First Magic Johnson, then Joe Torre, now...Mickey Mouse?
As if the bidding war for the Los Angeles Dodgers weren't goofy enough already, Bill Shaikin of the LA Times reports that the Disney family, partnered with Stanley Gold, the president and CEO of Shamrock Holdings (i.e. the private investment firm of the late Roy Disney), to acquire one of MLB's most venerable franchises.
The Disneys join an ever-growing pool of investment groups hoping to emerge with the rights to the Blue Crew in hand once current owner Frank McCourt wraps up the search for new stewardship by the end of April, at commissioner Bud Selig's behest.
The current crop of big names and deep pockets who've already thrown their hats into the ring includes groups led by Magic Johnson, Joe Torre, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Orel Hershiser, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire, among many others.
McCourt expects the team to sell for upwards of $1.6 billion (fingers crossed).
These are the same Disneys of "Steamboat Mickey," whose Walt Disney Co. once controlled the now-Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from 1996 to 2003. The team made just one playoff appearance during that time frame.
That one Wild Card berth in 2002 resulted in the first and only World Series championship for the Angels, thanks in large part to the efforts of Manager of the Year Mike Scioscia and a pair of rookie pitchers—John Lackey and Francisco Rodriguez.
Other than that, the Disney Company squeezed all they could out of the Angels, using the team to push Anaheim, home to Disneyland, as a destination city for tourists and prospective residents alike.
Disney took a similarly disinterested approach to sports ownership with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, whom they brought into the NHL as a sort of real-life spinoff to their wildly popular Mighty Ducks movie franchise.
Unfortunately, Emilio Esteves was never quite good enough to play, but Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya weren't half bad.
But I digress. In the Angels' case, Disney (not surprisingly) proved to be more interested in owning the team than for putting out a winning product on the field. As triumphant as that lone pennant was, it was more the result of sheer luck and shrewd maneuvering by Scioscia and general manager Bill Stoneman than the byproduct of anything Disney actually did.
Both the Angels and the Ducks have gone on to bigger and better things since escaping from the Disney family. The Angels have reached the postseason five times in eight seasons under Arte Moreno, the first Latino owner in American professional sports. They look like a long-term juggernaut now that they're armed with Albert Pujols and a new multibillion-dollar TV deal.
The Ducks, on the other hand, shed "Mighty" from their moniker and went on to win their first Stanley Cup title in 2007 amidst five playoff appearances in six seasons with Henry Samueli signing the checks.
The Dodgers, as much as any other major franchise, know full well how dismal life can be under an iron-fisted corporate media regime. In 1998, the team fell under the auspices of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation after the O'Malleys failed in their attempt to build another stadium in Chavez Ravine to bring the NFL back to L.A.
Like Disney did with the Angels, News Corps used the Dodgers to further its other properties, most notably trading All-Star catcher Mike Piazza to the Florida Marlins in an effort to bolster its regional sports network in south Florida.
Not surprisingly, the Hollywood Swingers didn't see the postseason once during FOX's "Reign of Terror" in the Ravine. FOX has declined to bid on the Dodgers this time around, though the company remains embroiled in the proceedings, thanks to its control of the team's TV rights.
In any case, the last thing the Dodgers need right now is another ownership regime that would try to exploit the franchise and suck it dry, as FOX and McCourt have done in recent years. That's not to say that the Disney family would necessarily play vampire with the Blue Crew.
Given its track record with franchises in Orange County, the prognosis for such a future wouldn't exactly be as sunny and warm as the weather in southern California would suggest.
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