Let Us Now Praise The Men From Guggenheim
Let’s be clear: I have been a skeptic. In some ways I still am.
I tend to view Dodger owners past and present with a jaundiced eye. The years have instilled that in me. I’ve never worshiped with the cult of Peter O’Malley. I recall all too well the years he let the team flounder, wasting five consecutive rookie’s of the year without a single playoff win to show for them. More to his discredit, I will never forgive him for allowing my beloved Dodgers to fall into the hands of Rupert Murdoch. Nor can I forgive him for returning to baseball. I view him now the way a grown-up child views the parent who abandoned them, playing with his new trophy family (The San Diego Padres).
I doubt that I need to explain here why I never trusted Fox, and then came to loathe Frank McCourt. Those scabs do not need to be picked at right now.
But the point remains, there has been a cumulative sense of betrayal carried around by every Dodger fan for decades. It has grown steadily over the years. O’Malley never seemed to notice that he was planting those seeds, and Fox hardly seemed to care that they were taking full root. Frank McCourt assumed that we were dumb enough to view him as a savior, even as he fertilized the soil with every word he uttered. Thus when Guggenheim came along, I was not sold.
And truth be told, there were reasons to be wary. Their giant overbid that allowed McCourt to profit by more than a billion dollars – even as he was still part owner of the parking lots. Job one of a vanquishing hero is to actually vanquish the enemy and hopefully make them pay. Guggenheim failed on both of those fronts. Worse, they lied to us in the process.
I began to suspect everything about them. I wondered aloud if Magic Johnson was simply a trojan horse they used to escape the scrutiny of an angry Los Angeles populace. I imagined scenarios in which they were a group actually assembled by Frank McCourt to allow him to walk away with the cable profits that Bud Selig had denied him. I bristled as Stan Kasten spouted business jargon about “fan experience” and worried about things like stadium WiFi while a 17 win surplus was frittered away with seemingly no action to improve the team. I howled as promises of action by Mark Walter were walked back by Kasten in a matter of hours. I mocked as Magic Johnston fired off one tone-deaf tweet after another about partying on Rhianna’s yacht or jet-setting the globe while our team was bleeding out on the field. They were all talk. And worse, they seemingly had no idea how deep the distrust they’d walked into was.
Then came the Hanley Ramirez deal. It had been years since The Dodgers made a move for a superstar in their prime. That went a long way. Then came the deadline deals that brought us Victorino and League. I’d have rated the new owners a solid B+ at that point, missing an A because the moves came too late to protect our early-season lead (and after too much comically inept spin).
The Cliff Lee claim was where they won me over. It didn’t matter that they did not come away with a deal for him. They risked having that contract dumped on them. No previous owner would have done that. I suppose I pondered for a moment some plot involving Ned Colletti and his pal Ruben Amaro Jr. wherein Amaro put Lee on waivers just to let us show willingness to claim him, with full assurance that he’d pull Lee back – but that was stupid. Still it speaks to how little I was willing to trust.
Fast forward to last Friday. When the first rumors about Adrian Gonzalez started surfacing, I dismissed them. I considered what it would take to make something like that happen and wrote it off as science fiction. Then when the specifics of the deal began to emerge, I found it even more impossible to believe. Trades like that just don’t happen.
But it did happen.
Lord knows all sorts of ink has been spilled analyzing the deal itself. I am not in the mood to join in. On the field the trade could go either way. Anyone who says they know for sure one way or the other is full of it. Trades happen precisely because nobody knows for sure who will do what. So calculated risks are taken.
In retrospect the trade may just be seen as “classic Guggenheim” one day. Just as they overshot the projected sales price for the Dodgers and included a stake in the real estate for McCourt to ensure that he’d accept their bid, here they chose the player they felt they had to get and offered enough in cash and prospects to assure that they would get their way.
People who worry about the money are missing the point. From a fan’s perspective, worrying about the money is a form of Stockholm Syndrome. It is something that we should never have to worry about. I intend not to worry about it. What I take away from all of this is that the folks from Guggenheim surveyed the free agent market and saw little there to look forward to – so they made their own market. In the process, they brought back a sense of swagger to the Dodgers. More important – they brought back trust. Whether Adrian Gonzales hits, Carl Crawford fully recovers or Josh Beckett rebounds in the NL, trust is a dividend that will keep on paying.
We are on board with you now, gentleman. Don’t take that for granted.