When Guggenheim Baseball Management spent $2.15 billion to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt last year, lots of things were said about the organization and the rich new world it had just entered.
Spending huge amounts of money on player acquisitions and organizational improvements would become routine, and the goal of the new management was to return the Dodgers to former glory; actually to go beyond anything the heritage-rich team had ever done.
One statement no one made, though, was that the Dodgers would win immediately. Or win consistently. Or build a club that won pennants like the Brooklyn version of the team or the New York Yankees.
It was always, “We’re going to do our best to get the team back to the World Series.” Or “We’re hoping to make the fan experience the best in baseball.” Now, though, it has all changed dramatically.
Mark Walter has used the “D” word.
The Dodgers’ CEO told Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports that his team will become the equivalent of the Atlanta Braves — a modern baseball dynasty.
Despite winning just one World Series title in five attempts, the Braves collected 14 straight division titles from 1991-2005. Walter and his top lieutenant, Stan Kasten, told Nightengale that the Dodgers are on track to duplicate — and maybe surpass — the Braves’ unprecedented feat.
“It’s going to be done, this time on the West Coast,” Walter said.
Dodger team president Kasten held the same position with the Braves during that incredible run, and told Nightengale he agreed wholeheartedly with Walter’s prediction.
“I’m saying ‘Yes,'” Kasten said. “But that’s all I’m going to say.” And if you know the loquacious Kasten, it must have been incredibly difficult for him to stop talking about something he believes in so strongly.
Last month at the Dodgers’ Fan Fest, Kasten talked about Atlanta — a team that didn’t have anywhere near the financial resources the Dodgers do under Guggenheim ownership — and the amazing run they had and the impetus behind it.
“When you own a team and you expect the fans to support it, you have to give them reasons to do it,” he said. “With the Braves we were always cognizant of that fact, so whatever we could do within reason, we did… You could have the best team ever playing down on the field, but if fans stay away because they don’t like the ballpark, or the other amenities that are here in the 21st century — cell phones, ballpark restaurants, things like that — aren’t up to par, then the whole organization will eventually fall apart.”
Until opening up to Nightengale, Dodger front-office proclamations were limited to the seemingly realistic goals of getting Dodger fans past the disappointments of the last seven years.
“One of the things I feel best about — and I know Mark does too — is that we’ve delivered on every promise we made after we took over,” Kasten said proudly. “We said we were going to get the best players available, and we have. We signed Zack Greinke and traded for (Adrian) Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and if there are other players available who can help us win, we’ll do our best to get them.
“We also said we were going to make Dodger Stadium one of the best places to watch a game, and I think when we come back to play the Angels in the Freeway Series, fans will love the improvements.”
The Dodgers spent the majority of the offseason improving concession menus and areas, widening concourses and installing more cellular towers for better phone reception.
Kasten then acknowledged that an improved fan experience is only part of the equation to have the Dodger organization recognized as the best in baseball.
“We understand that no matter how much better it is, the ultimate experience is for us to win and get to the World Series,” Kasten said. “We can make this the greatest place to watch a game and go out and get the greatest players out there, but this team hasn’t been to a World Series in 25 years. Dodger fans want better and deserve better, and we’re going to do everything within our power to make this a team that contends every season. Not just for a division title, but for a world’s championship.
“Realistically, you can’t win a title every year, but there’s no reason you can’t try to do it.”