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DODGERS FOR SALE

A New Blue review

Dodgers' buyer had better be on the ball

November 03, 2011|T.J. SIMERS
  • Dodgers fans should make it clear they will not accept another owner like Frank McCourt.
Dodgers fans should make it clear they will not accept another owner like… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)

So everybody is happy, including many who were so thrilled to see the Boston Parking Lot Attendant replace the disaster that was Fox ownership of the Dodgers.

There was a long line of businessmen and politicians, beginning with the mayor of this city, who took up squatters' rights in the owners' box, eager to chummy up to the McCourts.

Frank & Jamie received prestigious awards; four years ago they were honored at a black-tie event in front of 400 attendees in Beverly Hills at the King of Hearts Awards Gala.

"The McCourts are not only good friends, but some of my favorite people," CNN's Larry King said at the time.

Three years ago they were named Los Angeles Business Journal "Power Couple of the Year."

Now it's good riddance, with so many folks sounding as if they knew all along, but it's a good reminder to maybe pay a little closer attention to who is next.

As one Times columnist put it on the web, anyone off the street could run the Dodgers better.

Well, we just experienced that, with some guy off the streets using Boston parking lots "and not a penny of his own money," as we learned in court, to take control of the Dodgers.

It didn't go so well, and although I understand anybody is going to look fantabulous in comparison with the McCourts, it's no time to give the next owner a free pass.

It was the fans of Los Angeles who held McCourt accountable for being a wreck as an owner.

They deserve credit for saying, "No more." They stayed home, baseball took notice and so did McCourt's bankers.

Why not remain demanding?

Why not public debates, like the GOP the last few months, between auction bidders so Dodgers fans might make a more informed choice before returning to the stadium?

I know who can be moderator and ask the questions.

As it is, the Dodgers are no longer a great buy.

Fox got them cheaply from Peter O'Malley; McCourt also got a bargain.

But now in a troubled economy with a declining fan base and a deteriorating stadium, there's talk the Dodgers will draw $1 billion at auction. That alone might certify the new owner a loser.

But anyone who spends $1 billion to buy the Dodgers better have $2 billion.

Dodger Stadium is the third-oldest ballpark in baseball, and although many fans will return as soon as the team wins again, fans everywhere are shying away from high prices to stay home and watch on TV.

If AEG is successful in bringing an NFL team to town and building a fancy football stadium, Dodger Stadium might still appear picturesque from the outside, but inside it will have the feel of the Sports Arena.

A new stadium has to be a part of the plan for any owner buying the Dodgers. Anyone trying to buy just the team with no stadium plan might as well be McCourt all over again, maybe without the wife.

A new stadium will mean higher ticket prices, another reason why it's so crucial to have a credible owner.

We're talking financial heavyweights here, leaving out Orel Hershiser, Steve Garvey, Dennis Gilbert and most of the names being tossed around.

Former players such as Hershiser and Garvey might stand tall as familiar spokesmen, but they will be only window dressing. At best they might get a mention as a minority owner, but anyone who has the money to buy the Dodgers will have earned it by making their own decisions.

And speaking from football experience over the last 17 years, as popular as the NFL might be, the only guy so far committed to opening his own wallet is a Denver recluse.

The NFL handed L.A. an expansion opportunity a few years back, but when it came time for the big-money people of L.A. to step forward, none did so. That opportunity is known now as the Houston Texans.

There already has been written commentary about finding someone who can pay Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, but that's short-term, if not small-time, thinking. What new Dodgers owner wouldn't try to sign Kershaw and Kemp?

This is about putting the Dodgers back on the baseball map, as well as being relevant again in L.A.

The danger, of course, is repeating the Fox experience. When a corporation, or a billionaire recluse such as Philip Anschutz, calls the shots, there is little day-to-day accountability because they are so removed from the on-field product.

How many billionaires are willing to mix with the unwashed? Does Arte Moreno have a brother?

Rather than speak from the heart when he took over, McCourt applied makeup and read from a prepared statement. As we learned later, he was only acting like a billionaire.

As demanding as Dodgers fans were this season, it would be nice if they insisted on an owner who remained responsive to their concerns as consumers.

If they don't remain involved in this process, testy and judgmental, well then they deserve Jonathan Broxton.

More than likely, whoever emerges as the Dodgers' owner will get a giddy reception, fans thrilled to hear new promises of better days ahead.

But I'll remain skeptical; the proof will be in who bats behind Kemp and whether the owner's kids are working for the team or just being paid by it.

At the very least, I would expect whoever buys the team to make like Moreno.

But instead of beer, I expect the new owner to begin his first news conference announcing he has lowered parking prices at Dodger Stadium.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com

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