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Steinberg: Happy days are here again

April 01, 2012|By Leigh Steinberg

Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead!

The (putative) King is Dead!

The SoCal Baseball Empire Strikes Back!

Notwithstanding what metaphor you are able to mangle, a better day is coming for Los Angeles Dodgers fans. The sad, twisted reign of Frank McCourt holding the Dodgers hostage is coming to an end.

New "magical" ownership has made a deal to purchase the team. McCourt never had enough real wealth or financing to buy the team in the first place. He heavily leveraged everything he owned to barely meet the purchase price.

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There were no resources left to pay competitively for players or enhance the roster. He used the team like a piggy bank to pay for a lavish lifestyle. This resulted in one of the premiere franchises in all professional sports becoming dysfunctional on and off the field. And Dodger fans suffered for it.

Fans were so angry at McCourt that they stayed away from Dodger Stadium in droves last year, in-park attendance was at an all time low. The beating and near-death of a Giant fan in the parking lot destroyed the illusion of the ballpark as a family friendly environment. Flooding the parking lots with dozens of mounted police was not a comforting image for a night of fun.

There were multiple bidders to purchase the Dodgers. Owning a venerated franchise in the nation's second largest media market, with 15 million people within 90 minutes of the stadium, is a license to mint money. The gross revenues of baseball have quintupled since the disastrous 1994 strike season.

Major League Baseball is rolling in revenue from fantasy leagues, marketing, signage and media. The next television contract with Fox will be so impressive that it will send all franchise values soaring.

What was critical in the process was to have a new ownership group with enough understanding of the Southern California market to rebuild the popularity of the team.

When the Dodgers came to Southern California in 1958, the O'Malleys marketed the region like it was a small Midwestern town. Their community outreach meant that Kiwanis night was followed by straight A student night and Little League night.

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