Situation is looking up for Dodgers and fans
This won't be a quick fix. Let's get that out of the way right up front.
It's truly fantastic news for the Los Angeles Dodgers that their ownership situation has been settled. It's even better news that it's been settled by a sale to a group that appears to have absolutely no worries about being able to spend. In the long view, this can only be positive for one of baseball's greatest organizations.
But it would be unwise to pretend that just because Mark Walter, Stan Kasten, Magic Johnson, et. al are moving in, an 82-win team will suddenly become a 94-win team. The bulk of the improvement will occur in the longer view, as the team has time to build through the Draft, international spending and, yes, free agency and trades.
Still, things are better now than they were. And there are reasons to believe that even in the short term, the health of the franchise could be a little bit better than it looked a few weeks ago. There is no shortage of money to be spent on addressing the organization's issues, and that couldn't be said over the past couple of years.
"Winning is essential," said Walter, the head of Guggenheim Partners, the group with the financial muscle behind the deal. "When I met Magic the first time, we covered a lot of topics, but it was clear that if winning wasn't the goal, there was no point in owning the franchise. We want to win. If that means we have to work harder on the business side to make that happen, we will."
The Dodgers should never be short of cash. Like the Yankees, they are one of the game's most visible, popular clubs in one of the world's biggest markets. Now, they won't be.
It's not just cash, though. The hope is that the franchise will simply function better in the coming years. Guggenheim provides the money. Johnson is the public face of the franchise, the ambassador to a community that has not always been thrilled with its baseball team in recent years. And Kasten may be as essential as any, a force to shape the baseball side and create a more efficient, effective internal structure.
He has been a senior club executive in three sports and is likely best known as one of the architects of the Braves' brilliant run through the 1990s. He knows how to shape a successful organization.
"He's successful, relentless in his pursuit of excellence and tireless," general manager Ned Colletti said. "At one time, he was in charge of three teams. You look at what he's accomplished and you wonder how one man can accomplish all of it. He knows a lot, he's seen a lot and he's won a lot."
So in the long run, there's much to like. There should be no need to scrimp on rounding out a roster. With due credit to the Dodgers for signing Matt Kemp, it's worth at least wondering whether Hiroki Kuroda might still be around if the sale had gone through six months ago.
But even in the short term, it's not impossible to see how some benefits could accrue. The Dodgers should have more money to spend at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. That's partly due to new ownership's deeper pockets, of course, but it also is possible that revenues will increase.
Don't underestimate this single, simple factor: It is highly likely that the Dodgers will sell more tickets now than they would have if not for the sale. It was no secret that the team's fans were frustrated not only with the performance on the field the past two years, but with the state of the franchise as well.
Los Angeles fell short of 3 million tickets sold in 2011. That hardly seems like hardship to many clubs, but it was the first time since 2004 that the Dodgers had even drawn under 3.5 million, never mind a number starting with a two. The last Dodgers team before '11 to draw fewer than 3 million was the 2000 club. Win or lose on the field, it's hard to imagine that fans won't return to Chavez Ravine in greater numbers in '12. That in itself can have a salutary effect on the bottom line, and thus on midseason acquisitions.
For an example, witness the 2009 Cardinals. Coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons and with the country facing the first full year of the economic downturn, St. Louis aimed low with its attendance projections. When the club performed and fans flocked to the park, the front office had money to play with. That money was used to pay for the trade for Matt Holliday, a move that has paid massive dividends for the Redbirds in the ensuing time.
That's not to say that Colletti will be able to pull off a blockbuster in July. But if the Dodgers are in the hunt -- and in a hard-to-figure National League West, it's at least possible -- he'll likely have more money to spend at the Deadline if attendance swells.
And in the longer view, everything's coming up in the Dodgers' favor right now.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.