LA Dodgers: Why Magic Johnson's Group Is Perfect Fit For Desperate Franchise
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the newly appointed ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers realizes a big checkbook is the answer to the franchise’s woes.
As former owner Frank McCourt deliberated over offers from the three MLB-approved bidders, it was apparent the group led by LA Lakers legend Magic Johnson wanted the team at all costs. Johnson, veteran baseball executive Stan Kasten and Guggenheim Partners chief executive Mark Walter made the largest bid for the Dodgers at a record $2.15 billion.
In a recent article by Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Shaikin, all three members of the team’s ownership group discussed their vision for the franchise and the big plans they have in store. After reading the responses to some prying questions, I’m sold on this group being the perfect fit for a desperate franchise like the Dodgers.
Here are just a few responses from that interview that should sit well with fans:
Johnson: "The Angels invested a lot of money into Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. You see what the Tigers just did with Prince Fielder. Teams are investing. That's what you do when you put a winning team on the field. We're not going to be any different from those teams."
That statement alone tells fans that Johnson and Co. won't be afraid to write the big checks to upgrade the roster. The Dodgers already inked center fielder Matt Kemp and pitcher Clayton Kershaw to long-term deals. That investment was made even before the group took over so you have to think more big names could be headed for LA.
With Johnson being a former member of the showtime Lakers, it's definitely possible he'll push his fellow owners into tossing money at big-name free agents and pulling the trigger on blockbuster trades that have made the Lakers such a force in the NBA. One particular MLB team that is infamous for that same initiative is the New York Yankees. Johnson was asked how the franchise will compare to the Yankees.
Johnson: "...we would love to copy the Yankees' success. If you're saying, 'Do we want to be the Yankees?, the answer is yes. We want to win the World Series. We do want to win."
Every team's goal at the start of the season is to win the World Series, but Johnson's comparisons to the Yankees franchise just reaffirms he's willing to make drastic changes.
So what does that mean about the franchise's farm system? Kasten offered his view on the subject.
Kasten: "Nothing good happens without scouting and player development foundation. We understand that is Job 1 for any team — and particularly for us.
"But we also recognize it is Los Angeles. We recognize the history. We recognize the expectations. We recognize what our fans deserve. We don't plan to wait for 25 players to grow into our uniform."
Kasten's response was honest and to the point. You can only wait so long for players to develop, and wasting time and money on a struggling player in the farm system just isn't in the team's plans anymore.
Walter, the money man in the group, commented on what his intentions were when he opted to purchase the team.
Walter: "We care very much. We bought this franchise to maintain and build it to be the best franchise it can possibly be, from on the field to fan experience and how it relates to the community."
This is something fans love and the press eats up. LA obviously wants the Dodgers to succeed for financial reasons, but the team's affect on the community is important as well. When the Dodgers are doing well so is the city.
However, the best response by far came in regards to the amount of debt the team will be in with the new owners.
Walter: "We are not adding any debt. Not one penny."
Hearing that the team will not incur more debt in 2012 is something fans have been waiting to hear since news of bankruptcy was reported just a short time ago. Ultimately, the Dodgers are starting fresh and new ownership has the team headed in the right direction. Not only that, but fans can rest knowing the Dodgers will be in good hands.
In Johnson you have a local icon who is just as hungry to win as an owner as he was when he was a player on the hardwood. Kasten lends his experience as a former executive with previous MLB teams to the mix, and Walter's classy business persona and even bigger wallet rounds out a solid group of owners.
To read Shaikan's article on the interview for yourself, click here.
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