Mark Cuban for Dodgers Owner

This article originally appeared on June 23rd. With news that McCourt is going to sell the team, and Cuban’s statements that he’d be interested if the price was right, we felt like it was worth reading again.

TMZ recently asked Mark Cuban if he’d be interested in buying the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“If the deal’s right and they’re fixable, then, yeah, I’m very interested,” he said.

Seriously, Cubes?

When you took control of the Dallas Mavericks in January 2000, the team was on its way to a 10th straight losing season. Some of your starters and key rotation players included Cedric Ceballos, Erick Strickland, and Shawn Bradley — in baseball terms, Late-Career Garret Anderson, Matt Treanor, and Esix Snead.

And that was the best Mavs team in a decade.

So don’t talk to me about fixable. Not when Koufax Jr.’s taking the mound every five days, and the center fielder’s a pending 40/40 machine who has flings with Rihanna, because why the hell not.

Of course by “fixable,” the newly-crowned NBA champion owner means fixing the seemingly irreparable damage that Frank and Jamie McCourt are doing to one of baseball’s most storied franchises.

If you haven’t yet read Larry Behrendt’s scathing takedown of the McCourts at itsaboutthemoney.net (with a big assist from Josh Fisher), please do so now. Here’s a small snippet that should make you vomit in terror, even if you’re not a Dodgers fan and/or hold a silly, 30-year grudge against them:

How did the Dodgers manage to fund the McCourt lifestyle? Let’s start with salaries: Jamie McCourt received up to $2 million annually for her services as Dodgers’ CEO. Frank McCourt received up to $5 million annually from one or more businesses affiliated with the Dodgers. The Dodgers also paid up to $600,000 in annual salary to two of the McCourt children, one of whom was attending Stanford University and the other of whom had a full-time job at Goldman Sachs.

But $7.6 million a year was not nearly enough money to meet the needs (estimated at over $2 million a month) of the McCourt family. The McCourts spent money at a rate that turned heads, even in Los Angeles. Best known is the McCourt appetite for real estate. After buying the team, the McCourts proceeded to buy four homes in Los Angeles – two in Malibu, two near the Playboy Mansion – at a combined cost of around $89 million. This figure includes the estimated cost of McCourt “improvements” to these homes, including a roughly $14 million bill for tearing out tennis courts at one property and replacing them with a swimming pool. Then there were the other expenses: the vacation properties, the private jet, the private drivers, the hairdresser who worked exclusively for the McCourts five days a week … the list goes on and on. Here’s an expense that’s one of my personal favorites: over one 18-month period, Jamie McCourt paid over $100,000 to various florists, and charged the Dodgers for the expense.

If the McCourts had simply looted the team, that would be bad enough. The bigger problem is that (as Behrendt’s article explains in great detail) the Dodgers no longer control many of the most basic pillars of a baseball club, such as the ability to sell its own tickets. By carving up the team (and related investments) into 20 different companies, Frank McCourt was able to buy the Dodgers with little to no money out of his own pocket, then chop up all his debt into what he figured would be manageable bites that wouldn’t need paying off for years. Now leveraged to the hilt, he’s barely making payroll, and the situation’s only going to get worse the longer Major League Baseball takes to wrestle the team away.

Eventually, MLB seems likely to succeed, just as it did when it presided over the Texas Rangers’ bankruptcy and the Montreal Expos becoming wards of the state. There may be multiple lawsuits, and the eventual purchase price for a new owner will surely be lower than if a less conniving owner were running the team for the past seven years. But you have to figure Bud Selig and the Lords of the Realm won’t consider their work done until a new Dodgers owner can be assured of his ability to run the team without being handcuffed by McCourt’s shell corporations. We can’t say exactly how right now, but given MLB’s history of legal triumphs and the league’s many friends in high places, that seems the most likely scenario.

If the Dodgers are indeed fixable, Cuban’s track record bodes well for his ability to make them into a powerhouse again, both on and off the field. Counting the 20 years leading up to his purchase of the Mavs from Ross Perot and his partners, Dallas had won just 40% of its games. When Cuban took over, the team already had its future franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki, on the roster. He spent liberally to build from there.

Some of the moves he made were subtle. The Mavericks’ locker room consistently ranked among the most luxurious in the game, but so too did the visiting locker room. Cuban knew he’d need to attract free agents to come to Dallas; beyond simple salary considerations, fancy locker rooms and shiny arena amenities can go a long way toward convincing players that you run a first-class organization.

Cuban also threw a ton of money at those free agents. He (and the team’s player-evaluation staff) didn’t always make the right choices — just ask Steve Nash, who skipped town and won two MVPs in Phoenix after the Mavs refused to ante up. But the effort was always there. If Nash could have combined the talented teammates he had in Phoenix with Cuban’s free-spending ways (as opposed to Suns Owner Robert Sarver’s maniacal and destructive refusal to pay a penny in luxury tax), the Canadian star might have won multiple titles before his buddy Dirk ever won one.

Most encouraging is Cuban’s reverence for analytics, and his strong desire to hire coaches and instructors who think along the same lines. He tapped Indiana University prof Wayne Winston to develop proprietary metrics that beat the work that existed in the public domain, or in most other organizations. He wooed Roland Beech away from his excellent website 82games.com, then teamed him with Mavs coaches to develop better in-game strategies. The Mavs were so successful in building an optimal roster that they knocked off the superstar-laden Miami Heat, using the greatest crunch-time lineup on the planet — “Win Time”, as Cuban calls it. Whatever little edge could be found, Cuban wanted it, went after it, and spent money to get it.

We don’t yet know what kind of manager Don Mattingly will grow up to be. But if Cuban were to take over the Dodgers, it’s a good bet Mattingly would have to learn to embrace cutting-edge in-game strategies (likely less effective in baseball than basketball, but certainly still useful) or give way to a next-generation Earl Weaver. Cuban would likewise target the most progressive general manager, the most forward-thinking baseball ops staff, and the most open-minded scouts, crosscheckers, and coaches.

You know what you get when you combine aggressive spending with an organizational culture that would foster innovation and constantly look for competitive advantages? The Boston Red Sox. That’s the upside here for Dodgers fans.

You might find Mark Cuban to be uncouth, an ego guy who sometimes overshadows the accomplishments of his own team and makes himself the story. He might be that guy again if he bought the Dodgers. Or maybe he’d tone it down, the way he did when he kept his mouth shut during this year’s playoffs and let his team’s play do the talking. If you’re a Dodgers fan, all of that shouldn’t matter much. You’ve still got Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, you still play in the second-biggest market in the country, you’ve still got decades of history behind you, and millions of people begging to support the team. You’ve also got an owner who’s engendered more bitter feelings among Dodgers fans since the team ditched Brooklyn for the West Coast.

Things are going to get better for the Dodgers no matter who replaces Frank McCourt. If the new guy turns out to be Mark Cuban, expect them to get a lot better.




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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.


68 Responses to “Mark Cuban for Dodgers Owner”

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  1. The Maverick team that Cuban purchased also had a Hall of Fame coach in Don Nelson, along with a young Dirk Nowitzki, Michael Finley, and Steve Nash on the roster.

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  2. Anthony says:

    Haha, I stopped reading once you compared my beloved G.A. to the Garbage Man Cedric Ceballos!

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  3. Jason says:

    I’d instantly become a LA fan. <3 Mark Cuban.

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  4. D4P says:

    “the center fielder’s a pending 40/40 machine who has flings with Rihanna”

    Matt Kemp is not a centerfielder.

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    • somedude says:

      You mean besides him playing 527 of 679 games in CF?

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      • D4P says:

        I mean he’s one of the worst defensive outfielders in the league, and is clearly being put in a position that he’s incapable of playing.

        On a related note regarding the type of manager Don Mattingly will grow up to be, it’s not particularly encouraging that he puts Kemp in center and Gwynn in left.

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    • LexDiamonds says:

      “Matt Kemp is not a centerfielder.”

      This is the worst kind of commenter I see on FanGraphs.

      Metrics may not be kind to Matt Kemp’s centerfield…ness, or whatever, but fact of the matter is, he plays centerfield.

      Remember how tiresome it was up until Adam Dunn went to an AL team, when folks like yourself would say, “He’s not a first baseman/left fielder, he’s a DH.” Well, no he isn’t. In a perfect world full of sabermetric-minded people and their sexy, sexy robot wives he would be, but he’s just not, and based on his caliber of stardom, probably won’t be for some time.

      The sooner you can accept that– the fact that he’s a BAD centerfielder– the sooner you’ll be much less annoying.

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  5. Pjmcnally says:

    I think the more interesting question is would the other owners and the commissioner actually let Cuban buy the team. Baseball owners as a group seem averse to change, averse to new blood, and averse to much of what Mark Cuban is and stands for.

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    • Jonah Keri says:

      Absolutely — certainly a topic for another post.

      I do think it’s conceivable that MLB might have seen what happens when someone puts $0 of his own money into a team (while promising to be a good soldier). Perhaps a more controversial (but potentially better capitalized) owner could become more palatable here.

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    • joser says:

      Back when some were looking to Cuban as a white knight for the Mets, he said (3:25)

      I’ve been through this before, but call me crazy: When I write an $800 million check, I want somebody to kiss my ass. I don’t want to have to beg and grovel to write that check.

      Since the owners and commissioner pretty much require ass-kissing as part of the process of joining their little clique, I don’t see that happening. They may be averse to everything Mark Cuban, but he’s averse to everything about them, too.

      Of course, considering that this is the group of owners who not only allowed McCourt to join, but helped finance his acquisition (and did the same for Loria), they seem averse to sanity itself. I’m not sure Cuban would even want to associate himself with that kind of company, let alone submit himself to their scrutiny, but given their bizarro-world sensibilities, he might consider it something of an honor to be rejected.

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  6. Well said, Jonah.

    On behalf of Larry, thanks for the link and the kind words about a truly awesome article.

    Guessing the McCourts left the extra 2% for the team, taking 98% for themselves.

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    • JCA says:

      I’m not a bankruptcy guy, but isn’t what the Dodgers need is someone who is willing to get most of these conveyances of assets to side entities set aside for fraud? Or can this sort of asset stripping down to a shell entity be impossible for even a court in equity to disrupt?

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      • Phillie697 says:

        Yes the court can, except two problems: 1) the Dodgers haven’t declared bankruptcy yet; and 2) the other “entities” aren’t worth jack either, from the Dodgers perspective (they are all heavily leveraged), so it wouldn’t do the team any good to go after those in a bankruptcy proceeding.

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      • joser says:

        Yeah, this sounds absolutely crucial. If this can’t be done, then the Dodgers have no assets and no source of income, just debt and obligations. Pillaged, stripped, and eviscerated as they are, they have no chance of purchase by Cuban or anyone else. They’re dead as a going concern, a zombie ballclub shambling through a lat apocalyptic season in a sad, decaying imitation of life.

        I mean, even someone with infinite assets isn’t going to both retire all that debt and pay McCourt to re-acquire the now-separate pieces of the Dodgers (stadium, tickets, parking) that are essential to its on-going survival as a business. If MLB (or the Dodgers’ other lenders) can’t get those pieces returned, the Dodgers are finished as a business, leaving the Angels as LA’s one and only MLB team.

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      • Phillie697 says:

        Nah eventually it will all get worked out. Stadiums and parking lots and all those concrete things don’t disappear because they are heavily leveraged. The problem is no one will touch them if they come with debts attached to them. At some point this will all get sort out, either the debtors agree to a deal to take pennies on the dollar since the alternative is get nothing, or bankruptcy proceedings on ALL the entities come to a conclusion. Or someone with a boatload of disposable asset comes along and pays CASH for everything, which is probably unlikely either.

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  7. Mike says:

    From his foreword to your book, you know Cuban would ante up and provide all those amenities and more if he were to take control of the team. His name has been tossed around for years with the Cubs and Mets, but I think there’s only so many times the MLB Owners say no before he just buys a hockey or football team and makes the owners look silly.

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  8. filihok says:

    “Mark Cuban for Dodgers Owner”

    Yes please

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  9. Chris says:

    As a Dodger fan, I would be thrilled to have Cuban as our owner. Too bad Bud will never let it happen…..

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  10. Sean says:

    As a fan of another National League team, the thought of Mark Cuban owning a team terrifies me.

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  11. Ryan says:

    @Jonah

    Have you ever called him Cubes before?

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  12. It’s like Selig thinks Cuban is the American Mikhail Prokhorov. Certainly, the guy occasionally comes across like a jackass on the sidelines — something he didn’t do during the playoffs by the way — but at least he’s clean. He’s also exactly what baseball and the Dodgers need. Over the last year, Selig has watched three different ownership groups run their respective franchises into the ground. If I were in his shoes, I’d be dying to get an owner with the business acumen of Cuban involved in my game.

    Also, if Cuban thinks the Dodgers are a good deal, he’s going to get involved. At some point, he is going to force the issue with Selig.

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    • jorgath says:

      And even when he does come across as a jackass, he comes across as my kind of jackass. See his latest court filing in response to Perot, Jr. on the Mavericks ownership thing. http://tinyurl.com/6aaldar

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      • boogie down says:

        Yeah, that is awesome. While he does come across as an ass, it’s almost always in support of his team, something I believe any team’s fans would stand behind.

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  13. Ryan Frontz says:

    As said in Keri’s forward of 2%, Cuban understands what it takes to win. He takes it personal. For a game where the publics eye has strayed, Cuban’s enthusiasm and vigor for winning would be a much needed boost to not only the down grossing Dodger organization but MLB as well.

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  14. Bill says:

    “You know what you get when you combine aggressive spending with an organizational culture that would foster innovation and constantly look for competitive advantages? The Boston Red Sox. That’s the upside here for Dodgers fans. ”

    Watch out Jonah, you’re gonna upset the natives. “Oh yeah, every baseball fan can only pray that their organization can become as good as the precious Red Sox! Did you type this sentence from your knees?!”

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  15. My echo and bunnymen (Dodgers Fan) says:

    Please!!!!!!!!

    For the love of god!

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  16. CS Yankee says:

    Might make better sense for him to buy the Pirates or Royals instead…as a businessman they have the best model whereas they have talent but milk the system (revenue sharing, etc).

    Pirates are his hometown team and the Royals are closest to where he has made his money…if he took over either of those teams he could have them in the playoffs within a year versus having a team of lawyers and accountants fight over the details.

    I feel the Dodgers could spend the next 2-3 years under MLB control until the mess is resolved and the league can get a decent return. Plus, the new Fox deal can be reaped by the owners in 2013 or parcelled out to the new owners just prior and driving up the fee.

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    • matt w says:

      Problem: The Pirates (and the Royals I think) aren’t for sale. In fact, since their owners have decided to let their GMs try to win by developing young talent and living within their means, they aren’t even in violation of the MLB debt-equity limits, unlike 9 of the 28 other teams.

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    • Bill says:

      For an owner with Cuban’s ego, I would think that LA would be much more appealing. Plus, if run well, the Dodgers could become the Yankees of the west. He could spend boatloads of money on the team and still make a larger profit than he ever would in Pittsburgh or KC. Chicago would be more appealing to him for the same reason.

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  17. Not a Socialist says:

    The Dodgers are valued at almost a billion dollars and you, Mr. Keri, see major problems with the company paying its “board” what looks to be around $10 million a year?

    You know what that amount of “pilfering” really is, comparative to other large companies? Chump change

    http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/news/1104/gallery.top_ceo_pay/index.html

    This is a witch hunt by sports reporters who fail to realize that the Dodgers are a profit generating company first and foremost, and a sports team also. The fact that the Dodgers are in financial trouble should be attributed to poor investments by the McCourts, but that just means that MLB welcomed financially unstable owners into its fraternity, not that the McCourt’s did anything particularly wrong.

    If I invest 500 million for a company? Yeah, I’m going to get paid. Damn sure I am.

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    • That has got to be the first time someone has rationalized a crook as a dunce. I guess one has jail time associated with it and the other doesn’t. The Dodgers may have had a ‘billion’ dollar valuation based mainly on brand value, but currently, as an income or cashflow generator, it doesn’t. Currently, as a statement of ‘futures’ value, stub hub is selling tickets for coming games that book at ~$70.00 for $2.50.

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    • Drew McCourt says:

      Dad can you get off the computer and send Stanford my next tuition check?!

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    • Bill says:

      The Dodger’s may be a “profit generating business”, but they are bunch of guys in pajamas without MLB. The parking lots and stadiums will be vacant most of the time without MLB. And, MLB has a right, and a duty to protect the league. McCourt has essentially borrowed money against the Dodger brand name and used that borrowed money to finance his lifestyle. By law he may be able to do this, but the league considers the Dodger brand as a subset of the MLB brand. McCourt’s actions have seriously devalued his brand which, in turn, has devalued the MLB brand.

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      • I see the situation as you do. As a Giants fan, I still recognize the innate institutional requirement a healthy Dodger franchise represents. The never ending PR disaster that McCourt represents for MLB in general is a brewing disaster. Owners like Wolfe, McCourt, and Wilpon need to be purged from MLB, if for no other reason than to erase the impression that the ownership ranks are made up of either blood sucking ticks or morons.

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    • ValueArb says:

      This is a pretty interesting perspective. If you believe in capitalism (not being a socialist) than you agree that capitalists should have the right to operate their possessions as they feel best for their interests, including paying themselves as much as they like and the company can afford.

      But then you ignore the fact that the capitalists who form the MLB also have the right to ensure that their possession, the league, is operated in the manner that they feel is best for their interests, which includes requiring owners to stick to debt limits, pay revenue sharing, luxury tax, follow league rules on hiring/firing, etc.

      When you pay yourself so much the member team you own can’t afford to make payroll, yes, there is a problem with how much you are paying the “board” *.

      I mean Frank would probably be welcome to run the Dodgers in any way he sees fit if he leaves the association of Major League Baseball teams known as the MLB. He can schedule the Dodgers for games vs. independent league teams while the MLB sells another franchise in LA that plays in a new stadium.

      But obviously Frank doesn’t want to do that. He wants to strip his franchise of all it’s ready cash, while forcing the league to allow him to pocket as much of the future TV revenues as possible, and then flip the worthless shell of what’s left of the Dodgers back to the league.

      *(Frank and Jamie were owners and executives, I’m sure the Dodgers has a board of directors as well and that Jamie and Frank were on it, but referring to them as the “board” is improper and imprecise).

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  18. Not a Socialist says:

    I will also add that Mark Cuban is only as good as where his money is invested too.

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  19. EDogg1438 says:

    As a SoCal native, I’d be thrilled to have Cuban buy the Dodgers. Next to Dr. Jerry Buss, I think he’s the best owner in sports. He’s a guy that cares about winning and will do anything possible to win. Can’t ask any better from your owner.

    I think his embrace of advanced analytics will actually help him MORE in baseball than basketball, because baseball is more individual and therefore can be quantified easier.

    Here’s to hoping that Cuban buys the Dodgers and pays Friedman whatever it will take to lure him from Tampa. That would be a scary sight for the rest of the league.

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  20. Antonio Bananas says:

    Cuban wants to win, and tries to win. He’d be an amazing owner of any team. I wish he’d buy just one MLB team. Preferably a team that hasn’t been good in forever like the Royals, Pirates, or Orioles. The Royals seem to be turning it around, the Os seem to actually be trying, the Pirates are good (.500ish) but I doubt it’ll last. their ownership has seemed content on running low operating cost and leaching off MLB.

    Cuban and the Dodgers would be potentially dangerous for the rest of the NL. A huge market and an owner willing to spend.

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  21. MudvilleNine says:

    MLB could do a lot worse than Cuban. He even wrote the foreword for this awesome book I read a couple months ago: http://www.amazon.ca/Extra-2-Street-Strategies-Baseball/dp/0345517652

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  22. Ivdown says:

    Holy shit, the McCourts are the Bluths!

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  23. cs3 says:

    So why cant a new owner just find a way to finance a NEW stadium and build his own parking lots? Let McCourt keep that steaming pile of shit in Chavez Ravine. Nobody can get to it anyway in that lousy location.

    Then the only thing that would need to be resolved is the ticket sales issue.

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    • Ivdown says:

      God you’re an idiot. Dodger Stadium, despite being as old as it is, is still a great stadium. What will be the point of a new satdium? To spend pointless amounts of money to get a generic new stadium much like a lot of the new ones when the old one is historic and great anyway? No thanks.

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      • David says:

        Dodger Stadium is a great ballpark, but it’s costing the Dodgers an arm and a leg to stay there. At this point, you can either build a new ballpark and focus on winning, or you can be stagnate in the standings but have a “historic” stadium. I think the money is in the winning part myself.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m looking for the source, but I believe MLB can take control over all the assets that were apart of the original sale. It will be decided by lawyers, but as Jonah mentioned, MLB has friends in high places; they will likely win.

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    • Liem says:

      Where in Los Angeles do you suggest the new Dodgers’ owner buy and build a new stadium (presumably with their own money)?

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  24. mike savino says:

    my god…as a fan of the Padres I say please please please no not ever do not let Mark Cuban buy the Dodgers…please no. We wouldn’t win a division title in the next 20 years.

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    • You won’t anyway, look at your own ownerships installment/credit card purchase of the team. Not a perscription for success, unless your in KC. There success is defined as having a ballgame to go to, winning is a pipe dream.

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  25. Ivdown says:

    this is a great day! McCourt is actually accepting ‘defeat’ and getting the team sold. He’ll get tons of money out of it, but hey, it’s a win for Dodger fans.

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  26. Ben says:

    Damn for a minute i thought Jonah was back to writing for FG……

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  27. joebananas says:

    would it be possible to work some kind of ownership sign (buy) and trade with the giants? say yes. please oh please oh please say yes.

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  28. Tommy Lasordas Pasta says:

    Ding dong the witch is dead! Dodger fans rejoice! Best day since Gibby’s HR!

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  29. Matty Brown says:

    can’t beat that Gold Glove outfield of Kemp and Ethier.

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