First, a small piece of baseball history, the relevance of which will become clear in a second.
[In 1977], when Ted Turner tried to manage the Braves as a temporary replacement for beleaguered incumbent Dave Bristol, he became a one-day non-wonder. Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and National League president Chub Feeney shot him down after one game, ruling that anyone who owned stock in a club could not manage it.
Phew. Now that that’s out of the way, the real news of the day:
Joe Torre resigned his executive position at Major League Baseball on Wednesday to join with Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso in bidding to buy the Dodgers.
The news is somewhat stunning, considering it’s been less than a year since Torre accepted the job of Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations with MLB in the first place, and it adds yet another wrinkle to a sale process that has already seen the bidding deadline extended from January 13 to the 23rd. (It should be noted, however, that the Los Angeles Times had been speculating about such a move since at least November.) Caruso, owner of degrees from USC and Pepperdine, is a real estate billionaire who reportedly has considered running for mayor, and a pairing of that kind of financial backing with Torre’s popularity and baseball experience could be formidable. (Bill Shaikin also adds that the “the banker in the Caruso/Torre group is Byron Trott of BDT Capital in Chicago, called by Warren Buffett “the only banker he trusts.”)
Obviously this is far, far away, but it’s interesting to try to imagine what Torre might do if he returned to the team with some sort of executive power, similar to Nolan Ryan in Texas. You’d have to think he’d fight hard to retain Don Mattingly, as Shaikin also suggests, but what do we really know about his relationship with Ned Colletti? The chance of Colletti remaining is what scares me most of all, though as Jon Weisman notes, Kim Ng might also be an intriguing choice for Torre.
Still, we’re not there yet, or even close. Though the on-the-field situation appears to be quite stagnant for the next few months with the roster all but set, the groups gearing up for the ownership battle look to be huge, worth billions of dollars and some featuring names known to fans for decades. If not Torre/Caruso, there’s Magic Johnson. Or Steve Garvey/Orel Hershiser. Or Peter O’Malley. Or Fred Claire. Or Steve Cohen. Or maybe even Mark Cuban, or a dozen other groups. Strap in. It’s going to be fun.