MLB Class Changes: Players Are Becomming Owners and Everybody Is Winning

Phil GardnerContributor IIIJune 7, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 13:  Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser throws out the first pitch before the Dodgers take on the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Four of the National League Championship Series during the 2008 MLB playoffs on October 13, 2008 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Nolan Ryan was part of an ownership group which purchased the Texas Rangers last season, and the results were immediate. Only a few short months later, the Rangers were playing in the World Series – the first time in the 50 year history that the franchise had even won a playoff series.

A season later, Orel Hershiser and Steve Garvey are part of a prospective ownership group looking to purchase a Major League team. They’ve been watching their words and treading carefully, but you don’t have to read too finely between the lines to wonder which financially troubled team has been taken over by Major League Baseball and might be targeted by these two former Dodgers players.

This recent trend of former players crossing over and becoming owners has tremendous potential for baseball.

Last season was the ultimate success story for the Rangers. Nolan Ryan was their most storied player and resides in the Hall of Fame wearing a Rangers hat. One of the greatest pitchers in history, he’s also a native Texan. After taking the helm of the team, he led them to the fall classic. It’s the stuff dreams are made of and Biographies are written on.

Who better to have thrown out the first pitch in the World Series for the Rangers?

This is not to suggest that Nolan Ryan is the sole reason the Rangers went to the World Series. Much of the team had been in place from the previous ownership group and you can’t sell the players short on any of their accomplishments. With that said, there are certain benefits to having a former player as your owner.

For one thing, it’s a pretty easy way to make people forget about a bad situation. Fans might vilify Tom Hicks or Frank McCourt and they might blame them for all the struggles of a team. There’s no real allegiance to these millionaires or billionaires, and especially in this financial period it’s easy to ignore sympathy for a billionaire who can’t afford a divorce.

The only statement a fan can make is by staying home.

Then, along comes a former player. He’s a good ol’ boy from when the team was World Champions and Kirk Gibson was limping around the bases. If a billionaire sells to another billionaire, fans don’t really take notice. But if you add a former player into the mix, suddenly fans take noticed and jump back on board.

It’s a winning situation.

The biggest reason this is a great idea is simply the makeup behind these players. Orel and Nolan weren’t outstanding players as a result of tinkering with the check books to make themselves profitable. All they knew to do was to win, and that’s an attitude they’ll bring to ownership as well.

We keep going back to this, but the Florida Marlins pocketing millions of dollars in revenue sharing is terrible for baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates as a losing team for a decade and a half but still turning a profit is terrible for baseball.

Do you think Orel or Nolan would stand for mediocrity?

The days of the pioneers of baseball like George Steinbrenner and Ted Turner are behind us now. For all his devotion to winning, Steinbrenner did not understand the baseball aspect as much as the people surrounding him. He loved to win and strove hard for it, he just didn’t always make the best baseball decisions. Neither did Ted Turner, and neither have the owners of the Pirates. A lot of MLB owners don’t always make the best baseball decisions.

Who can blame them?

They’re business owners and baseball fans but they might not be the most sound baseball minds on the planet. The guys they’d be getting the best advice from would be former players and front office staff, people like Nolan and Orel.

Having good baseball minds in charge of the team can do nothing but help the team. It reconfirms the commitment to win, and it gives the control to people who understand the game to its deepest levels. As Orel was quoted, “The Dodgers aren’t for sale.” But if they happened to go up for sale, finding an ownership group such as Orel Hirshiser’s would help the game immensely.

I think baseball owes that to the Dodgers fans.