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News Corpus Mentis
2003-10-16 06:39
by Jon Weisman

Ro'ee Levy wrote a letter relating to the impending ownership change. I'm going to intersperse my response within his letter. Ro'ee's words are in italics; mine aren't:

I wanted to write and ask about the new owner.

As far as I can tell, everyone agrees that News Corp. was terrible, but I don't understand why. As far as I can tell there have been two explanations so far:

1) Large media companies shouldnÕt own baseball teams. I know this can be bad for baseball (mostly related to selling of TV rights) but is this really specifically bad for the Dodgers?

I don't think anyone's saying that by definition, a large media company can't operate the Dodgers to general satisfaction. However, it would take a very unique company to do so.

There is a reasonable assumption that any media company decision regarding its baseball team will serve the needs of the media company first and the baseball team second. Sometimes the two have the same needs, but when there's a conflict, the media company's needs will win out. This potentially affects everything from the type of ballplayer that you sign, to the atmosphere of the ballpark.

2) The whole Kevin Malone environment - overpay every semi-star and sign him to a long-term contract. We all agree Kevin Malone was horrible, but I think he should get the blame for his failure (and that's why he's been replaced), not the owners. Sure, the owners set the high payroll but that was one of the advantages of Murdoch, it gave us more options Š the fact is that the Dodgers wasted it.

The fundamental reason for everyone's hostility toward News Corp. ownership was its decision - before Malone was hired - to trade Mike Piazza to Florida. The ill will this created in Los Angeles can hardly be overemphasized.

Following that, Kevin Malone certainly earned plenty of blame for his tenure. However, I think that just as Malone bears responsibility for the performance of the players he acquired, News Corp. bears responsibility for the general manager that it hired and how long it let him run amok.

Scary that Malone might still be general manager if it weren't for T.J. Simers making a big deal out of the skirmish between Malone and the fan in San Diego.

In addition to the high payroll, ticket prices weren't expensive.

I don't have the data that would compare Dodger ticket prices to those of other baseball teams, or to other events in Los Angeles, but I think it's safe to say that there are many people in Southern California who would flat-out disagree with your statement.

Anyway, I'm not very involved in local L.A. news, and I didn't follow the Dodgers closely a few years ago, so there's probably something I'm missing. My question is: What? Why does everyone hate the current owner?

Summing up, News Corp. traded Mike Piazza and failed to generate a playoff team.

Since I don't have much against Fox/Murdoch, I must say I'm not thrilled with the selling of the team.

Well, as you may know, I do worry about the unknown with the new owner. The elimination of one poor regime does not guarantee that its replacement is worth celebrating.

I don't have anything against Frank McCourt either (don't know a thing about him), I just don't want Evans and/or Tracy fired. As I see it Tracy is a very good manager. Hey, even mainstream baseball writers (in the manager of the year voting) and Baseball Primer writers agreed on that. I also agree with you that the organization seems to be heading in the right direction, and I don't want the whole process stopped.

I don't know that there's widespread agreement about how good a manager Tracy is, but certainly I believe that both he and Evans deserve at least another season. However, I would entertain a Billy Beane discussion.

Furthermore, I read that there have been concerns in the past about McCourt's financial backing. Now that might mean lowering the payroll.

A valid concern at this point.

An advantage cited to McCourt it that he says heÕll be an "hands-on" owner. In my opinion as long as the owner sets a reasonable payroll and has a good GM, being "hands-on" isnÕt that important.

If anything, a hands-on owner scares me much, much more than it excites me.

Basically, Ro'ee, I share your skepticism toward the mainstream analysis of the ownership change. While News Corp. torched its relationship with the city with its trade of Piazza, there's no guarantee whatsoever that McCourt will be an improvement. But as they say, there is upside potential with McCourt.

I think we all need to be patient and see what develops before passing judgment on McCourt. However, it's never too soon for people to advocate what they think the new management should do. I welcome any discussion on this point.

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