By Matt Whitener / @cheapseatfan
Now that the ink is dry on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ purchase, it really has set in that it’s a brand new day for one of baseball’s most iconic franchises. It feels like it’s been years since Manny Ramirez’s arrival supercharged baseball in Dodger Stadium and made it a focal point for the first time since the Hideo Nomo/Mike Piazza days. But it’s been a long time since there was some legit, annual winning baseball for them. In recent years, there have been some mediocre times in a tough division, which was finally capped by the financial freeze brought on by the ugly divorce of ex-owner Frank McCourt.
But the circus was run out of town when the team was sold off to two very uniquely successful figures, in two very different ways. When Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten headed up the group that paid an all-sports record of $2 billion to get the rights to the Dodgers in March, it shined a light on a dim area around a team that really should never be too far away from the spotlight. Magic’s Midas touch in life is undeniable; from reviving and raising the Lakers to a new standard on the court, to becoming one of the most enterprising businessmen in the LA area. Kasten is the architect of the 1990’s Atlanta Braves dynasty and set in motion the transition of the Montreal Expos into the Washington Nationals, which is now beginning to bloom in his leave. All things considered, could you really pick two better guys to rebuild a franchise reeling out of control?
However, idealism only goes so far, and the actual work of putting together not only a perennially competitive Dodger club is going to take some real focus.
Kasten is methodical and his moves made will be much closer to the mid-market style of building than the win-now-at-any-cost method of their crosstown rivals in Anaheim. If anything, the early payout (or lack thereof) from those methods show exactly why analyzing deals that get the most out of what’s on hand first is crucial. Remember how the Braves became what they were: smart drafting, dealing for high talent youngsters strategically first, then making big deals outside of the club. However, all of those deals were very smart, and never hand cuffed the team to back loaded contracts that kept them from evolving. The biggest deal any free agent Brave received was Greg Maddux’s five-year, $28 million pact he got to come over from the Cubs in 1992. While that number would be adjusted obviously 20 years later, the sentiment remains the same in it was not a long-term hit either way.