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Timothy Myers: New Dodgers management reverses course

Posted: September 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.

I spent the first 34 years of my life living in cities without Major League Baseball, well, 36 years if one discounts the dreadful state of the Texas Rangers in the mid-1990s when our family lived in the Dallas area. During the 1980s, I half-rooted for the Chicago Cubs, but with the only connection being the AAA franchise in Des Moines, Iowa (Iowa Cubs) the feelings did not run deep.

Upon arriving in Southern California in the mid-1990s, my baseball-loving sons and I found local MLB in turmoil. Both the Dodgers and the Angels suffered under the disinterested ownership of media overlords, Fox in the case of the Dodgers and Disney in the case of the Angels.

The Angels seemed to possess the bleakest fan base. Attendees at Edison Field exhibited all the enthusiasm of Disney employees that received comp tickets in lieu of cash bonuses in tough years. The Dodgers at least possessed a history of World Series championships, though that memory receded year by year.

Thus, it shocked most Dodgers fans when the Angels would secure a championship over the despised San Francisco Giants relatively soon after their purchase by an interested owner, Art Moreno.

Little hope arose when real estate grifter Frank McCourt would effectively buy the Dodgers with a credit card from Fox, but the Bostonian cobbled together a workable lineup such that the team nearly always found themselves in contention for the division or wild card, though never reaching the World Series. Meanwhile, McCourt’s real job required convincing lenders of the increased value of the Dodgers and the real estate surrounding Chavez Ravine to borrow additional cash to fund the Marie Antoinette lifestyle of he and his shrew wife Jamie.

During the dark days of the denouement of McCourt’s ownership I rejoiced every time MLB thwarted his legal maneuvers to hang onto the team, and engaged enthusiastically in the “McCourt Boycott,” refusing to attend games or watch and listen to broadcasts of Dodgers games. I knew the Dodgers reached a new low when muckraker sports reporter T.J. Simers could even find a way to criticize the sainted Vin Scully, stating that Mr. Scully gave McCourt a veneer of legitimacy by continuing to call balls and strikes.

When the court-ordered auction began for the Dodgers, an Angels fan mooted the possibility of Chinese interests backing one ownership group. I stated I would find ownership by Kim Jong Il, the murderous dictator of North Korea, more palatable than continued ownership by Frank McCourt. I was not exaggerating.

Dodger Nation heaved a great sigh of collective relief when a group fronted by Magic Johnson, Mr. Los Angeles, won the Dodgers at auction. In an instant the darkness seemed to lift, banished by the radiant smile of Mr. Johnson. The Dodgers repaid the reinvigorated fans by an outstanding performance in April and May, even with standout player Matt Kemp on the disabled list.

But even during this halcyon time the new ownership made smart moves, extending the contract of franchise player Andre Ethier to keep him in a Dodgers uniform for many years to come.

Now the real test of ownership comes during trying times, and in June the Dodgers swooned like their rivals from the north. Undaunted, management made key trades by the first trade deadline, acquiring Phillie Shane Victorino for the remainder of the season and Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins for multiple years.

But locking in for the long haul where the winner of the National League West probably will be determined in the last week of the season, Dodgers’ fans jaws hit the floor when new ownership executed a mega deal, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez and others from the fire selling Boston Red Sox and finally jettisoning the hapless James Loney at first base.

Now (primarily East Coast) media blared out the incredible risk the Dodgers took inheriting all this payroll, I guess thinking that Frank McCourt exhibited genius when he acquired the slowly imploding Manny Ramirez from the Red Sox for basically nothing. But the fact remains that one must take big risks to reap big rewards, and the Dodgers may find themselves great for years to come.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident.


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