LOS ANGELES – It’s L.A. It’s Hollywood.
It’s the Dodgers.
So, bring money, of course. Lots. Billions.
But bring a name too, one that connects with the people, that has star power, that has traction on Rodeo Drive, along with pull on Park Avenue and an in on Elysian Park Avenue.
With that, Joe Torre on Wednesday announced he was leaving his executive position at Major League Baseball in order to join juggernaut developer Rick Caruso and his attempt to purchase the Dodgers.
While the face at the top of the bid will have less impact than the number on its bottom line, there also appears to be something to the name on the marquee.
Torre joins the likes of Magic Johnson, Peter O’Malley, Steve Garvey, Orel Hershiser, Fred Claire, Arn Tellem, Dennis Gilbert, Mark Cuban and others figuring to trade on their wallets and/or sports cachet to make a run at the Dodgers.
Maybe one of them gets them. Or, maybe, of the 30 or more entities expected to submit bids by Jan. 23, the eventual winner is advancing anonymously.
Insiders expect the bidding to push to $1.5 billion and beyond.
Say what you will about Frank McCourt, but eight years ago MLB discovered there was little interest in what was left of the Dodgers after Fox ownership and eventually sold to McCourt for $371 million.
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Today, some of the biggest names and deepest pockets in the country vie for a chance to throw four times that amount at a franchise that – once again – has lost its way.
There is no bigger personality in baseball circles than Torre, who was an MVP as a player, better as a manager, deeply respected as MLB’s executive vice president for baseball operations and one day – who knows – could be commissioner.
Meantime, he’s at least momentarily left that track to join Caruso, presumably with a promise he’d become club president, a la Nolan Ryan in Texas. Probably, he’d be good at that, too.
Torre said in a statement Wednesday, “I have great confidence in Rick Caruso’s unique qualifications and his ability to lead a successful bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured L.A. institution. … I am very excited about this new opportunity and also want to thank Commissioner [Bud] Selig and Major League Baseball for providing me with invaluable baseball operations experience over the past 10 months.”
Caruso’s statement read, in part, “Joe and I believe in the Dodgers and Dodgers fans and know that together we will foster a winning culture and deliver a premier, fan-focused baseball experience at Dodger Stadium.”
The benefit of Torre during the coming months – McCourt must choose a buyer by April 1, the buyer must be approved by MLB and the sale must be finalized by April 30 – is multi-fold.
He knows McCourt and he knows the Dodgers. He knows Selig and he knows MLB. He knows L.A.
As one bidder in the Dodgers sweepstakes said Wednesday, it’s about the relationships.
Caruso maybe doesn’t need credibility, but Torre brings more. Tellem delivers the same for Steve Cohen. For Gugenheim Partners CEO Mark Walter, Magic handles L.A. while Stan Kasten works the MLB end. Everybody’s got a guy – or two.
While there’s a sense McCourt is a bottom-line dealer here, that the last dime wins, an inch or two of familiarity could decide the next Dodgers owner.
That’s the value of Torre.
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His job at MLB, where his deftness in handling sticky situations and egos was evident again during the postseason, will be handled in the interim by Joe Garagiola Jr., Peter Woodfork and Kim Ng, all supremely capable. If Selig is smart, however, he’ll keep it that way until the Dodgers saga plays out. If Caruso’s bid fails, he could bring back Torre.
Because everybody needs a guy or two. And a name.
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