which is the right way to do it” (ESPN.com, 8/25). In S.F., Bruce Jenkins noted everyone “knew the Dodgers were entering a bold new era” when the Guggenheim group purchased the club in March. But this deal is “downright shocking, making other teams in the NL West -- hell, just about everyone else in the game -- look like paupers” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/26). Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, acknowledging the team acquired nine players last month, said that he had “much more financial latitude to make trades and otherwise obtain players than he did with the team's previous owner, Frank McCourt.” Colletti: “It's a different place. [Ownership is] allowing us to go out and make this team better” (LATIMES.com, 8/25).
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: In Denver, Troy Renck noted the Dodgers are “becoming the 'Evil Empire, Western Branch.'" Rockies CF Dexter Fowler said, “They are doing some things, that's for sure. They are getting better players. But that doesn't mean we can't beat them.” Rockies Owner Dick Monfort said, “You have new ownership coming in wanting to make their mark. They have a big TV deal coming. They know their situation better than anyone else. Sometimes big contracts don't work out. We'll see how this plays out” (DENVER POST, 8/26). In California, Jeff Miller asked, “If the Yankees can do it for generations, why can’t the Angeles and Dodgers do it for now?” Miller: "The rivalry between the Dodgers and Angels never has been more interesting than it is right now. Both teams are desperately pursuing the Southland's next World Series title, willing to pay whatever price -- literally -- is necessary” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/25). MLB.com’s Richard Justice wrote, “The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series in 24 years, and after a couple of seasons off the radar, they're again the most talked about team in the game” (MLB.com, 8/25).
NEW POWER PLAYERS: ESPN’s Curt Schilling said agents are likely to be "ecstatic because the game is now different in the big leagues." Schilling: "You have the Yankees, you have the Red Sox, and the Dodgers are now one of those three that will go out and pay $260 million, $180 million for a player.” ESPN’s Aaron Boone: “Expand that a couple of more years and add the Cubs to that list. But now, the middle-market teams even. We’re seeing the Padres, we’re seeing the Cincinnati Reds be able to sign a Joey Votto, sign a Brandon Phillips, the Nationals. There’s more teams in the financial game now and that’s a good thing.” ESPN’s Steve Berthiuame: “They all have bigger and bigger local TV deals, and the money is being put back into the field in most of these cases” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 8/25).
With the Red Sox completing “one of the most significant trades in baseball history” by sending 1B Adrian Gonzalez, LF Carl Crawford, P Josh Beckett and 2B Nick Punto to the Dodgers, the first question is “the most obvious one: Why did the Red Sox make this shocking move,” according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said, “We recognize that we are not who we want to be right now. We felt like in order to be the team that we want to be on the field, we needed to make more than cosmetic changes.” Abraham noted the Red Sox are also sending the Dodgers $11M, about 4% "of the $275.69 million owed” to the outgoing players. Cherington said, “To build the team that we need, that the fans deserve, that we want, required more of a bold move to give us an opportunity to really reshape the roster, reshape the team.” He added the Red Sox have been talking to the Dodgers "all year.” Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino “prodded the deal along in recent days, dealing directly” with Dodgers President Stan Kasten. Cherington said that the trade was a “baseball decision more than an attempt to change the personality of the team.” Cherington: “The bottom line is we haven’t won enough games. That goes back to last September” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/26). Cherington added, "It was not a trade that was made to try to fix a cultural problem" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 8/25).
STARTING OVER: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote, “You want them to blow it up? This would be blowing it up.” The trade “marks the end of a failed era of big names, big salaries, big egos, and maddening underachievement” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/25). Also in Boston, Nick Cafardo wrote in “one fell swoop,” Cherington wiped “the slate clean.” He now has “practically a blank canvas on which to paint his own Picasso.” Cherington can build the team around 2B Dustin Pedroia “in a dirt-dog image and no longer has to feed the monster so much that he has his hands bitten off” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/26). CBSSPORTS.com’s Scott Miller wrote, “Call it a cleansing. … The sooner the Red Sox begin clearing out some of their toxic mess, the better” (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/25). In Boston, Christopher Gasper wrote with the trade, the Red Sox “got back something much more valuable than more than a quarter of a billion dollars of financial flexibility -- their baseball soul.” Cherington, in essence, “issued a rebuke of the way the Red Sox have done business for the last three years, breathlessly chasing buzz and throwing money around like a Kardashian.” The Red Sox “also reclaimed their clubhouse” (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/26). SPORTS ON EARTH's Leigh Montville wrote, "For the Red Sox, this was an exorcism, a cleansing, a purge. The four players weren’t traded as much as they were voted off the island, sent home from the runway." Montville: "In the perpetual reality show that is Boston baseball, these were the perceived villains. They were exiled, cast adrift, dropped like so much ballast. They were sent packing with a good boot in the pants on their way out the door" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 8/26).
FOR THE PEOPLE: In Boston, Eric Wilbur wrote, “For better or worse, the Red Sox are our Red Sox once again. For the first time in years, there seems to be a plan” (BOSTON.com, 8/26). In N.Y., Peter May wrote the trade was a "Febreze-like move from Red Sox management, which understood it needed to do something dramatic to cleanse the clubhouse as well as shake up an underachieving roster.” A Boston Herald headline from Saturday -- "Bums Away" -- "pretty much sums up the feeling of Red Sox fans.” Callers to local sports radio talk shows “expressed similar sentiments” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/26).
IT IS HIS TEAM NOW: In Boston, John Tomase noted in one bold stroke, Cherington “not only shredded the very fabric of the Red Sox, he also served notice that we’re about to do things his way.” Tomase: “A new era is upon us. And there’s a new man leading it” (BOSTON HERALD, 8/26). In Toronto, Chris Ruddick wrote, “It's not often that a 38-year-old GM's legacy is defined five months into his initial season, but that is certainly the case now with Cherington, who gets a chance to build this Red Sox team any way he sees fit after taking a wrecking ball to the team his predecessor, Theo Epstein, built” (TORONTO SUN, 8/26). The HERALD's Tomase in a separate piece noted the trade was a significant step “on the road to navigating the Red Sox out of their morass and back into something resembling respectability” (BOSTON HERALD, 8/26).
END OF AN ERA: In Chicago, Phil Rogers wrote the Red Sox “de-Theoed the franchise.” With this trade and a June trade that sent 3B Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox, the Red Sox’ front office is “shredding the team Epstein left behind” to join the Cubs. Lucchino and Red Sox ownership “want to show him they’re smarter than he is” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/26). Also in Chicago, Rick Telander writes under the header, “While The Cubs Have Pinned Their Hopes On Theo Epstein, The Red Sox Are Erasing His Legacy” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/27).
The Indians "might be out of the race for the playoffs, but they are embroiled in another competition as one of four teams trying to stay out of last place in attendance," according to Sheldon Ocker of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. As of Sunday, the Astros rank 27th in average attendance with 21,140, the Indians are 28th with an average of 21,021, the A's are 29th 20,351 and the Rays are last 19,925. The Indians "finished in the cellar in 2010 with an average crowd of 17,181 and total attendance of 1,391,644." Last year, "thanks to the club's early success, attendance increased sharply to 1,840,835, a rise in the standings to 24th place." But this year, even though the Indians "remained in the race into July, their inconsistency kept fans from buying in." Indians SS Jason Donald said, "Every player would rather play in front of a sellout crowd. That's what makes it fun. When there's a big crowd, a little more adrenalin is flowing. At home, a big crowd is your home-field advantage. But even if it's a small crowd, you know (they are die-hards) cheering for you" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/27).
FORK IN THE ROAD: In Cleveland, Paul Hoynes wrote, "One of two things will happen with the Indians this winter." The Indians will "try to add quality talent from outside the organization to meld with a group of decent young players." Or they are "going to trade players from that core to fuel another rebuilding process." It all "depends on the kind of commitment ownership is willing to make." What this season has "made clear is that a team with a decent core of young players needs an injection of prime talent, either through free agency or trades, to win." Since the Dolans have owned the Indians, GMs Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti "have tried to do things differently." Instead of "rebuilding by finishing last for eight to 10 years in a row like other teams, while reaping the high draft picks that come with 100-loss seasons, they tried to speed up the process by trading veterans for talented prospects to inject into the upper levels of the farm system." Ownership can "fire manager Manny Acta, Antonetti and Shapiro," but "nothing will change unless they give their baseball people enough money to pursue the best available talent over an extended period of years" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/26).
The Bengals “are focusing on trying to sell out their Sept. 16 regular-season home opener against the Browns,” and Bengals Ticket Sales Manager Andrew Brown said the team is “within shouting distance” of that goal, according to Joe Reedy of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Bengals Dir of Sales & Public Affairs Jeff Berding said that the team has added "more than 5,000 season tickets, 600 new club seats, and has retained than 95 percent of its season-ticket holders." Reedy noted all three metrics "rank in the top 10” of the NFL. The team also has "added 10 new suite-holder accounts.” The Bengals do not announce their "total season ticket holders, but based on preseason attendance figures, it appears the team is back up over 40,000.” The team has "failed to sell out 10 of their last 12 regular-season home games" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 8/26).