…at least not now, anyway.
I’ve been seeing a surprising amount of unhappiness from Dodger fans over a series of notes from Bill Shaikin, Dylan Hernandez, and Tim Brown, who all claim that Stan Kasten not only plans to make no immediate moves in the front office, but that he has a good relationship with Ned Colletti, even meeting for dinner a few weeks ago. Since so many of us have been saying for so long that the potential of new ownership pushing Colletti out might be even more beneficial from a baseball perspective than Frank McCourt leaving, this has been taken in some quarters as a sign that we may yet be stuck with Colletti for some time to come. Fire up the red alarms, right?
To which I say: well, of course this is what’s happening. Say what you want about Ned Colletti – and believe me, I have – but I have yet to read a single report of anyone finding him anything less than friendly and personable. There’s a big difference between “being a terrible general manager” and “being an awful person”, and by all indications, Colletti’s the kind of guy who gets along with everyone and has few enemies in the business. Beyond that, Colletti & Kasten have mutual friends and Colletti was well aware that he was speaking to a man who very well might be his boss soon, and the real story here would have been if we were hearing that the two men weren’t getting along.
It works that way from Kasten’s end, too. Hey, he may very well plan to come in and fire Colletti. You know that I hope he does, because all of the stories you read about how Colletti’s hands were tied because of McCourt’s lowered payrolls are complete garbage. But when he says things like “I go in assuming everyone is doing their job properly” and that he wants to support the current team, keep in mind that it’s really the only thing he can say. Even if it was a good idea to fire the general manager the week before the season starts – spoiler alert: it’s not – don’t forget that Kasten and company don’t officially take power until May 1. Though it may be entertaining to imagine Kasten coming out and saying “Colletti? Ha, that guy is so unemployed, remember when he gave $117m to Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre, & Andruw Jones?” it of course makes absolutely no sense for him to start a public turmoil by saying that now when he couldn’t even follow through on it for another month.
I still think Colletti will be long gone by this time next year, and perhaps even by the July trading deadline if the team is struggling this season. But it’s not going to happen right now, nor should it.
Okay, let’s try to make sense of all this, because there is a LOT happening here; apologies in advance for the list format.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- No Tony LaRussa! HUGE win, that.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!)
- Man, T.J. Simers is going to have to trademark “The Boston Parking Lot Attendant” now, isn’t he?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Speaking of Soon-Shiong, is it too late for him to get back with his friend Magic?
- 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.
- 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.
- And for what it’s worth, I hope Don Mattingly stays.