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Be happy Dodgers fans, but Magic Johnson is no panacea

Mar 28, 2012, 11:04 AM EDT

"The Mountaintop" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals & Curtain Call Getty Images

I understand that enthusiasm about Magic Johnson’s ownership group buying the Dodgers. Frank McCourt is leaving. Magic is awesome. L.A. loves him. The Dodgers are in the pits. He shall save them.  Woo-ha!

But I think it’s possible to blow this up a bit too much.

For one thing, Magic is not the controlling owner. That’s a man named Mark R. Walter and a company called Guggenheim Baseball Management. Magic is pretty rich himself and likely has a lot of his own money in the game, but let’s remember how quickly the nominal head of the Texas Rangers ownership group — Chuck Greenberg — was cast off after that team was sold.  No, I’m not saying the same thing will happen to Magic, but let’s not pretend that he is totally in control here. There are a lot of chefs, and if they don’t want to do what Magic Johnson wants to do, they’re gonna win.

For another thing, this is a huge amount of money being invested in the Dodgers. So much so that, no matter how optimistic the projections are regarding a TV deal and future revenues are, there are likely to be some financial restraints in play, aren’t there?  I mean, you can’t spend $2 billion on a team and then expect to have no limit on payroll, can you?  The current Yankees ownership group invested something like $10 million originally, they have higher revenues and even they have a budget.

I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer here. It’s great that Magic Johnson is buying the Dodgers.  He’s the perfect man to invigorate the fan base. And of course, it’s great that Frank McCourt is leaving.

But this is still a business. Thanks to McCourt, it’s still a franchise that has to do a lot to bring the people back to the stadium and fix the product on the field.  So hold off on the champagne and wait and watch what the new owners do before popping the corks.

  1. mybrunoblog - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    I hope Magic lives a long life but am the only one who wonders how the hell this guy has lived over 20 years with HIV and apparently now tests negative for the virus? Wtf?

    • Francisco (FC) - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      Well his nickname is ‘Magic’…

      • Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM

        You’re just not keeping up with the medical advances in play here. Most forms of HIV are now in about the same category as diabetes – life threatening, yes, but thanks to a pretty remarkable cocktail of medications, also like diabetes, more or less controllable.

        Cur68! The latest details from the lab, please….

      • cur68 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:50 AM

        See below, Gator. Whew. Takes a while to type all that out. I just hope the stress of dealing with that nitwit McCourt doesn’t set Johnson back any. As much as I want McCourt gone, I don’t want it at the expense of Magic.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        Gator – do you have any articles or anything that exposes the strong treatments of HIV? That’s incredible news.

    • El Bravo - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:27 AM

      See my comment below. I’m as WTF as you are…

    • cereal blogger - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM

      Rich people only die of old age

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:44 PM

        Says Patrick Swayze, Julia Thorne, Dana Reeve, Gilda Radner, and many more.

  2. drunkenhooliganism - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    Magic is a positive guy. His smile versus McCourt stupid face alone makes dodgers fans happy. Also, unless he hires Ed Wade, he can’t possibly be a worse owner than McCourt.

    A friend of mine from LA, just told me that since this deal was agreed to last night, Frank McCourt has already spent $250 Million.

    • aceshigh11 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      “Magic is a positive guy”

      Ermm…yes. Was that an intentional double entendre?

      • drunkenhooliganism - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:58 AM

        It wasn’t. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that.

        (I originally wrote, “can’t believe I didn’t catch that myself.” I’m full of unintentional double entendres today.)

      • aceshigh11 - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM


        But yes, I agree 100% with the original sentiment. Magic is a great guy with an incredibly positive outlook, and this can only be good news for long-suffering Dodgers fans.

  3. El Bravo - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    More of a Negative Nancy than a Debbie Downer, really.

    Also, everytime I see Magic, I think how is he still so healthy twenty years after contracting HIV? Can someone enlighten me? Is he considered cured or is his cocktail of meds just that effective? Can we say that HIV is no longer a guaranteed death sentence now? Seriously, I’d love more info on this since it is harldly talked about for some reason. The last time it was brought up was in “South Park”, which I think was somewhat based on fiction, but I could be wrong…

    • Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM

      Most forms of HIV – I read not long ago about a lethal strain of the virus that recently surfaced, I think, in Africa – are more or less controllable by medication and nutritional regimens. It’s by no means “curable” though, at least not yet. It’s more or less in the same situation as diabetes.

      But cur68 is lurking out there with the latest information from the wonderful world of Canadian medicine (as we wait for the Supreme Court to make the absurdist world of American medicine even more absurd than it already is).

      Meanwhile, I would strongly suggest that if you’re dating any apes, keep it platonic.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM

        Actually, there’s a book coming out about the origins of HIV. And while the apes of Africa that had something to do with it, it’s more what the white European did to Africa that brought the disease about. Forcing civilization upon tribal people and portions of their land created its own perfect storm that allowed some mix monkey breeding. Essentially, somebody got bit and and brought it back to Europe. Weird stuff. Washington Post, I think, has an excerpt from the book.

        Magic has great stamina, a positive outlook, and the money to buy whatever medicine he needs to not die from his disease. I remember when he first announced his condition, and its so great that he’s still around.

        Recently, a high school student in California discovered a cure for cancer, and so every disease is beatable.

    • cur68 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      This has every chance of turning into the HIV lecture that no one wants, but since you asked, I looked all this up a year ago when I was responsible for caring for an infant of an HIV mother. Goes something like this:

      Drugs have rendered HIV/AIDS into a manageable chronic disease condition. Very much so in the case of Johnson. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs were first introduced in 1996. They’ve changed it from being a death sentence into a chronic infection that can be controlled for decades. In fact, the pro’s at this stuff, in Denmark, have calculated that infected men in 1st world countries who get ARV drugs and appropriate health care now have a life expectancy of about 75 years, provided they start treatment when their immune systems are relatively strong. That’s a virtually normal life expectancy.

      As to why he, Johnson, tests negative now, its no mystery at all. Drug therapy prevents transmission of the virus by lowering the viral load in the body. As such, the catch phrase is “Treatment is prevention,” Which is pretty revolutionary as this comes from the CDC. It seems that, early on, studies showed that treating infected mothers with ARV drugs reduced transmission of the virus to their newborn children (lucky for my little patient). Now we find that the drugs can prevent adult-to-adult transit by an astounding >95%.

      Now, this is not to say that HIV cures are not under investigation. They most certainly are and that research requires funding. Because ARV drugs corral HIV and even gets virus levels get very low, there is still some HIV in the body. A cure would eradicate the virus altogether or, (and this is more likely) weaken the virus to such low levels that the immune system could deal with it. Also, a certain mutation in a bone marrow transplant shows a lot of promise. I think it was a leukemia patient who, after transplant, found that his HIV infection appeared to be cured due this mutation in the donor marrow. A neat trick, this genetic quirk is known to protect from infection by altering immune cells so they can resist the virus (the virus will normally use immune cells as little HIV factories). If the infected’s immune cells could be modified to mimic this genetic mutation then the infected gain the resistance that some people are born with.

      Anyhow, that’s the lay of the land, HIV wise as of a year ago-ish. Magic Johnson is real lucky he’s a rich man in a first world nation. Others are not as lucky and we lose millions every year because of that.

      • Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        Grazie, perfesser.

      • drunkenhooliganism - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:01 PM

        Thanks. I knew almost none of that.

      • El Bravo - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:12 PM

        Thank you for the lesson, good Cur. I actually did hear about that cancer patient who received the marrow transplant. Very cool possibilities there. It’s funny, I don’t follow the trajectory of treatments and possible cures for HIV/AIDS so much only b/c it doesn’t seem to influence my life all that much (i.e. I rock rubbers). I worry about it like I worry about a lot of things, but it doesn’t consume me at all. Alzeihmer’s, on the other hand, is in my family, and thus I pay a lot of attention to it and the treatments out there. I could school many on the possible treatments, breakthroughs, and other research that’s been done to date. This would inevitabley lead to me bitching about W totally screwing stem cell research by barring federal funding during his time in office, thus slowing down the path to a cure to Alziehmer’s and many, many other things. Which next would lead to me thinking about how he appointed two Justices that may be the deciding factor in striking down parts or all of Obama’s health care plan, putting us back to square negative one. You see, now I’ve digressed…

      • koufaxmitzvah - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:26 PM

        Bravo: Smoking more weed will help you forget forgetting things. Like this morning, I forgot that yesterday I forgot to bring my sunglasses from the car and into the house.

      • cur68 - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:29 PM

        Bravo: I do not need to know that you “rock rubbers”. Do we need to discuss personal boundaries here?

      • paperlions - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:06 PM

        Is that a new version of rock-paper-scissors? Does rubber beat rock, but lose to scissors?

      • cur68 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:18 PM

        Uh…I regret that it was not I who made this comment. I regret also, that the game is not viable. Scissors are ascendent over rock & rubber, no matter what. Simple game theory says the answer is ALWAYS scissors, for when rock is confronted with scissors…snip…now if we had a 4th option, one that could defeat scissors, but not rock or rubber, we’d have a game here. I’m not playing it, mind you, but from a purely abstract standpoint, in the interests of competition…perhaps “Titanium Piercing”?

  4. uyf1950 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:32 AM

    Craig, you hit the nail on the head about there will still be financial restraints. That’s an awful lot of debt to take on even for a wealth group of individuals. Magic will initially be the face of the Dodgers but he will not be the final decision maker. That’s just my opinion.

  5. nicosanchez02 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    The Dodgers if I recall, always have and lead in game attendance, that’s not the issue at all now that Magic is in the mix, fans stopped going because of the McCourts! Magic is a winner along with Stan Kasten!

    • Kevin S. - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:01 PM

      The fan strike last year dropped them out of the top ten. I don’t know if the fans will come back immediately, but I imagine that within a year or two they’ll fill the place up again.

  6. Old Gator - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    Right now, the jubilation is about being rid of the parasite who nearly destroyed the franchise. What’s being celebrated here is hope, which is fully understandable. And let’s face it, with the possible exception of Anaheim and Detroit, most owners – even the Steinbrenners – are looking to spend efficiently as opposed to insanely. And one supposes that the economic realities of the game, if they caught up with the Borg, will eventually catch up with Moreno and Ilitch as well.

  7. SmackSaw - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Stan Kasten will run the team. The TV deal will bring in more than the $150 million the Angels are getting. I find it difficult to believe the a consortium of multimillionaires will pay $2 billion for something and not have it be successful. These people are extremely competitive. I don’t think they are all sitting around a table this morning saying ‘What do we do now?’

  8. SmackSaw - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    $150 million annually the Angels are getting.

  9. dodger88 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    I think there will be reasonable budgetary constraints much like the Yankees and regardless of the actual ceiling, they will need to make good baseball decisions. Despite the high price, these guys are not buying the team to run it on a shoe string (paraphrasing Mike Sciocia’s Tragic Illness). They will want to win and compete and hopefully they will succeed. Some changes will happen right away while others will take some time (i.e. Coletti is probably safe for now).

    • SmackSaw - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:47 AM

      Dodger fans can start thinking about Cole Hamels.

  10. yankeesfanlen - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    When a brand with good reputation for years in the marketplace (Dodgers) is tarnished and there is viable competition (Angels) in the marketplace, it will take a long time and a lot of money to re-establish the following, and not just a popular but nonetheless figurehead.
    It’s going to take a few years of putting fannies in the seats and eyeballs on the tv (and some concession on prices) to do this, and then the suits come in, declare it done, and product quality will decline.
    Hope the management group has another billion.

    • SmackSaw - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:48 AM

      They do.

    • lanflfan - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      With McAsshat gone, the automatic 3+ million in annual attendance will return. I’m still concerned about him having a stake in the parking lots, but it looks like the boycott will end.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        I’d like to think there’s only a limited amount of screwing around that McCourt would want to consider with a simple parking lot.

        What can he do, replace concrete with paper mache? Make each parking space a circle that like, 95% of cars couldn’t fit into? Spray paint Giants logos all over?

        ….ah crap, I just gave him ideas.

  11. Mike Luna - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    I wouldn’t compare Magic Johnson to Chuck Greenberg. I’d compare him to the guy that sent Greenberg packing, Nolan Ryan.

    Ryan is an iconic sports figure in the DFW area and if the majority owners (see: guys with all the money) had to decide between he and some attorney from Pittsburgh, well…they clearly made the right choice.

    The big difference is that Magic isn’t a baseball guy, but he is a HOF sports icon. He knows business and he can sweet talk free agents. He’s very likable and knows how to deal with the media.

    The list of guys better than Magic for this position starts with Tommy Lasorda and probably isn’t much longer after that.

  12. uyf1950 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Allow me to my own MasterCard commercial below (c).

    There are something money can’t buy:

    Astros Baseball Team $615MM
    Red Sox Baseball Team $700MM
    Cubs Baseball Team $845MM
    Dodgers Baseball Team $2.15B
    NY Yankees – PRICELESS

  13. SmackSaw - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    These people manage 125 BILLION dollars. Don’t think they have to raise prices out of necessity

  14. sdelmonte - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Anyone know the state of the Dodgers’ once-amazing farm system? Because if McCourt didn’t wreck it, I think it won’t take long for the Dodgers to compete again.

  15. kiwicricket - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    More happy Magic pics, less sad dilapidated ,flustered Frank pics. Slight conundrum.

  16. cereal blogger - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    Ok, one terrible owner gone. Now what about Angelos ???

  17. drewsylvania - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    Next up: fire Coletti.

    • natstowngreg - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      Dodger fans shouldn’t assume that Kasten will fire the GM. He kept Jim Bowden in Washington until the scandal about the Nats’ Dominican baseball academy. But he made up for that by bringing in Mike Rizzo to rebuild the farm system, then be GM.

      Kasten has a record from the Braves and Nats of doing two things: building a farm system and getting a ballpark built. Not suggesting Dodger Stadium needs to be replaced, just saying it will be interesting to see what will be done to improve the 50-year old ballpark.

  18. kpow55 - Mar 28, 2012 at 5:45 PM

    As an Angels fan I LOVE this, please let Magic make all personnel and business decisions.

  19. jkaflagg - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Thanks for bringing up the obvious……despite Magic’s “ownership” share, the team is owned by a financial company…..and as Wall Street has proven time and again, they will look out for themselves and their money first and for most. So……if things are going well, maybe you’ll see Jay Bruce out in right field; or, if the financial numbers are not as strong, maybe you’ll see Will Venable. We’ll just have to wait and see…..

  20. ms72lbc - Mar 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    The price paid for the Dodgers is more than justified by the real estate that the group is getting. The Dodgers are a unique team in that they actually own the real estate that everything at the Chavez Ravine location sits on. McCourt got to retain a very minor interest in the parking lots, but when they tire of him they’ll just throw some more money at him and away he goes. Almost no teams own the real estate that their stadiums and other facilities sit on, so the deal is worth they money.
    These guys are pros and will run this like a business. I’m sure they didn’t make this kind of investment without a very solid business plan being in place.
    I agree that their new TV contract will be larger than that of the Angels, but they won’t throw it away like Arte did.

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