New Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, left, is just part of a recent… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)
It is time to change theme songs, Los Angeles. We've had a nice run with Randy Newman, loving L.A., but let's get up to date with what is going on here.
All together now, in full Peggy Lee voice: Hey, big spender.…
We had some shortcomings with our sports teams, and so we did what every self-respecting, yacht-owning, polo-playing, Rolls-Royce driver would do: We threw money at it.
What has happened to Los Angeles sports is a wonder. Think of it this way: We have all this and Beckham too.
The Angels' Arte Moreno saw a chance to ring some chimes and scramble some area baseball perceptions, and so he signed Albert Pujols. That was about $240 million in loose change.
The Lakers' Jerry Buss decided that surly and inconsistent Andrew Bynum should be surly and inconsistent elsewhere. All things considered, Buss decided he'd rather Bynum be in Philadelphia. To fill the gap, Buss got Dwight Howard and $20 million more on his payroll for next season. Chump change in L.A., these days.
And now the new owners of the Dodgers, with Frank McCourt banished to a corner of the parking lot, have gone George Steinbrenner on us. They have acknowledged they have an unlimited budget and they have already exceeded it.
Suddenly, the Dodgers, a team that started the season with a couple of superstars and a supporting cast of guys who can hit triple-A pitching — held together by the patience and scrappiness of General Manager Ned Colletti and the patience and scrappiness of Manager Don Mattingly — look on paper like the 1927 Yankees. First, in dribs and drabs, came Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino. Now, in one grand sweep, we have Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. Picture a salary ledger of $300 million for the bunch.
Colletti's book, whenever he writes it, will be a must-read. It will be the story of a GM, under McCourt, who had to change his own flat tires on his company '56 Chevy, and now drives his big black Mercedes to the dealer to have them clean the windshield.
Can this be? Are we dreaming? Will David Stern step in and send the trio back to the Red Sox tomorrow?
Suddenly, Dodgers and Angels baseball games are more like Hall of Fame highlight films. Suddenly, pro sports in Los Angeles are an abundance of riches. We don't do trades here. We do blockbusters.
Buss kept Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol around just in case Howard has nights where he is surly and inconsistent. Even the Clippers, once merely fodder for Jay Leno one-liners, boast Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Holy Donald Sterling! What's going on?
Los Angeles has become the Ft. Knox of the sports world. Price is no object. The rest of the sports world no longer needs an ATM. It has us. There is the B of A and now the B of L.A.
Interestingly, this is happening while in so many other places, things in sports are trending toward the semi-smarmy.
Lance Armstrong and the U.S. anti-doping organization stare each other down for a while and then Armstrong blinks first. Does that mean the seven guys who finished second to him were cheated? Wait a minute. That was the Tour de France. They all cheat.
Bartolo Colon pitches a bunch of winning games for the Oakland Athletics, pockets millions and now has to forfeit a little of that because baseball found him to be a doper. He apologizes in a brief written statement and will be back again next season, pocketing millions more. Is this a great country or what?
Augusta National takes on two female members. First women's suffrage and now this. Those rascals who run the Masters are pretty adept at spotting a trend.
We currently have none of this nonsense in Spend-a-Buck L.A. New York may be the Big Apple, but we're the Big Wallet.
Our celebrations should be tempered only slightly by the awareness that our teams are not owned and operated by Mother Teresa and the profits are not going to sick children. It's a business, baby. When you hear the pat speeches about how moves are being made to improve the teams for the fans, understand that that is more byproduct than motivation.
Let's see it for what it is.
And if you are looking for true heroes in this, look no further than the TV executives who are funding the spending sprees. OK, so hero and TV executive don't fit in the same sentence. Just know it is good business for them too. Bigger names on better teams cost them more money in the rights-acquisition process but allow them to set higher ad rates.
But those are mere details. We are Hollywood, and in the movies, people buy their way to success all the time. How can this not work? How can this not bring L.A. sports fans anything but fulfillment and true happiness? If you buy the best, you have the best.
Look at how it has worked with the Angels.