If any person, anywhere, ever, buys a professional sports franchise, and wants to make sure that the first things that they said were right, in every way, they should simply read what Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and Mark Walter said after it was announced that they had won the bid to become the new owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And then repeat it.
* "If we wanted to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and have the privilege of being the custodians of it, we had to do it," Walter said.
* "I'd like the Dodgers to become a multigenerational thing that this partnership owns, that our grandkids own," Walter said. "That we are good community citizens, maybe be a platform for positive change in different areas of philanthropy. As much as you can do philanthropy from any platform, I believe that you can help causes get more positive benefit when you're doing it from a platform like the Dodgers."
* ''Part of the special character of this investment is what Dodger Stadium is, and we hold it in the same esteem as the fans,'' Kasten said.
* Walter said he will remain in the background of the club's daily operations, allowing Kasten to oversee baseball and business matters while Johnson is the caretaker of the image.
"I'm a baseball fan, but I'm not qualified to make baseball decisions, and I don't want to pretend to be,'' said Walter. ''I'm here to support and help my people as much as I can. I'm here to cheer as loud as I can.''
* Walter, CEO of investment manager Guggenheim Partners, which is providing the primary funding for the purchase, was asked if there is any money left to acquire and pay players after the record-breaking purchase price for a North American sports franchise.
"There is," Walter said. "I know Stan is an expert on this topic, as far as what should be done building a roster. My job is to help Stan and Magic accomplish all of our goals, and that's not only on the field, but in the community and philanthropy.
Each of the three stories linked above is worth reading. For a Dodger fan, in the 15 years since the O'Malley family sold the team, there has been tremendous question over what happens to this most storied of franchises. And now there are new owners, lead by three people:
--Magic Johnson. LA loves Magic. And wherever you are, if you do not at least like Magic Johnson, you probably do not have a soul. As the face of the franchise, this is good. But Magic, while planning to be heavily involved, is not putting up the big money or making the baseball decisions.
--Stan Kasten. Kasten led the Braves from 1987 to 2003, as well as some other Turner-owned sports teams in Atlanta. You can look at the Braves during that period. 3 NL West championships, followed by 9 consecutive NL East championships, 5 pennants and one world championship. And several franchise players--Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, David Justice, Chipper Jones, etc. These were not rent a teams, or tear-down and rebuilds, but every year growing the farm teams, and bringing in players through free agency and trade who were there to become part of the team not just for a 2-month pennant run, but for years.
--Mark Walter. The least known, but most important , member of the ownership group. Walter runs a huge financial services firm, and he is putting up the big chunk of this absolutely astounding sale price of $2.15 Billlion. When Magic retires, and Magic retires, Walter's money will still own the Dodgers. Read everything that each of these three men say, but particularly re-read Walter's response to the question of whether the $2.15 Billion paid for the Dodgers (which shatters the record of sale price for a sports franchise set by the $1.1 Billion sale of the Dolphins, and is nearly 2.5 times the recent sale price of the Cubs) was a gross overpayment.
"If we wanted to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and have the privilege of being the custodians of it, we had to do it [pay the $2.15 Billion."
The "privilege" (a right granted as a peculiar benefit or favor) not to be the owners, but to be the "custodians" (one that guards and protects or maintains).
Right now, these are just words. What the new owners do with the Dodgers--with the team, the tradition, the organization, Dodger Stadium--is something that we will see in the weeks and years ahead.
But they are good words. Really good.
Frank McCourt could have said all of these words. But he never did.
Fox/NewsCorp could have said all of these words. But they never did.
Trust, but verify, as President Reagan once said about the then-emerging relations with the Soviet Union. As Dodger fans over the last 15 years, we have been too burned to not keep up our guard, to beware of every promise, and not to believe that every 3-2 pitch will be a backdoor slider. But if Magic, Kasten, and Walter live up to the words that they said yesterday, there will be three words that define this coming new era in Dodger baseball:
Return to Greatness.