It was big news earlier this week when Joe Torre announced he had resigned his position with the MLB league office so that he could formally pursue an ownership bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
This should be great news for Dodger fans. Joe Torre would bring an instant sense of trust and credibility that the Dodgers have lacked since soon-to-be ex-owner Fred McCourt first got his cash-sucking paws on the franchise. While he doesn’t have front office experience, his decades of playing and managerial experience combined with sheer personal gravitas stand to be a huge asset to the ownership group he is a part of, which is primarily backed by real estate development magnate Rick Caruso. Plus, with Torre clearly being on excellent terms with Commissioner Bud Selig, that should be more than enough to make this bid the front-runner to acquire the Dodgers, after all, Bud does so love to hand pick his new owners (kind of like he did with McCourt… oops!).
But there is a reason I keep italicizing should, aside from the fact that it kind of looks pretty. The problem for Torre and his ownership group is that it won’t be Bud Selig and his cronies picking the new owner, it will be the reviled Frank McCourt that created this whole mess in the first place.
Bwah, bwah, bwaaaaaaaaaah…
My condolences, Dodgers fans. McCourt is going to get one last chance to screw over the Dodgers before his reign of terror comes to an end. That’s a damned shame because it means he will be picking the new owners for all the wrong reasons. Torre’s reputation is of little concern to him right now. Nor is the mountain of goodwill that would come with the Magic Johnson-led group who also wants to buy the Dodgers. Nor is the nostalgia factor associated with the ownership group associated with the O’Malley family that had owned the Dodgers when they came to LA on into the 1990’s when they sold to Fox. Nor will it matter that fans desperately want Mark Cuban and his unwavering commitment to building a winner to buy the team. Nope, only one thing matters to McCourt, or should I say McCourt and his many, many, many, many creditors: straight cash, homey!
That isn’t as horrible a scenario as it sounds for the Dodgers. After all, if the new owner is cash-rich, at the least we know that they won’t be getting into the same debt mess that McCourt did. On the other hand, it is no guarantee that the ownership group is actually well-suited to run a ballclub. There is copious amounts of evidence that it takes more than a big fat checking account to turn a team into a perennial winner (just ask the Mets). Some degree of actual baseball acumen is required (just ask the Mets). That is where it would be nice to have Commission Bud guiding the process and trying to keep the riff-raff out. With the likes of Torre, Stan Kasten, Fred Claire and Mark Cuban circling the team, it would be nice to have the assurance that one of those trusted prospective buyers isn’t going to get shutout because they got beaten Price of Right rules style by a more suspect bidder like Larry King (yes, that Larry King and yes, he is a serious bidder) who just wants the team as a shiny new toy or Time Warner Cable who just wants the team for the TV revenue (winning team optional).
And while cash to pay off his creditors is first and foremost amongst McCourt’s selection process, there is the scary proposition that McCourt will seek one final act of revenge against Bud Selig with whom he famously warred with in highly contentious manner as Frank tried to prevent losing control of the team. Like a petulant teenager, McCourt might well pick one bid simply because Selig asked him to pick a different one. If you don’t think Frank McCourt is petty and vindictive enough to pull off such a stunt, you clearly haven’t read up on the details of his divorce.
The best hope for Dodger fans is that Joe Torre, by virtue of having been employed by the league office up until a few days ago, is intimately familiar with exactly what it will take to submit the winning bid. All it takes is his old boss to whisper in his ear everything he knows about McCourt and the Dodgers’ financial state as well as whatever Bud knows about the bids that have already started coming forward. But that would be wrong and unethical, no? Surely Selig wouldn’t stoop to that level just to get what he wants. I mean it isn’t like he facilitated a suspicious series of events that gave Jeffrey Loria the Marlins, John Henry the Red Sox and Frank McCourt the Dodgers while also essentially murdering baseball in Montreal at the same time, right?