Schuerholz says Magic group, Kasten mark "wonderful day" for Dodgers

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- From the Braves' spring training complex here on the grounds of Disney World all the way to the West Coast, one of the most respected executives in baseball history had a strong message to Dodgers' fans Wednesday morning as a new ownership group led by Magic Johnson prepares to take charge of the team.

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-a-Dee-Ay!

My, oh my, Braves president John Schuerolz practically exclaimed.

"A wonderful day for the Dodgers' organization," said the man who has worked more closely with Stan Kasten in baseball circles than anyone else. "And for baseball, actually."

Schuerholz was the chief architect and wizard of the Braves' sensational run in the 1990s under then-president Kasten.

It was Kasten, president of the Braves from 1986-2003, who plucked Schuerholz from the Kansas City Royals and installed him as Atlanta's general manager in 1991, where the duo drew up the blueprints that led to a record 14 consecutive division titles for the Braves.

And it is Kasten who now is on deck to take charge of the Dodgers' baseball operations once the transfer of ownership to the Guggenheim group from Frank McCourt is complete.

"Stan hasn't told me that," Schuerholz said, before acknowledging: "If they have Stan Kasten in their group, who else is going to run the team? He's one of the most successful guys in our business and in professional sport, and [he's] proven his worth."

Kasten has built a long and highly respected career by building teams and constructing deals. He was the GM and president of the NBA's Atlanta Hawks throughout the 1980s, earning back-to-back executive of the year titles while building perennial playoff teams around Dominique Wilkins. Under his watch, the Braves won more games than any other team in baseball during one heady stretch between 1997 and 2003. After that, he moved on to become president of the Washington Nationals from 2006 to 2010, his presence becoming one of the keys to the deal that moved the Expos from Montreal and brought baseball back to Washington, D.C., for the first time since 1971.

"He's a smart guy and he knows how to build franchises," Schuerholz said. "He knows the kind of people he likes to work with and trusts in their jobs. He's done that everywhere he's gone, and he'll do that out there. But he'll have more resources to do that. And that, of course, trickles down to creation of this product.

"When he creates his team and the people to do that, whoever that may be, it will be a good team, a solid team and they'll have his support and his understanding. His really deep understanding of what it means to run a team, to be a general manager and put a team together. Plus he'll have great financial support."

It is a staggering deal. The purchase price is $2 million.

Given those stakes, Magic Johnson's and Kasten's history of winning and the sheer commitment to pull this deal off, there is every reason to believe that Kasten's smarts plus deep resources will be a devastating combination.

Under Kasten, the Braves often had one of the game's top payrolls. They also built one of the game's best farm systems.

"It's very similar," Schuerholz said of the Dodgers' landscape and what Kasten had in Atlanta. "Very similar. We had high payroll teams, we invested in our product. The product was good and it remained good for a long time, even beyond those years.

"If you have that as a building block, as a launching pad -- good knowledge, good experience, good expertise and money. ... I've always said the combination of a lot of money and smart operators, pretty successful franchise."

McCourt assumed control of the Dodgers in 2004, and by 2008, they had a club-record payroll of $118 million. But the Dodgers, who haven't won a World Series since 1988, could not get past the NL Championship Series in both '08 and '09.

"Without naming organizations of the past that had money, we all know who they were, but they couldn't find a way to win because they thought money was the way to win," Schuerholz said. "It wasn't. Management expertise was. And the combination of that, as some of those same organizations have benefited when they began to focus internally when they began building systems and all that ... with money, and with expertise, it shows.

"Stan knows how to do that. He knows the value of building an organization from the ground up. Homegrown players, great scouting, great player development, the baseball organization, he knows that. And then continuing to build at the major-league level when you have this foundation laid and you have the money and the resources to do it, you're not going to do it badly.

"Nobody's always right with the decisions they make, but he's been with organizations that have proven they're mostly right."

Kasten's relationship with Magic Johnson dates back to his NBA days, and Schuerholz talks like that may be an unbeatable combination.

"I think it's great," Schuerholz said. "What a great figure to add [to the group]. Here's a guy, not even in our sport, but I admire the heck out of him, you probably do, every fan in America probably does. He stands for a lot of really positive things, he's well thought of, he's well loved.

"I think he adds additional credibility, additional fervor to the organization. He's been a champion himself. He's been affiliated with professional sports championships almost entirely in his career. He's an icon as a professional sports person. I think it enhances the franchise immeasurably."

Call the Dodgers a sleeping giant, a diamond in the rough, whatever you want. They've been dragged through the muck by McCourt, tarnished badly before that by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. -- from whom McCourt purchased the team.

Unstable and short-sighted ownership has been a hallmark of the Dodgers since Peter O'Malley sold the team in 1997.

Every indication now is that that's about to turn, and quickly. And while that may be bad news for Dodgers' rivals in the National League and beyond, it should pay huge dividends for baseball overall. Dividends extending even beyond the record $2 billion price tag.

"I think our game needs to have dynamic, successful franchises in our dynamic, marquee marketplaces," Schuerholz said. "In New York, in Los Angeles, in Chicago, in Atlanta ... we've all been around baseball a long time, we've followed baseball when we were kids before we were involved in it, and we looked at the Yankees and we looked at the Dodgers. When they became the Los Angeles Dodgers it was like, 'Wow, these are the two great franchises.'

"I think our game is better off when they're really dynamic. It raises everybody else to a level of competition and worth that is good for us."

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