Nineteen Scattered Thoughts on New Dodger Ownership

Okay, let’s try to make sense of all this, because there is a LOT happening here; apologies in advance for the list format.

  1. YAY! Yay. Yay. Yay. We’ve been waiting for this day since… well, I wanted to say since we learned about the divorce in October 2009, but that’s not accurate. We all had our issues with McCourt for years prior to that. Finally seeing him on his way out, well… it’s like Christmas multiplied by your birthday times twelve Super Bowls, plus kittens.
  2. I didn’t think this needed explaining, but apparently it does. Everything you’re reading and hearing saying that “Magic Johnson bought the Dodgers” isn’t exactly accurate. Trust me, Magic does not have two billion dollars or anything close to it. Mark Walter, CEO of Guggenheim Partners, is the new controlling owner, and the group includes film producer Peter Guber, baseball Stan Kasten, and Bobby Patton & Todd Boehly of Guggenheim. Magic’s the public face, Kasten’s the baseball guy, and Walter is the controlling interest. It may not seem like an important distinction, but it is, though it’s fair to note that Walter is not expected to be a hands-on owner in the Steinbrenner or Cuban tradition.
  3. That said, Magic will be the first minority black owner in baseball history, and while that’s irrelevant to some, it’s a nice feather in the cap of Jackie Robinson’s club.
  4. No Tony LaRussa! HUGE win, that.
  5. I know a lot of people have issues with Stan Kasten, but I generally like his involvement. He’s got a ton of baseball experience with the Nationals and Braves, and few know the ins and outs of the MLB executive world as well as he does.
  6. Frank McCourt is going to walk away with about a BILLION dollars in profit, AND he doesn’t have to give up full control of the parking lots. God bless America.
  7. That last part, about the parking lots, is important, because it’s an unfortunate fact that we’re not completely free of the scumbag just yet. In addition to the $2b for the team, the group is spending an additional $150m to form “a joint venture” which will control the parking lots. That’s sort of ill-defined, I think, so we’ll need to learn a lot more about it, and we should probably hold off on judgement until then. Still, I can’t pretend there’s not significant disappointment that McCourt is still going to be involved in some way. (Update: and literally as I pressed publish, Bill Shaikin tweets that the lots will be controlled by the Magic group. Details to come, I assume. Hooray!)
  8. Man, T.J. Simers is going to have to trademark “The Boston Parking Lot Attendant” now, isn’t he?
  9. Ex-wife Jamie, who once claimed she owned 50% of the team, walks a way with a comparatively puny $131m. That kind of cash is hardly poverty level, of course. Still, nice negotiating job there, Jamie.
  10. You probably didn’t need me to tell you this, but two billion dollars is a lot a money. An absurdly ridiculous amount of money. A ludicrous amount of money, nearly tripling the previous high sale price for an MLB team. Not to rain on the parade here, but we’re going to need to learn where that cash is coming from. There’s no way this is two billion dollars in straight cash, homey, and I’m at least a little concerned about what kind of debt is included. I should clarify that no one – no one – was going to buy this club without at least some debt, similar to the needing a mortgage on your house analogy I’ve made before. But how much debt? It’s a concern, and the main hope here is that MLB learned enough from their past mistakes that what they’ve approved is within reason.
  11. Adding on to that last thought, a question I’m hearing a lot is, “what kind of money can they have left for payroll after spending all that?” The simple answer is, well, we don’t know. I’ll say this, though: no one’s spending two billion dollars on a baseball team to run it on a shoestring budget that struggles to compete. That’s especially so if you believe that one of the main driving factors in the purchase price is the idea of setting up a lucrative television network; it certainly doesn’t help ratings to have your cornerstone product going 72-90.
  12. I’ll admit that after writing those previous two thoughts, a small part of me preferred the Cohen/Soon-Shiong group. Not enough of me that I’m wishing this turned out any other way, of course, because this is a great day. Just trying to be pragmatic until we know more about the funding.
  13. And so we’re clear, this still has to be approved by the bankruptcy court, which will convene on April 13. It’d be a shock if they denied it, since the group has been vetted so thoroughly, but it’s not yet a done deal. So for the next few weeks at least, McCourt still owns this club.
  14. I don’t think we know yet if the Magic group put up the highest bid. While it’s hard to think that anyone was topping $2b for the team, the Cohen/Patrick Soon-Shiong group certainly could have gone higher if they chose. So it’s worth asking; did McCourt factor how happy this group would make the fans at all? Not that he’s ever cared about the fans, but this may soothe some of the terrible feelings about him on the way out. Not here, though.
  15. Speaking of Soon-Shiong, is it too late for him to get back with his friend Magic?
  16. Money issues aside, Magic alone makes this a huge public relations coup. You could argue that the Cohen group made more sense financially, but there’d also be a backlash against another New Englander with a past and who had never been to Dodger Stadium. Magic’s a local hero, and that’s huge for this organization.
  17. Can’t wait for people to start asking the new guys about Ned Colletti. I’ll you this, they’re not firing him on their first day in charge, which could be as late as May 1. My gut feeling is that he lasts the season, unless the on-field product is atrocious, which it won’t be; while Colletti has built a potentially boring, low-upside team of veterans, it’s also a team that should be respectable at worst.
  18. And for what it’s worth, I hope Don Mattingly stays.
  19. YAYYY!

Two Billion Reasons to Start to Love Magic Johnson

Magic!

Wow. I mean, wow!

I don’t know how this went up to $2 billion, but we’ll find out soon enough. Unfortunately, this reportedly only includes a joint partnership of the parking lots.

Official statement below. More to come, once I recover from the complete nervous system breakdown I’m having.

 

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.”

Report: Magic/Kasten Reach Agreement to Buy Dodgers

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According to MLB Trade Rumors, via a Tweet from Ken Gurnick, the group led by Magic Johnson has reached an agreement to buy the Dodgers.  Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal’s Dennis Brekman tweets that the team was sold for $2 billion.

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No report yet on whether that includes the lots or not, but for that price, I’d be awfully surprised if it didn’t.  Nonetheless, it is surprising news, with Cohen being the odds on favorite over the past few weeks, due to having the most liquid bid, in addition to recent questions surrounding the structure of Magic’s bid.  Nonetheless, we’ll delve deeper into this news after things settle, but for now, get ready…

It’s Magic Time!

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Juan Rivera’s Success Is Entirely Dependent on Dee Gordon, Mark Ellis, and Matt Kemp


When we look back on Juan Rivera‘s 2012, how are we going to define success? Will it be WAR? wOBA? The team’s win/loss record? For me, it might be as simple as “is he going to get through the season without being DFA’d”, since I’ve been notably down on the idea of expecting him to be some sort of offensive force based on the one good month he had in 2011.

Don Mattingly knows, and he told Mark Whicker all about it, as recounted by Steve Dilbeck:

“The guy we had at the end is the guy we are going to need,” Mattingly said. “But then we needAndre [Ethier] to be healthy, we need Juan to be a run producer, more of a 80-90 RBI guy. We’re going to need all that for us to be in it.”

At first I thought: “He’s actually expecting Juan Uribe to hit up to 90 runs batted in?” It’s never happened in his 11-year career.

But recognizing that Mattingly might be manager-like optimistic but is also rational, I then realized he was talking about Juan Rivera.

Now, Rivera has never had 90 RBIs in a single season, either. His best two marks were  85 in 2006 and 88 in 2009, both for the Angels.

Of course, we know better than that, right? If Rivera ends up with 80-90 RBI, that’s not going to tell us anything about how productive he was this season. What that would do is tell us a whole lot about how productive the guys hitting directly ahead of him – likely to be Dee Gordon, Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp, and (sometimes) Andre Ethier – are, because that’s all RBI really is. It’s a measure of how often your teammates hook you up with runners to drive in, and little more.

Need some examples? In 1990, Joe Carter was 30 years old and playing his only season in San Diego. He hit an abysmal .232/.290/.391, good for an 85 OPS+. He was worth -1.4 rWAR. On both offense and defense, he was actively hurting the Padres for most of the season. Yet since he was hitting cleanup behind Bip Roberts (.375 OBP) and two Hall of Famers in Roberto Alomar (.340 OBP) & Tony Gwynn (.357 OBP) he collected 115 RBI, which even garnered him some downballot MVP support, despite doing little to put wins on the board.

Hell, Rivera has seen this up close. As a member of the 2004 Montreal Expos, he watched the execrable Tony Batista hit .241/.272/.455, good for a mere 80 OPS+ and 0.0 rWAR. Though Batista did hit 32 homers, he also had the pleasure of spending most of the year hitting behind Brad Wilkerson (.374 OBP) and Jose Vidro (.367 OBP). Despite the power numbers, Batista didn’t play in the bigs in 2005 and was out of baseball at 33 after being released by the Twins and Nationals. Rivera, on the other hand, had a very nice .304/.364/.465 line in the last season of baseball in Quebec, but had only 49 RBI because he spent his season batting behind… wait for it… Tony Batista.

So yeah, I hope Rivera gets his 90 RBI too. But that’s not because it’ll mean a damn thing about how Rivera is doing, it’s because if he does, that means Gordon & Ellis are doing their job and getting on base. If they do, and Kemp, Ethier, & Rivera have men on to drive in, this offense could actually show some life. If they don’t, we’re going to be seeing a lot of 2-1 losses, and Juan Rivera’s RBI total is going to be the least of our problems.

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Speaking of Rivera, he’s gone one less competitor for playing time, since Jerry Sands was officially sent to the minor-league camp today. This was a move we’d been expecting for some time, so it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Sands had been struggling so badly in camp that I can’t even really argue with this, especially since Sands himself has said that he’s had trouble keeping his rebuilt swing consistent. He’ll go to Triple-A, hopefully mash for a while, and then return at some point in May when Rivera gets hurt (or doesn’t have enough RBI, I suppose).

That means we’re down to Josh Fields, Justin Sellers, Trent Oeltjen, Cory Sullivan, and Luis Cruz for that final spot. (Fields started in place of Juan Uribe at third base today because of, well, this.) I refuse to believe that Cruz has a prayer, and Oeltjen & Sullivan seem unlikely as well. It really comes down to Fields or Sellers, and that probably depends on whether the club thinks that Jerry Hairston‘s throwing problems are behind him. I think the team would probably prefer to hang onto Fields, though Sellers has the advantage of already being on the 40-man roster.

In other roster news, Blake Hawksworth was moved to the 60-day DL to make room on the 40-man roster for Jamey Wright. Hawksworth has been having difficulty in his recovery from elbow surgery and hasn’t even begun throwing yet, so it’ll be quite some time before we see him back in Los Angeles.

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Don’t forget that this is a big, big week for the ownership process, with Frank McCourt due to name his selection by Sunday. MLB is currently conducting a call to approve the three remaining groups, with each expected to pass as little more than a formality. Once they do, McCourt will begin his selection process tomorrow, and we could really learn the winner at any point after that. This ESPN report notes that each of the bids (between $1.4b and $1.6b) do include the parking lots, which is fantastic, though note that just because they’re asking for them does not mean McCourt is obligated to include them.

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Last, but certainly not least, congratulations to Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA for getting approved to have a full media credential this year. Not only is it richly deserved on his part, but it’s also good to see the Dodgers being so forward-thinking as to even consider giving a blogger that sort of access.