From the late 1950s into the 1980s, Los Angeles was the Dodgers’s town. Exciting, captivating, winning teams, and great leadership from the top on down all starting with owner Walter O’Malley made Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, and Fernando Valenzuela the biggest stars in LA, and Dodger Stadium the place to be. The 1979 purchase of the Lakers by Jerry Buss and the transfer of leadership of the Dodgers, first to Peter O’Malley, and then subsequently to Fox and then Frank McCourt, changed all that, and LA became lock, stock, and barrel, LakerTown.
With the death this morning of Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss, the Dodgers now have the opportunity to get it all back.
The Dodgers still had some winning years and exciting teams under Peter O’Malley, but once his father left day-to-day leadership, the Dodgers’ decline began. With Jerry Buss running the Lakers from the top-on-down, and hiring the best basketball had to offer, in front office leadership to coaching to players, and with the introduction of Magic Johnson and “Showtime”, the tide turned, and the rest is history.
But who will fill the void? There are only two choices.
The great young Clippers are a dynamic, exciting team, and clearly the best NBA team in LA. They currently have excellent leadership when it comes to personnel, and coaching (despite criticism of the head coach every time the team actually loses a game), but at the top is still the guy who led the Clippers to a generation of mediocrity, Donald Sterling. I just do not see Sterling making all the right decisions and taking the right chances to make his team number one in Los Angeles. What the team features now in performance it still sorely lacks in marketing, and even if the team continue to win and reaches heights the team has never before seen, that success will not be properly marketed to the community, and Clippersmania will never be the monsters that were past Dodgers’ and Lakers’ fanaticism.
And that leaves the golden opportunity now presented to the Dodgers.
The new ownership, Guggenheim Baseball Management, being run financially by Mark Walter, being marketed by Magic Johnson, and being operated personnel-wise by Stan Kasten, has already spent a fortune to produce a winning team, has spent a bundle on stadium renovations, and is doing a great job getting all that across to the fans. But, as we have commented on time and time again for a couple of years now, no matter how many $100 M dollar players on the team, no matter what they spend to buy a road to success, that success, a World Championship, will NEVER happen, and the team will miss that golden opportunity to reclaim the top spot in the hearts of Los Angeles sports fans, so long as that bungling, incompetent, unqualified excuse for a major league manager, don mattingly, is running the team on the field.
The Dodgers will put a team on the field this season featuring exceptional talent and an outrageous payroll. Give that team to a Mike Scioscia or a Bruce Bochy, and forget the need to play the games – a championship would be virtually assured. With mattingly at the helm, a .500 season and the middle of the division is our prediction.
What a shame the Dodgers’ will fail to take advantage of this golden opportunity, and hand the reins of LA sports mania back to some other undeserving franchise.