A Sprinkling Of Magic
Sure, I’m about to say this as a San Francisco Giants fan, but it isn’t any less true:
Magic Johnson’s about to become the biggest fool in baseball ownership.
Don’t get me wrong, Johnson’s a smart man. A very smart man. He’s done an incredible job in investing and development. His Magic Johnson Enterprises was recently valued at $500 million.
But in a $2.15 billion dollar purchasing agreement for the Los Angeles Dodgers, that’s a drop in the bucket, especially when you consider that a smart businessman like Johnson wouldn’t put all his value in one investment. While the official documents won’t be made public, I doubt Johnson’s investment is even half of his net worth, meaning he has less than a 1/8th share.
The real new owners are the Guggenheim Partners, old money from back east. They’re old money because they share a name with a museum, and not by coincidence. The Guggenheim Partners are a financial company, and they are who will run the Dodgers, truly. Now, they are smart, despite a questionable remaining link to Frank McCourt.
First of all, they brought in Stan Kasten. Kasten is supposedly one of the new ‘owners’ of the Dodgers. That’s a ridiculous thought. Kasten has been a longtime sports executive due to his association with Ted Turner. Kasten has run the Atlanta Hawks as GM, the Atlanta Braves as Team President (a plus), and then the Washington Nationals (not so much a plus). But is this a rich man, in ownership terms? Does he have anything remotely close to $2 billion to contribute to ownership? Hardly.
No, the Guggenheimers brought Kasten on as legitimacy. He knows how to run a team. That’s not necessarily a good thing. He did well with the Braves letting one of the all-time great GMs John Schuerholz run the team. He didn’t do so well doing it himself with the Nationals. But when it comes to being a sports executive, he’s been there, done that. That’s why he’s on board.
So why Johnson? Local legitimacy, obviously. Johnson’s the new face of the franchise. No old white guys in a boardroom, like McCourt. Nope, it’s the ever-familiar and endlessly popular face of Magic Johnson. He’ll get the fans back to loving the team.Don’t get me wrong: I’m a hardcore L.A. hater, in all sports, but I have nothing but respect for Johnson, both for his accomplishments on the court and his significant accomplishments off the court.
But this is what Magic is now: The Fall Guy.
This is a bad deal for the new owners. It’s far too much money for the team. A lot of people are pointing at the up-to $5 billion TV deal that the team is likely to get, but that’s $5 billion paid over a quarter decade, and money to be expected to be put back into the team, not into the owner’s pockets. Especially not how after McCourt did exactly that.
Of course, with the exorbitant new cost, the new owners will be expected to make a splash in free agency. And I have no doubt they will (Hopefully not on Matt Cain). They will spend a ton of money, quite possibly in vastly overpaid contracts to underachieving players. Just ask Kasten about judging a player’s ‘Werth’.
But then, like every new owner, they will stop spending, especially after bad decisions. Why? Because the other owners won’t tolerate another Steinbrenner raising costs far too high for everyone else. And after two or three years of bad decisions, they’ll have gotten locked into Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt and David Wright (hopefully), and won’t be able to afford anyone else. And even if they keep spending, it’s the guys like Johnson and Kasten who won’t have the money to pony up for a second Barry Zito.
Let’s be honest: You know how much Magic Johnson’s last real NBA salary was? $2.5 million. That’s not enough to pay for a utility infielder these days. He doesn’t have the reserves to pay for multiple superstars.
And the Dodgers will be bad. So who takes the fall? The face of the franchise: Magic Johnson.
He’ll take the brunt of fan outrage, he’ll take it from ownership, and he’ll get forced out. The worst part is, he’s not even getting paid for this; he’s paying to have this role!
Ask Peter Magowan and Bill Neukom how it goes when you make bad financial decisions (the former) or piss off the guys who really have the money (the latter).
For these new owners to really pay off financially as an investment, that happens only truly when they sell. Championships don’t make you money on their own. They get you fame. They up the seller’s price. But you don’t get that money until the team gets sold.
Mark my words: Magic (and Stan Kasten) won’t make it to that point. They’ll be lucky if they break even, but it won’t be worth the stress.
This is a bad deal for Magic. But for Giants fans, it’ll be worth the downfall.
By the way, there’s a disturbing Giants’ connection to the new Dodgers ownership. Peter Guber, minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, is part of the group. That’s the Warriors, who reportedly and looking at having the Giants be their new landlords in the near future.
Finally, at least there are some Dodger fans who haven’t let the rivalry rot as their team has. I got forwarded this picture by a couple of coworkers who root for the wrong team:
You’ve got to admire the feistyness of those guys, especially since most Dodger fans I know were barely toddlers the last time one of those rings were won. And that they apparently couldn’t find the current Giants logo to use. Or the actual Giants championship ring. Or even use all of the Dodgers’ championship rings (they’re missing 1988). I can’t give proper credit since I don’t know where this originated, but it’s amusing.
Yea, take a look at the standings after the season, you Bums.