Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dodgers Fast Break Puts Guggenheim on Spot From Start

      By Ross Newhan

      A surprising April has provided the new owner of the Dodgers with a running start on the pay dirt of a playoff in Guggenheim Baseball's first year.

      Frank McCourt's otherwise bankrupt tenure ended Tuesday on the upbeat of a West Division lead.

     Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson--the Big Three of the new ownership group--took control with completion of the sale negotiations and wiring of the final payment in the $2.15 billion purchase.

     Walter and Co. will appear at a Dodger Stadium news conference this morning complete with much community and club panoply.

     There is not expected to be any immediate changes in the baseball department.

     General Manager Ned Colletti will likely survive the initial turnover--and perhaps longer.

     Much will be heard today about how the new ownership group---particularly Kasten, the new president and former president of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals--believes in building from within.

     It's a noble goal and one that needs undertaking promptly and completely.

    However, the test for Guggenheim--providing the Dodgers remain competitive in a division in which only the San Diego Padres are without a chance--will come early.

    Is Guggenheim willing to send a message with the long-term signing of Andre Ethier--a process that Colletti is believed to have initiated already--and the trade deadline acquisition of a major, and perhaps expensive, pitcher and/or hitter.

   The reality is that the cupboard is bare. There is nothing in the farm system that will provide a second half ignition if the Dodgers are still alive.

   Kasten and Colletti, if that is still the baseball partnership, will have to pay a price for significant talent, and it is doubtful Guggenheim would have invested that $2 billion if it also wasn't prepared to make two other investments--one being in playing talent and the second in stadium renovation and/or rebuilding.

    The current television agreement ends this year, and Guggenheim can use the leverage of a potential regional network to extract a $4 billion or more package from Fox Sports, Time Warner or, perhaps, even CBS.

   Give McCourt credit--despite the distasteful thought that he will be netting $1 billion out of this deal and retaining partial rights to any parking lot development--for signing Matt Kemp to an eight year, $160 million deal at a time when arguably less talented players are receiving even longer and richer deals

   Now Kemp, with one of the greatest Aprils ever, has helped put the Dodgers in an unexpected and potentially exciting position--and, in addition, put Guggenheim on the spot from the start.

   I mean, building from within may have to be secondary. It looks like Walter and Kasten will have to keep the wallet open.

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