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Face of the Dodgers? As long as it's not McCourt, it's all good

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist

Though Magic Johnson is more popular than his partners, he shouldn't be the face of the Dodgers. (AP)  
Though Magic Johnson is more popular than his partners, he shouldn't be the face of the Dodgers. (AP)  

Someone at Forbes Magazine feels pretty silly right about now. Or should, but probably won't.

Six days after the magazine that mastered the art of explaining why you don't have money valued the Los Angeles Dodgers at $1.4 billion, the Dodgers were sold by the guy who ran them into the earth's core for $2.15 billion.

In short, Forbes missed by 53 percent.

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OK, that's simplistic. It may even be flat-out wrong. But if I say something's worth a buck and a half, and it turns out to be worth two and a quarter, I'm 75 cents worth of stupid. Math that, money boys.

Now let's all finish throwing up over the fact that Frank McCourt made $1.779 billion (more than quintupling the money he never put into the team to begin with) for turning a home into a sty.

And then let's watch the hosts of Flip This House become heroin addicts out of sheer envy.

And now let's watch what happens next, as Magic Johnson either becomes the face of the franchise, has the good sense to let the baseball team be the face of the franchise or watch everything go wrong by letting Mark Walter of Guggenheim Partners be the face of the franchise.

Don't laugh. Teams make this mistake all the time by letting the wrong guy be the front man.

Walter has the biggest chunk of the pie, but he's a businessman, and businessmen don't have a stellar reputation in the world of sport. Fans frankly don't give a damn about the businessmen; they want to see the players, for good and ill, which is why they come to the games and yet blame the players for being the greedy ones whenever there is a work stoppage.

So the logical answer would be Earvin Johnson, right? He should be the out-front guy?

Strangely, no. He is everything you'd want in a front man -- charming, smart, engaging, an L.A. icon who is so diametrically opposed to McCourt that even the broadest caricatures cannot contain the differences.

But being the front man stinks, because if/when the team puts up a stinker, the front man becomes the villain, or worse, designates who the villain is going to be. And for the Dodgers to become the mythical Dodgers again, the front man has to be ...

... wait for it ...

... the baseball team.

McCourt was crushed, and properly so, for being the kind of owner who would make Marge Schott rise from the grave and say, "I don't look so bad now, do I?" He did everything to destroy his image, save walking through the stands punching children in the face on Fan Appreciation Day.

He did not do this to provide cover for the ballclub, either. He did it from the colossal metric tonnage of his own dreadful personality and ethical code.

But at their best, the Dodgers were a stand-alone operation, in which the faces of the franchise all wore uniforms. Peter O'Malley, son of the man who moved the team west (and we'll leave you Brooklynites to rage about him in the comments section), was in many ways the perfect Dodger owner -- self-effacing, low-profile, willing and even eager for the people doing the actual work to get the actual credit.

The ballplayers.

And while Magic Johnson has the extraordinary advantage of being, well, Magic Johnson, the Dodgers were their best when the product was the face. In fact, when concepts like "face of the franchise" didn't even exist.

Not to mention the fact that in most situations, the minority owner who gets named the face of the franchise has a tendency to run afoul of the majority stockholder, either due to ego or some other flaw. Johnson has traveled these landmines before, but every rich guy has his own quirks, and with this many big-shot investors, navigating this is far more complicated than negotiating through the Buss family ever was.

But here's the best way for him to avoid all that. One sentence:

"None of us -- not me, not Mark Walter, or Peter Guber or Stan Kasten or any of the other investors -- is Frank McCourt. Go Blue."

So Frank McCourt is still the face of the Dodgers, only this time it's not his face, but the back of his head. Who doesn't enjoy that view?

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast Sports Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com).


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