Incoming Dodgers prez throws 1st pitch, suggests group far from tapped out

One thing everyone knows about incoming Dodgers president Stan Kasten is that he favors player development as a way to build a team. Both teams he ran previously started with the worst development systems in the game, and wound up with the best.

The other thing about Kasten is he pulls no punches, and he's a lot better for colorful quotes than most of the suits who currently run sports franchises these days.

I got Kasten on the phone to ask him whether his Guggenheim group that won the Dodgers for an unprecedented, historic and (some believe to be) wacko $2.15 billion will have any money remaining to pay for big-time players. And I got a very Kasten-like response: "Do you think these people spent their last $2 billion?'' he said with incredulous inflection. "Give me a friggin' break.''

In other words: there's more where that came from.

Kasten's ownership team, financially led by Mark Walter of the Chicago-based investment group Guggenheim Partners but spiritually led by Lakers icon Magic Johnson, is for the most part counting on Kasten to run the Dodgers in the same manner he ran the Braves from 1986-2003 and the Nationals from 2006-2010, with an emphasis on player development and pitching. Kasten (who knows Magic well from Kasten's days running the Atlanta Hawks) learned early from the great Bobby Cox to ask for an extra arm whenever making a trade.

Kasten also understood quickly that player development is the way to build a championship team that lasted. The Braves won 14 straight division championships in a record that may rank with Cy Young's 511 career victories and Johnny Vander Meer's two straight no-hitters as near-to-unbreakable.

Kasten didn't want to say anything more about his new team's plans, not until after the $2.15-billion deal is finalized April 30, at which point he promised we won't be able to get him to shut up. But it is clear at this point that he plans not to get too crazy making big personnel changes among key Dodgers decision makers. Beyond the fact that the Dodgers seem to be doing quite well at the moment, thank you, that just isn't Stan's style.

So manager Don Mattingly and GM Ned Colletti can surely expect to keep their jobs into the foreseeable future.

Beyond that, they can also expect no one else with power over ballplaying personnel will be hired above Colletti. (So while Kasten won't comment, the Tony La Russa rumors really don't seem to fit.) Kasten is, after all, the team's president. Which makes sense since Kasten is the very one who helped shepherd into power the Guggenheim Group.

Also, despite Kasten's preference for player development, count on the Dodgers to be substantial players for big-time free agents. They are by far the biggest market in their division, and expect them to throw their financial might around. While no one person in the winning group is as rich as Stevie Cohen (seen as the heavy favorite if the sale got to the auction, certainly by the Guggenheim Partners, who won the Dodgers by striking early in a pre-emptive fashion and thus circumventing the auction), Kasten reminded us they are far from tapped out.

That will come as no surprise to baseball's other 29 owners who have been busy signing their top free agents to be this spring. The Guggenheim Partners should understand that strike-early strrategy. If anyone knows about pre-emptive strikes, it is them.

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