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Dodgers on way up with McCourt going
I’m not going to predict that Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder soon will be wearing Dodger Blue, not when the sale of the team likely will take months.
I’m not even going to use a, “Ding dong the witch is dead!” theme because darn it, some of my writing brethren beat me to it.
I’ll just say this:
The Dodgers’ future starts now. And what a bright future it will be.
Frank McCourt agreed to sell the team Tuesday night, triggering a frenzy that likely will result in the team and Dodger Stadium being sold for more than $1 billion.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told me in an e-mail Wednesday morning that he is not interested in buying the club at that price, but plenty of other rich guys will be.
And, once the new owner is in place, the Dodgers will resume operating like a high-revenue franchise in the nation’s second-largest media market, as opposed to a drifting club with a lower payroll than the Minnesota Twins.
Granted, the identity of the new owner is not known, but I’ll check the box that says, “Anybody but McCourt.”
It’s a new day, all right, not just for the Dodgers, but for baseball. A period of turmoil for several prominent teams could — repeat, could — be nearing an end.
The Astros’ sale to Jim Crane is expected to be completed at the owners’ meetings in Milwaukee later this month.
The Mets’ owners are still fighting in court against the trustee for the victims of Bernie Madoff, but recent court decisions have gone in their favor.
Of course, the scrutiny on the Mets’ owners only will increase as they seek to attract new investors and regain fan confidence.
No longer will the Dodgers provide them with cover.
The Dodgers — whose attendance fell by more than 7,500 per game from 2010 to ’11, the fans fed up with McCourt — soon will be a force again.
The team made the playoffs four times in eight seasons under McCourt, including back-to-back appearances in the NLCS. But there was always a sense that it could have accomplished more with greater payroll flexibility, flexibility that disappeared as the McCourts collected homes in Malibu.
General manager Ned Colletti learned to be creative, and the financial restrictions probably prevented him from making the same kinds of free-agent mistakes that he did with pitcher Jason Schmidt and outfielder Juan Pierre.
Still, Colletti must be slapping his hands with glee.
The Dodgers not only have an emerging core of young talent — shortstop Dee Gordon, right-hander Nate Eovaldi, outfielder Jerry Sands, reliever Javy Guerra — but also the biggest potential resources of any team in the NL West.
But that will only be the start.
The future also should include an L.A.-style facelift for Dodger Stadium, a ballpark that turns 50 next season, and improved security to ensure the safety of fans — one of whom, Bryan Stow, was beaten into a coma in a Dodger Stadium parking lot last Opening Day.
Such changes are likely to occur once the Dodgers are run by an owner whose vision of the franchise extends beyond his own checking account.
Not that there is anything wrong with owners making money; far from it. But baseball alleged that McCourt used $189 million of team revenue for personal use. To put that number in perspective, only one team in 2011 had a payroll higher than $189 million — the Yankees.
The next Dodgers owner presumably will run the team in a more, uh, conventional fashion. No one is saying the Dodgers should spend like the Yankees, but their $104 million payroll last season ranked 12th in the majors.
Yet, in the end, this is about more than any one player, any one payroll, any one season. This is about a franchise that once was the model for the entire sport, a franchise that quickly should regain its preeminent position.
What is lost is lost.
The Dodgers are about to be reborn.
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