At about that time, news broke that embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt agreed to sell one of the most storied franchises in sports history to Guggenheim Baseball Management (GBM). The group is led by Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter (Peter Guber, Guggenheim Partners president Todd Boehly and Bobby Patton are also partners in the group).
For Dodgers fans worldwide, it was the best possible news and brought a renewed sense of hope to a franchise that has become more of a soap opera than a title contender.
Earlier on Tuesday, MLB approved 3 groups, GBM, the Steven Cohen Group and Stan Kroenke, as the final three bidders for the franchise. Tuesday night, Johnson, Walter and Kasten called McCourt in New York and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, $2.15 billion for the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium and a 50 percent (and final say) in the land surrounding Dodger Stadium (the parking lots), which allows McCourt to remain as a minority owner of those portions of Chavez Ravine.
In the words of Vin Scully, the Dodgers announcer and icon: “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.”
Fans are excited about Magic being the owner, but he is only 33 percent of the management puzzle for the new Dodgers leadership. Magic is the most beloved man in L.A. and rightfully so. He came to L.A. and brought five NBA titles to the city of Los Angeles and the Lakers. He is charismatic, funny, grounded, respected, genuine, thoughtful, iconic, philanthropic, entrepreneurial, and most importantly, a winner.
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Everyone in L.A. considers Magic “one of our own” and he gets the job done when he is involved in any business venture. Magic will be the “face” of the group and sell the team not only to the fans, but to MLB players who are free agents. He is the closer, on and off the field. He will be relied upon to make sure certain deals get done in Los Angeles since he is connected to many of the communities (white, African-American, Hispanic and Asian) and to the L.A. politicians. Magic is also the first African-American “owner” or face of the franchise in MLB.
Stan Kasten is the baseball man, and to me, the key member of this group. Magic and Walter already have said that Kasten will run the day-to-day baseball operations. Kasten was the president of the Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA) and Atlanta Thrashers (NHL) at the same time for multiple seasons and most recently was the president of the Washington Nationals.
He was involved in the drafting of Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. He was also instrumental in the acquisitions of John Smoltz and Mark Teixeira, the signing of Greg Maddux and 14 straight playoff appearances for the Braves from 1991-2005. Kasten knows how to structure the front office and build a farm system. He also knows that he needs to get the Dodgers back into the Latin markets and tap into their rich baseball system.
Kasten and current Dodgers GM Ned Colletti have a good relationship and have known each other for years. They have already had communications and are expected to get together later this week. Colletti said last night that he talked to Kasten throughout the Dodgers’ sale process. I wouldn’t look for Kasten to fire Colletti or clean out the current Dodgers front office right away; rather, he will look to work with Colletti, assistant GM Logan White and farm director DeJon Watson and wait and see how well the group works together.
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I also think that Kasten will keep current manager Don Mattingly, who has shown that he can be a really successful manager at the major league level.
While Dodgers fans and the city of Los Angeles are excited to have McCourt gone and the GBM group in, this will not be a “quick fix.” The Dodgers are not a bad team on the field, but there are other aspects of the Dodgers that need to be fixed. Guber, the former head of Sony Entertainment, was brought into the ownership group at a later stage, but is expected to bring “Showtime” back to Chavez Ravine.
Additionally, the facilities at Dodger Stadium are outdated and need to be upgraded. These improvements are both costly and time-consuming. The on-the-field product could use another big bat, more starting pitching and must lock up current Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to a long-term deal. While each of those needs could be achieved relatively soon, it won’t happen overnight.
What the fans feel today and going forward is “we have one of our own running the Dodgers” in Magic. He’s someone they trust, a person who knows how they felt when the Dodgers became an episode of “The Real Housewives of Chavez Ravine.” The shame, disgrace and dishonor the McCourts brought to a franchise that has meant so much to not only MLB and Los Angeles but also American history is now a thing of the past.
Frank McCourt has been many things, been called many things and done many things which have drawn the ire of the Dodgers faithful.
But let me say THANK YOU.
Thank you for making a decision that was done in the best interest of Dodgers fans and the city of Los Angeles (although we all know you made it for your bank account). It is a move that will benefit all. You get out of debt, pay your ex-wife and make a profit on an investment while the Dodgers organization, fans and MLB will no longer be held hostage by you.
The Dodgers faithful receive an ownership group that is not only committed to winning, but also has a plan to ensure the Dodgers future, as a whole both on and off-the-field, will be restored to its rightful place in MLB and Los Angeles.
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Today is a new day. A day filled with hope, joy, excitement and, yes, “Magic”. I can’t wait for Vin Scully to say those “magical” words: It’s time for Dodgers baseball!