Showtime is back in Los Angeles.
Only now, it's not at the Fabulous Forum, but rather at Dodger Stadium.
A group led by former Los Angeles Lakers legend Earvin Magic Johnson, who led the basketball club to five NBA titles, has agreed to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers for a record $2.15 billion.
Frank McCourt, who had been the subject of intense criticism from fans, is finally out as owner, but he has certainly cashed in. The over $2 billion price tag is much higher than many industry experts expected, but the Dodgers appear to be in the hands of a group who have a strong interest in the club's success.
From the outset of McCourt's plans to sell the team following pressure from Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, there had been hope that Johnson would lead a group to buy the team. There were several other strong candidates, but Johnson's group was the one most favored by fans.
The fans got their wish. Johnson along with Stan Kasten, and the investment banking firm Guggenheim Partners are in charge, and that's music to the ears of most Dodger fans.
There are many reasons why the Dodgers will be in better shape under Johnson's and Guggenheim Partners.
1) Johnson is a winner. The NBA Hall-of-Famer has an intense competitive spirit and has always associated himself with winning. Johnson has too much pride to let the Dodgers sink. He will exhaust every effort to bring the team back to glory.
2) Deep pockets. Unlike McCourt, the Dodgers will likely beef up their payroll. It would be hard to phathom that a group of wealthy investors were willing to drop $2 billion on a team, and then skimp on paying competitive wages for top talent. The Dodgers can perhaps expect a payroll of over $120 million, and perhaps exceeding every team but the New York Yankees, which is considerably higher than the payroll under McCourt.
3) Strong talent on the squad. The Dodgers have perhaps the best outfielder in baseball in Matt Kemp, and the best young starting pitcher in the majors in Clayton Kershaw. With that foundation in place, the Dodgers have the ability to fill in the other holes. Signing outfielder Andre Ethier to a contract extention might be a top priority, but so will be paying for free agents next season. The Dodgers might want to target Texas Rangers' star Josh Hamilton to perhaps form the best outfield in the team's history.
4) Up-and-coming talent. The Dodgers don't have any great bats in the minors, but they have a strong collection of pitching depth. One of the places that McCourt skimped was on signing bonuses for draft picks. Expect the new owners to beef up the farm system, and have the Dodgers produce some quality home-grown players in the next three years.
5) A new focus on trades and signings. General manager Ned Colletti might consider going over his resume with Stan Kasten in charge. Kasten helped build the Atlanta Braves into perhaps the most successful team in baseball for about a dozen years, and he may not be pleased with some of the moves Colletti has made in recent seasons. In this offseason, Colletti chose to sign several average players, as opposed to adding major names and playing low-cost young players who could develop into everyday players. That strategy has the Dodgers picked to finish in the middle of the National League West. The Dodgers will likely target a more aggressive general manager with Kasten in charge, or push Colletti to change his philosophy.
6) Strong fan base. The Dodger fans who boycotted the team last year will find their way back. Johnson is a beloved figure, and his mere presence is enough to boost attendance. While McCourt was seen as the problem with the Dodgers, Johnson is seen as the solution. Los Angeles fans are very loyal, but will only support a team that they respect. Johnson brings respect back to the organization.
7) Improved atmosphere. The Dodgers were the subject of bad press, a stadium in need of a face-lift, and poor management. The new ownership offers a positive vibe around Dodger Stadium that will bring back much-needed swagger for fans, players, and employees.
8) Winning combo of Johnson and Kasten. Johnson has already stated that Guggenheim Capital chief executive officer Mark Walter wants to put a winner on the field. Johnson brings along his charisma and contacts to the Dodgers, and has stated that he will not be in the way of Kasten, who he trusts implicitly. When a free agent has to decide between an offer from the Dodgers and another club, the combo of Johnson and Kasten might be the reason he chooses the Dodgers.
The show is just getting started.