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Let Us Now Praise The Men From Guggenheim

August 27, 2012

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.

  1. Freudy
    August 27, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Nice piece, sir. I think the takeaway for me is it appears the new owners got that the team, as left by McCourt, was devoid of necessary pieces to win. Rather that sift through the dreg of the next two winter FA crops, they wisely made it happen themselves, selecting the players they needed and throwing money to the wind. The key to this is Adrian Gonzalez – not just going from the least productive first baseman in baseball to one of the most – but also finding a Mexican-American star SoCal fans would embrace. Huge choice. They were willing to “overpay” to get their guy.

    In addition, I think this spending spree was a means to an end. I think Kasten’s record in Atlanta is one of farm grown talent, but as our farm was left fairly depleted, and with resources in hand, he bought the farm 2-3-4 years to reload. I doubt we will be massive spenders like the Yankees or Red Sox forever, but now, given the situation, it was a way to get to where we have to be, while the farm catches up.

    And as we’ve always said, during the Frank McCourt slow rape, even dating back to Fox and before – WHY SHOULDN’T THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS BE MAJOR PLAYERS IN ACQUIRING TOP TALENT? This is the 2nd largest market in the country, after all. A storied crown jewel in baseball’s world, so for us to be content with sub-par talent year in and year out while even the Tigers, Phillies, Angels, etc. shop at the finer stores, is simply unacceptable. I applaud this bold move to fix the 2012 team – but more – set us up for a long run of success, with our new All-Stars, and the kids we have, and will add through international signings, strong June drafts, free-agent signings, etc.

    The Dodgers are back. It sucks to be a Giants fan.

  2. Rincon Bluffs
    August 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    I have been a Dodgers fan since my uncle started taking me to games in Vero Beach for Spring Training and of course L.A. since I was 6years old (about 35 years). I have seen the great teams of the 70’s and early 80’s and, of course, our last World Series in 1988. Since that time, YOU are absolutely correct in your analysis of the latter half of the O’Malley era, followed by their egregious selling of the team and subsequent nefarious ownership until the present Guggenheim group.

    I was likewise skeptical of the present ownership at first, and especially made more so during the collapse of the team in June and early July. More than that, I was down right irritated, upset, and angry. I thought, “Here we go again — promises made were promises broken”. And I am still a little bitter about being behind our nemesis the Gnats even now (in fact I cant stand it!). However, as YOU rightly point out the signings of Han-Ram through the present megadeal of A-Gone have made me a believer in this team’s ownership once more.

    This doesn’t mean I am a total believer in the TEAM itself. I am still very skeptical in the managing of Mattingly and the coaching staff, irregardless what ESPN and Sports talk radio thinks about them, or what the players and ownership say publicly as well. Our bullpen and starting rotation are still not World Series (or maybe not even playoff) caliber and our bench is weak (although maybe somewhat better with the Punto acquisition). Factor in our challenging upcoming schedule in September and I am no way convinced — but hopeful — that we will win the division or even make the wild card at this point.

    I know injuries have devastated our team this year and seem to keep killing us into the present. Some of these injuries I am also skeptical of and do not have much faith in our training and conditioning staff. Also, many teams had their lineups radically altered by injuries this year. In my opinion, the injury card is a moot point. The good teams always find a way to win and overcome the adversity of the long season.

    In closing, let me say that I hope we do make it to the 2012 playoffs with all my heart. I am not expecting a World Series appearance this year, but I do think Mattingly’s team has a responsibility to give us the fans and the ownership to make it that far. The ball is in the coaching staff and player’s court at this point as the present ownership has exceeded my expectations in what they have done so far (although I still don’t understand Uribe’s existence).

    Go Blue!

    • The Dodger Oracle
      August 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      Great comments.

      I definitely see the same basic issues on the field, but I don’t think the it would have been realistic to expect ownership to have addressed all of our deficiencies at this point. They inherited a mess. But the good news is, parity is the order of the day in MLB. Every team out there has fundamental issues. We’ve got a shot to go all the way as much as anyone does. Up to the team to fit it up now.

      The bigger picture is that we finally have an ownership group that wants to win as badly as the fans. That’s huge – and it deserves to be celebrated. My hope is that this large-market muscle-flexing is more of a corrective than a habit, and that the Dodger hallmarks of player development and organizational stability will ultimately rule the day. But after the last few decades we fans deserved some muscle-flexing. No Dodger fan should apologize for it. Kevin Malone used to talk about being the new sheriff in town, but Guggenheim let their actions do the talking.

  3. July 23, 2014 at 9:28 pm

    We respectfully disagree on this point. And since you have stated that… “I am not in the mood to join in.” and “I intend not to worry about it.” we won’t bother you with our point of view. Simply put… we disagree. Never the less, very well written as usual.

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