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Dodgers — and fans — deserve a great owner

Los Angeles deserves a team owner who can provide everything that a billion-dollar storied franchise and its fans deserve.

November 02, 2011
  • Frank McCourt's agreement to sell the team would also include Dodger Stadium and surrounding parking lots. McCourt could receive more than $1 billion from the sale of the team and related assets.
Frank McCourt's agreement to sell the team would also include Dodger… (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los…)

Now that Frank McCourt has finally agreed to sell the Dodgers, names of prospective bidders are flying through the air over Chavez Ravine — business titans, other team owners, consortiums of former star players. Good. It should be a highly competitive auction. Because Los Angeles deserves a team owner who can provide everything that a billion-dollar, storied franchise and its fans deserve.

A new owner (or co-owners) should be savvy enough to know when and how to invest in the team's best interests — whether it's developing a good farm system of potential baseball stars or snapping up a free agent who fits the team's needs. And he or she or they should be financially stable and secure enough to plow profits back into the team, and not to have to use the Dodgers as a personal cash cow, as Frank and Jamie McCourt were accused of doing. The right owner will care about the fan experience and work to restore an atmosphere — whether through improved security or shorter lines for hot dogs or other changes — that will make an afternoon or evening at Dodger Stadium a relaxing outing, not an exercise in endurance surrounded by rowdy, drunken and occasionally angry patrons.

Whether the Dodgers are bought solely as a business interest or out of love for the game, the owner must make the team the priority — or put someone in charge who will.

This is not just about picking the anti-Frank or the anti-Jamie. (Although given their bitter and distracting two-year divorce battle, it is tempting to call for owners with stable marriages or relationships.) The Dodgers have had struggles ever since Peter O'Malley sold them to Fox. And in fact, the team did better under McCourt than it had done under Fox's lackluster stewardship. After McCourt took over in 2004, he increased team revenue from $156 million in 2003 to $286 million in 2009, according to court papers. And from 2004 to 2009, the Dodgers reached the playoffs four times. They went to the National League Championship Series two years in a row — something the team hadn't done in 31 years — before stumbling in the last couple of seasons.

Ideally, of course, a new owner would drive the team to reach the playoffs every year — and on to the World Series. For inspiration, he or she can look to the Texas Rangers, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010, got sold, and then made it to the World Series that year and again in 2011.

"This was the best sports franchise in America," said Rosalind Wyman, who, as a former L.A. City Council member, helped bring the Dodgers to L.A. more than 50 years ago. "I want that to be said again about us."

So, prospective bidders: Let's play ball.

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