Which makes Torre's surprise resignation as executive vice president of the MLB, and announcement that he'll pursue ownership of the Dodgers alongside major L.A. developer Rick Caruso, welcome news this morning for skeptical bid-watchers.
Here are his parting (and opening) words:
"I am so appreciative of the chance the Commissioner gave me to see the game from a different perspective by working for Major League Baseball, especially during such a great time for our sport. I have made this decision because of a unique chance to join a group that plans to bid for the Dodgers. After leaving the field, this job was an incredible experience, one that I enjoyed very much. I want to thank the Commissioner and all of my colleagues over the last year, particularly the members of the Baseball Operations group and the Major League Umpires."
From "The Magic of Joe Torre," blogged by our own Patrick Range McDonald in fall 2008:
"While the Dodgers may not win the whole thing, they are certainly a different team from last year under their new manager. Under Torre's cool yet determined approach, the Dodgers play as if they expect to win. Even from the first few games of this season, it was obvious a winning attitude had come to Los Angeles baseball. The Manny Ramirez trade and Manny's performance have undoubtedly boosted that confidence, but Torre and his coaching staff laid the foundation for a successful season."
As for Caruso: While he's one of the better-loved developers in L.A., he doesn't have much stronger a connection to the diamond than McCourt. We previously put the Americana at Brand mall mogul on our list of "Top 5 Rich Guys You Wouldn't Want to See Take Over the Team," because, as LA Weekly's Dennis Romero put it, "Do we really want a trolley running through center field, a fountain at first base and paparazzi camped out behind home plate? Dodger Stadium is not a mall."
But Caruso and Torre could make the perfect pair -- the former on the business side, and the latter on the sidelines. Another point in Torre's favor: He hates the New York Yankees even more than the rest of us.
"I have great confidence in Rick Caruso's unique qualifications and his ability to lead a successful bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers,'' Torre says today. "In Rick, I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured L.A. institution. Since moving to Los Angeles, I have seen firsthand Rick's dedication to business and people in Los Angeles. I am very excited about this new opportunity.''
Caruso piles on, saying he and Torre "believe in the Dodgers and Dodger fans and
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know that together we will foster a winning culture and deliver a premier, fan-
focused baseball experience at Dodger Stadium."
Yep. Think we'll get along just fine. Now all that's left in their path to Dodgerdom is that unstoppable PR hulk we like to call Magic Johnson. And a couple dozen more suitors, possibly with more cash to dangle in McCourt's face. Ahem, Mark Cuban.