Joe Torre perfect fit, again, for Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- There is a new clubhouse favorite in the race for the next owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and it's a face the Dodgers' clubhouse is very familiar with.
On Wednesday, Joe Torre quit his job with Major League Baseball to pursue ownership of the Dodgers.
If there is indeed a higher power in Blue Heaven watching over the team, as former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda has famously said over the years, Torre will soon be back at Dodger Stadium.
Of all the inexact sciences in the business of sports prognostication, predicting who would make a great sports owner is perhaps the least exact. At least with players and coaches, you can look at statistics, records and past performances and make educated guesses.
Choosing the best person to own a sports team is more of a crapshoot. It's like a presidential race. All the candidates want to make sweeping changes, make big promises and say why they're totally different from the incumbent. At the end of the day it simply comes down to whom you trust the most. It's more of a gut feeling than anything else.
There are obviously other popular choices for the position. Former Dodgers players Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser are involved with one group trying to buy the team, while former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley and general manager Fred Claire headline two other groups. Lakers legend Magic Johnson and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban have expressed interest, as has former talk-show host Larry King.
Torre, however, is the best fit of them all, and it's not even close.
With all due respect to the past Dodgers greats, this isn't about rewinding the hands of time. It's about moving forward and looking toward the future. The 1980s were a great time for the Dodgers, but it's important to note the Dodgers haven't made it back to the World Series since 1988 -- and some of those individuals trying to buy the team now were a part of those down years.
And is there a team for sale or a business opportunity that Johnson and Cuban haven't been linked to over the past 10 years? As successful as they have been, the Dodgers need an owner focused solely on the Dodgers, not one trying to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles or win another NBA title in Dallas.
As for King, well, it would be nice to have an owner in place who didn't always wear a Brooklyn Dodgers hat and talk about how great Ebbets Field was.
No, if the Dodgers are looking for a new owner who would be the perfect mix of new and old while focusing on restoring the team to its former greatness, Torre is the choice.
There isn't a more respected and liked person in baseball than Torre. That's why MLB commissioner Bud Selig named him executive vice president for baseball operations in February, putting him in charge of on-the-field discipline and umpiring, among other duties.
Torre would bring all the characteristics -- integrity, honesty, accountability -- that have been missing from Dodgers ownership in recent years.
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Torre also picked the perfect running mate for his ticket in Rick Caruso, who is the president of Caruso Affiliated, a real estate development company responsible for The Grove, Americana at Brand and Commons at Calabasas. These successful retail and entertainment complexes in Southern California should give you an idea of what Caruso has in mind for all the undeveloped real estate surrounding Dodger Stadium, which sits on 275 acres of land that is largely used for parking.
Three years ago, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt outlined a $500 million project around the stadium that would include parking structures, a Dodgers museum and a plaza behind center field with year-round shops and restaurants. McCourt, like many things during his tenure as owner, couldn't pull it off, but Caruso certainly can.
There is no exact science in picking a perfect owner, but there's no question that Torre, who won four World Series titles with the New York Yankees and led the Dodgers to the NLCS in back-to-back seasons, can rebuild the Dodgers on the field while Caruso can rebuild Chavez Ravine and give a much-needed face-lift to Dodger Stadium, which turns 50 years old this year.
Few things have gone right for the Dodgers since Torre retired as the team's manager in 2010, and the quickest way for things to turn around would be if he returns in 2012, this time as the team's owner.Arash Markazi is a columnist and writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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