In March, 2012, a company called the Guggenheim Partners – together with former Lakers’ great Magic Johnson and other power players – purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers for $2.5 billion in cash. This was a moderately frugal purchase for a corporation that owns over $170 billion in assets, but it was finally a sign of hope after a decade of disappointment for Los Angeles’ longest tenured professional sports franchise.
Magic Johnson and the Guggenheim Partners did not pay that much money for the Dodgers to lose. They want to win, now.
After failing to make the playoffs last season, this year’s team is the embodiment of “A Whole New Blue.” The motto is on t-shirts, billboards, and every corner of the newly renovated Dodger Stadium – a stadium into which the Guggenheim Partners invested $100 million during the offseason. The Dodgers have a restored home and an ownership group that is completely dedicated to winning – both emotionally and monetarily.
Once the new ownership group had completed their takeover last year, they made a nine player trade with the Boston Red Sox, which is the largest trade in Dodgers history. The Red Sox sent the enormous contracts and big names of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, along with utility man Nick Punto to the Dodgers to shed salary. The Dodgers absorbed $260 million worth of salaries through 2018 in this trade.
Magic and the Partners then took on the $35 million remaining on Miami Marlins’ all-star third baseman Hanley Ramirez’ contract later in the season. They also acquired 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke from free agency for six years, $158 million, and Korean pitching ace Ryu Hyun-Jin for $36 million over six years during this offseason.
The Dodgers have added more than $600 million in salaries since Guggenheim Partners bought the team last spring. If they do indeed have a spending limit, we’ve yet to see it.
The caliber of players that the Dodgers have acquired enhances the excitement and optimism of a fan base that hasn’t seen a World Series victory since 1988, but it also brings astronomical expectations.
The 2013 season started on Monday as every Dodger season has since 1950, with Vin Scully saying, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.”
The only tradition longer than the presence of Vin Scully – who has announced games for the Dodgers since 1950 when they were still in Brooklyn – is the rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants. Dating back to when both teams were in New York, the oldest rivalry in baseball between the Dodgers and Giants has been played every year since 1883.
While the Giants lead the overall series between the two California teams, the Dodgers are on a one-game winning streak after 2013 Opening Day.
After pitching eight scoreless innings, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw took the lead for the Dodgers himself. Kershaw hit his first home run ever on his 264th career plate appearance, becoming the first Dodger pitcher to homer on Opening Day since Don Drysdale in 1965.
The Dodgers increased their lead later in the eighth inning and Kershaw completed his game, ultimately defeating the Giants 4-0.
This win over San Francisco is an inspiring start to this era of “A Whole New Blue.” Even though there are innumerable questions concerning this season, the Dodger name means something again.
It’s time for Dodger baseball and with this ownership group and the team that they have assembled, Dodger baseball is in good hands.
[This column also appeared in the April 4 edition of the PCC Courier.]