On January 4, Joe Torre quit his job as Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations for Major League Baseball to pursue buying the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he is already the best candidate for the job.
I mean, why wouldn’t he be? It’s not like he has huge shoes to fill.
Ever since 2004, the Dodgers and their fans have had to deal with Frank McCourt as their owner. Sure, at first it was a breath of fresh air, but soon it became painfully obvious that McCourt was in over his head and the only way he would admit it was through the increasing parking and ticket prices.
He tried to turn the Dodgers into a corporate venue by making lavish improvements to the field level sections to lure business-type customers. The top deck and the bleachers? Other than a change in seat color and an all-you-can-eat section, they’re essentially the same sections that I’ve been sitting in since 1995.
Then, in 2009, McCourt and his wife Jamie announced they would be divorcing. But that wasn’t the worst part—they were also fighting for ownership of the Dodgers in their split. The off-field issues affected the Dodgers on the field thanks to the unwanted media attention and the lack of money to spend. Now that Frank McCourt, who was ruled owner of the team over his ex-wife Jaime, has agreed to sell the team, it’s time for a fresh start. And Torre is just the man who can bring it.
For the few of you who don’t know this, Torre was a very good catcher from 1960 though 1977 when he played for the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves, the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets. Torre finished his career with a .297 batting average, nine All-Star game selections, a Gold Glove (1965) and the 1971 National League batting title and MVP.
Torre clearly understands the game of baseball from a player’s perspective and knows the ins and outs of the game on the field. He showed that he knows it during his 18-year career.
Another asset that Torre has in his arsenal is the fact that he was an MLB manager—and a fairly successful one.
Torre became the New York Mets' player-manager in May of 1977 for 18 games until he decided to retire as a player and focus on managing. He wasn’t successful at first—his teams didn’t record a single winning season during his five years with the Mets. After that, most of Torre’s managerial seasons were a success, specifically his four World Series titles with the Yankees.
But most importantly, Torre is familiar with the Dodgers organization from the top.
Torre spent three years as the manager of the Dodgers, and he helped lead them to two consecutive National League Championship Series berths—both were lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. But he did something that hadn’t been done since 1988: He made baseball relevant again in Los Angeles.
By the time 1988 rolled around, Los Angeles was dealing with two elite sports teams to love—the Dodgers and Lakers. But after both teams won the championship in 1988, each team fell apart, and the Lakers became relevant faster, winning titles in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. Los Angeles has been a Lakers town ever since.
But in 2008 and 2009, the Dodgers got a little taste of the past when Torre came, and with the help of players like Manny Ramirez, led the team deep into the postseason. The Dodgers hadn’t won a playoff series since 1988, but Torre played an integral part in making that dream become a reality.
The way that he did it is what makes him the perfect candidate to be owner of the Dodgers. He didn’t just tell the players to go out and win games. He communicated with them and the front office to make sure he had a good team in place. He is a player’s manager, meaning he won’t call someone out for a bad performance and he will protect them—something players appreciate. Undoubtedly, Torre would bring that mentality and personality as the owner of the Dodgers as well.
And it needs to be stated that Torre is one of the most respected and well-liked people involved in Major League Baseball, and most importantly by MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. There’s a reason Selig appointed Torre as the Executive Vice President for Baseball Operations. Selig trusts him and has a great relationship with him. And if there’s one thing to take away from the McCourt era, it definitely does hurt you if you don’t have a good relationship with the commissioner.
Now, you may be thinking, “OK, yeah, Torre has a great foundation and history with the game and the Dodgers—but he’s just one man. Where is the money going to come from?” and you’re right for thinking that fresh off of seeing McCourt go bankrupt with the team. Well, here’s the answer, and another reason Torre is the perfect candidate.
Backing Torre’s bid for the Dodgers will be Rick Caruso, a real estate developer. Caruso has made his money through actual real estate developments in the Los Angeles area such as The Grove, a large high-quality retail venue that has been very profitable. Almost all of his work has been done in the Los Angeles area, so it is clear that the Los Angeles-native wants to help the LA community.
Between Torre and Caruso, the Dodgers would have two men who clearly care about the Dodgers and restoring them as a prominent name in not only Major League Baseball, but in the Los Angeles community as well.
Yes, there are plenty of other candidates for the position, including former Dodgers Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey, former Laker Magic Johnson and possibly even Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, among others. But let’s be honest, they aren’t the best candidates. While they would undoubtedly have great intentions, Hershiser and Garvey just bring nostalgic qualities while Johnson's and Cuban’s expertise is in basketball, not baseball.
The Dodgers and their fans are familiar with Torre. Not only that, they like him. A return to Chavez Ravine as the Dodgers owner only seems fitting as both parties set out to start a new chapter.