Matt Potter 9:41 a.m., May 22
Late Tuesday evening, embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt sold the team and half control of the land surrounding Dodger Stadium to a group headed by former Los Angeles Lakers NBA superstar Magic Johnson. The controlling partner in the group is Mark Walter, chief executive of Guggenheim Partners. Other partners in the group are Todd Boehly, Peter Guber, Stan Kasten, and Bobby Patton. The deal is pending approvals in bankruptcy court and MLB ownership.
There were two other potential buyers for the team, including hedge-fund guru Steven Cohen and Los Angeles-based biotechnology CEO Patrick Soon-Shiong. The other suitor was Stan Kroenke, who also owns other sports teams - the St. Louis Rams of the NFL, the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL, the Denver Nuggets of the NBA, and Club Arsenal, a soccer team in England's Premier League. The initial auction was to take place on Wednesday, but the initial bid by Johnson's group was so far above the others, it precluded a bid being necessary by the other two groups. The Dodgers under McCourt are estimated to owe $1.1 billion to creditors, and the cash offer by the Johnson group will far more than satisfy that debt.
What does this mean for the San Diego Padres?
Padres ownership is currently in disarray. Jeff Moorad was obviously forced to step down as CEO and it is unknown if the ownership group will pursue plans to buy the remaining 51% of the team from John Moores. Moores has stated that he is not pursuing other potential buyers. And the media deal from Fox Sports San Diego still sits on the commissioner's desk awaiting MLB approval.
The price paid for the Dodgers so far exceeds any price paid previously for a baseball franchise (breaking the $845 million purchase of the Chicago Cubs in 2009 by the Ricketts family), it is unclear how that tilts the worth of a small market team like the Padres. When the media contract the Dodgers currently has with Fox expires, it is estimated that any new media contract with the Dodgers would be worth between $3 and $4 billion dollars on a long-term deal. The new long-term media deal on the table for the Padres from FSSD is estimated to have a value that could be around $1 billion.
Does this Dodgers sale price increase the value of the Padres? Probably. But not likely by as much as some might speculate. The Dodgers are in the second-largest media market in the U.S. The Padres are in one of the smallest. Unless the ownership of the Padres are filthy-rich and don't mind losing money in order to own a professional sports team, the owners will be investors.
The Johnson group made an investment. While it would seem that it might take forever to get a return on a $2 billion dollar investment, the group has carefully considered that, that much money always does. With the Padres, any investment group would also consider that, and their offer for the team would reflect that consideration. In other words, the true worth of a team is not something one should take seriously reading a list in Forbes magazine or speculated on elsewhere by media, it is set by how much money an investor is willing to spend to purchase the team.
Recently, Forbes valued the Dodgers at $1.4 billion. Obviously, they were wrong. The Dodgers are worth $2 billion dollars.
One thing is for certain, the Dodgers are going to become much more competitive in a hurry. They will now have money to sign big-name free agents and revamp their farm system. With this amount of money available, the Dodgers can become the New York Yankees of the West. It is going to make it much more difficult for teams like the Padres to compete for the division title. Not impossible, but more difficult.
At this point, the Padres path seems clear. Continue to draft well and to sign all draft picks. Keep your prospects, don't trade them away, work them slowly up in the system. Plug any holes on the big club with free agents until the prospects are ready to fill those holes. And once your prospects arrive in the big leagues, do everything possible to lock them up and sign them long-term.
Maybe the Dodgers can suddenly afford to sign the Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder type free agents now. And maybe a small market team like the Padres can't even afford to retain the services of Adrian Gonzalez or Jake Peavy or Heath Bell. But when prospects like Jedd Gyorko and Casey Kelly and Rymer Liriano and Yasmani Grandal make it up to The Show, those are the guys you lock up. You just have to keep those guys away from the Dodgers now, because from this point on it appears as though the Dodgers are suddenly poised to turn into the division powerhouse.
The Padres split squads again on Tuesday. Most of what will be the 25-man roster stayed in Peoria and the Padres plated 2 runs in the bottom of the 9th inning to beat the Dodgers, 6-5. Casey Kelly got the start and pitched 5 2/3 innings, scattering 9 hits and giving up only 2 runs while striking out five. Micah Owings had a forgettable inning and a third, giving up 3 runs on 4 hits. Dale Thayer and Joe Thatcher then pitched a scoreless inning each.
Short stop prospect Beemer Weems began the bottom of the 9th inning with a lead-off single, and one out later center field prospect Dan Robertson was hit by a pitch. Minor league catcher Brad Davis then doubled off of the wall in right-center field. Weems scored, and there was a play at the plate on Robertson who bowled over the opposing catcher and scored the winning run.
Cameron Maybin went 1 for 4 with an RBI and a stolen base, and Yonder Alonso was 2 for 2 with a double and a walk. Chase Headley, Jason Bartlett, and Micah Owings each contributed with a hit.
Meanwhile in Surprise Arizona, the other squad played in a wild slug-fest against the Texas Rangers, eventually losing in the bottom of the 9th inning on a wild pitch from closer Alex Hinshaw. Cory Luebke got the start and went 4 1/3 innings, it was not a great outing. Luebke gave up 5 runs on 8 hits (2 home runs) and a walk while striking out six.
Closer prospect Kevin Quackenbush did not appear to have his best stuff either (3 runs on a hit and 3 walks), leaving in the 6th inning after loading the bases with one out. Brad Brach then came in and issued a hit and a walk before finally getting out of the inning. Huston Street got in a scoreless inning of work before Hinshaw pitched the 8th and got one out in the 9th before the Rangers won on his wild curveball.
Home runs were the order of the day for the Padres. Jeremy Hermida hit a pair while Jedd Gyorko, Andy Parrino, and Yasmani Grandal each hit it out. Gyorko was 3 for 4 with a stolen base, Hermida, Grandal, and Jesus Guzman were each 2 for 2. Back-up catcher John Baker got a double to round out the Padres offense.
On the injury front, second baseman Orlando Hudson (groin strain) is scheduled to start again on Thursday. Outfielder Kyle Blanks (back) is better but not ready. Pitcher Jeff Suppan was set to test his tricep strain, no word on how that went. Reliever Luke Gregerson has been bothered by back spasms, and is day-to-day.
Wednesday, the padres travel to Glendale to face the Chicago White Sox. Scheduled starting pitcher is Edinson Volquez. Game time is at 1:05 PM and can be heard on radio 1700 AM.