By Ross Newhan
Now that Frank McCourt has at least one of his Bruno Magli's out the door (yes, O.J. wore them as well), Commissioner Bud Selig has the responsibility not to make the same mistake he did when he bowed to Fox's accelerated demands to sell the Dodgers and approved the under financed McCourts.
No out of city, out of state, out of country owner this time.
A respected Los Angeles figure has to emerge as the owner or the principal partner.
At this point we don't really know about the financing of the Steve Garvey/Orel Hershiser partnership, although both have been insisting that they have the funds. Whether that means a billion or more isn't clear. The suspicion is that the final accounting will be a bit lower.
At this point, as well, we don't know if Lew Wolff would finally give up his frustrating battle to secure a new ballpark for his Oakland A's and return to his hometown of Los Angeles or if Mark Attanasio would trade his division champion Milwaukee Brewers and the uncertain quest to re-sign Prince Fielder in a semi- exchange for his hometown Dodgers or if Tom Werner would yield his part ownership of the Boston Red Sox to return to Los Angeles and his movie-TV roots.
All would fit, as would Magic Johnson, Casey Wasserman, Alan Crasden, Alec Gores, Peter Gruber and the omipresent Eli Broad from a list of a dozen or more Los Angeles based movie/business/technology possibilities, but there is one person who HAS to be involved as either owner, principal partner or president/chief executive, and that is Dennis Gilbert.
Gilbert played high school ball in the Los Angeles area, was a renowned player agent based in the city and now is a partner in one of the West side's largest insurance/estate planning companies (Gilbert-Krupin).
In addition, he played the game professionally, is an executive with the Chicago White Sox and thus a close friend of owner Jerry Reinsdorf, headed a group that was runnerup in bidding for the Texas Rangers, used his own money to build an inner city baseball diamond in the hope of reinvigorating the sport in that one-time hot bed of talent and nine years ago initiated an annual Professional Baseball Scouts dinner and auction to benefit indigent and ill scouts and their families (this year's dinner is Jan. 14 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel).
Amid the mess that was the 2011 Dodger season Gilbert the fan still could be found in his season tickets directly behind home plate in the first row.
From a baseball/business/philanthropy standpoint there may be no one in the city as well known or more prepared to operate a team, even as a general manager, although current general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly deserve the opportunity to spend at least one more season amid a sustainable and well-funded ownership.
Selig hopes to have that owner in place by opening day of next season. How that impacts the Dodgers during an offseason in which Colletti hopes to sign Matt Kemp to a multi-year contract and the club on the field needs significant help isn't clear.
Frank and Jamie McCourt couldn't have created a bigger mess, and not even his desired sale price of $1 billion (or more) might cover Frank's tax, debts and divorce obligations.
He owes Jamie $130 million in their divorce settlement, and his tax and legal bills may rival the highly leveraged $441 million that they paid for the franchise before "looting $189 million" from the team to support their lavish lifestyle, according to court documents filed by Major League Baseball.
Shortly after Selig made the mistake of approving the McCourt's purchase, Frank invited this reporter to a private lunch at the Jonathan Club. He said that he wanted to pick my brain as to how Walter and Peter O'Malley had operated the team with the goal of regaining that stability and attaining that respect.
For a time it looked like it might happen. Now we know how embarrasingly far the McCourts came from that aspiration and how far down the flagpole that they ran one of baseball's flagship franchises.
Now, however, Selig gets another crack at making amends.
Dennis Gilbert is the right place to start.