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Magic brings feel-good factor back to LA

by Mark George

Who knew the former star of the NBA could make such an impact on MLB?

With the consortium including Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten winning the race to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers with an offer of more than $2bn, it is good to know we are significantly closer to waving goodbye to Frank McCourt as his controversial ownership of the team draws to a close.

As a Dodger fan, it has been a mixed few years. Yes, under McCourt’s ownership the Dodgers did do better in the playoffs than they had for quite some time, with memorable wins against the Cubs and Cardinals in the NLDS followed by a pair of losses in the NLCS to the Phillies.

But the saga over Frank and Jamie McCourt’s divorce, which allowed fans to learn the extent of their lavish lifestyles at a time when GM Ned Colletti had little money to spend on the team, and the fact that McCourt was failing to make payroll and was desperate for cash caused embarrassment to the Dodgers and MLB, who should never have sold the team to him in the first place as he had borrowed so much money to do so.

So in comes Magic Johnson’s group. A local hero will get the fans back at Dodger Stadium and give a feel-good factor which has been lacking for far too long. Now, Johnson can hardly be expected to run the team – this is where Kasten, an experienced baseball man who enjoyed success with the Braves and helped the Nationals – comes in.

But it sounds as though Johnson understands his role as a figurehead of the group and is keen to do what he can to help the team by getting involved in recruiting free agents and making the fans and team feel a lot happier.

The fact the team has been bought for such a high amount, all in cash, means we can expect to see the payroll rise as the Dodgers should have the financial clout to sign Clayton Kershaw and possibly Andre Ethier to long-term deals as well as pursuing big-name free agents.

It is a shame the deal happened too late for the Dodgers to make monster offers to Pujols or Fielder, but then this is nothing new, as I remembering the previous sale of the team preventing the Dodgers from going after Vladimir Guerrero and seeing him end up in Angel red instead.

But if the team is in contention at the deadline, there should be some money for Colletti to boost the roster and/or target names such as David Wright, Joey Votto, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain should they become free agents.

Colletti’s job may well be on the line if the team underperforms, and he has hardly covered himself in glory with some of his free agent signings (Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt, Juan Uribe) but he did make some decent trades when he had no money (Manny – to start with anyway, Greg Maddux and Casey Blake). Colletti took heat for dealing prospect Carlos Santana for Blake, but the team needed a third baseman and had no money to throw in, so I’m not sure what else he was supposed to do.

It is not ideal that McCourt could still make money out of shared ownership of the stadium car parks, and in a perfect world all of the bidders should have insisted they had sole control of them in any deal. And the fact the sale price somehow went from $1bn to $1.2bn estimated months ago to more than $2bn means McCourt will end up making more money out of this than he should, although it has cost him a fair deal of dignity.

But as the new season begins, Dodger fans can feel optimistic for a change. They have Matt Kemp, they have Kershaw and they are getting rid of McCourt. Thanks Magic.

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Matt Smith March 31, 2012 - 9:03 pm

I know it’s a corny line, but I do think there is truth in the idea that baseball needs a strong Dodgers franchise. As with all takeovers, we’ll need to wait and see what they actually deliver on; however the signs are very positive that this is good news for Dodgers fans and good news for MLB overall.

Joe Cooter April 1, 2012 - 9:14 pm

I was listening to a report of this story recently and somebody said that Magic had said he planned to buy the Dodgers, when he had his press confence 20 years ago. I actually remember the night that Magic had his press conference, twenty years ago, and I don’t actually remember him saying that. At the time, everyone was wondering how long he had to live. At the time, the death rate for HIV and Aids was higher than it was now. When you got diagnosed as being as HIV + you didn’t have that long to live. They were only begining to discover the right combination of drugs that would help people alive. I can remember crying because. like everyone else, I thought he was going to die. Even though I didn’t like the Lakers, I respected him as a player because he was probably the best Basketball player of All-time. Even Better than Micheal Jordan.

Twenty years on, has not changed my opinion. What he has done with his life afterwards has only reenforced my opinion of him. This is a good move for the Dodgers and a good move for Baseball as well, especially with the new schedule coming out next season. Whereas, the Dodgers will not be playing as many games as they used to with the Giants, they will actaully be able to play games with both the Redsox, and the Yankees. When I was younger, Yankees vs Dodgers used to be A very big rivally. With the new schedule, the Yankees and Dodgers can become VERY BIG. With Magic Johnson and the New Dodgers Ownership group coming in, I think that both teams will be competing with one another ALOT.

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