On our toutsheet, the Torre/Caruso entry jumps to the head of the Dodger ownership horse race

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(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Joe Torre, right, talks with Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig during a news conference last February to announce Torre’s new position as the MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Unless Manny Ramirez can convince his knitting circle to form an LLC and submit a robust business plan, there can’t be any more surprise entries in the Dodgers ownership sweepstakes.

Right? Hopefully? Please?

Then again, it does beg the obvious question: Where were all these supposed heavy hitters about eight years ago when Frank and Jamie McCourt seemed to be the only option that Commissioner Bud Selig had when it came to handing over the keys to Dodger Stadium?

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Joe Torre’s proclamation today that he’s confident enough in becoming part of the next Dodgers ownership group that he’s willing to quit his paper-pushing job in Major League Baseball’s administration and align himself with popular Southern California real estate mogul Rick Caruso (left) may seen to only add to the confusion of what’s become a quasi-reality show: “Who Wants to be the Next Savior of Los Angeles?”

Because based on all the financials out there, buying this franchise at this juncture can’t be done for any get-rich-quick scheme.

But on our tout sheet, the Torre-Caruso entry may just be the doubleteam that makes everyone else also rans.

If the deadline to submit bids has already been extended to January 23, there could be even more intrigue. When does Time Warner Cable put in a bid, not just for the TV rights, but the whole big blue package?

As per the bankruptcy agreement, the league will approve up to 10 bidders, then turn it all over to McCourt to conduct the sale through an auction.

Then we’re all stuck with it.

If we were to handicap the field, in order of who we’d endorse at this moment based on what they have to offer, insider connections and value-added intangibles, we’d have to go this way:

== The Joe Torre Authority:
Back in April, when we spotted the recently retired Dodgers manager in a suit and tie at the MLB press conference near LAX announcing that J. Thomas Schieffer would serve as the appointed overseer of the Dodgers, the wheels began to turn.
Torre had already aligned himself with the MLB horses who’d be deciding what direction this Dodger drama would go. The thoroughbred horse owner had traded his blue-and-white jersey for jockey silks.
“When you have Joe Torre available to you, you use him,” Schieffer said at the time. “He’ll play a role of helping me understand what’s going on.”
Oh, he knows what’s going on all right.
There are few in the game today who are better aligned with Selig, who calls Torre his “a life-long friend” and one of his lead sounding boards for the last year.
Add Caruso’s spotless reputation with deep L.A. roots, and there’s the perfect companion piece.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: Nine-plus. It could only help Caruso’s odds of someday becoming mayor of L.A.

== The Magic Johnson Theatre of the Absurd:
Despite the former Lakers’ grandstanding involvement to enhance his political future, it really comes down to Stan Kasten’s expertise in team building and the Guggenheim Baseball Management finances backing it that make it a very fluid group.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: A reluctant eight. It could only help Magic’s odds of someday becoming mayor of L.A.

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== Larry King and His Court:
The former talk show host and Brooklyn Dodger fan may not be the perfect crusty old visage you’d want out there for this particular group, but it keeps primary investor / well-placed season-ticket holder Dennis Gilbert working under the radar. There’s also a high-level L.A. investment bank, Imperial Capital, tied in here.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: 7.8. The 78-year-old King best announce now that he has no mayoral aspirations.

== The Out of Towner:
Hedge your bets with billionaire extraordinaire Steven Cohen, the 55-year-old Connecticut hedge-fund exec.
He’s supposed to have L.A.-based Wasserman Media Group agent Arn Tellem ready to run the team, former MLB deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg in his corner, the endorsement of big swingers Eli Broad (that’s a plus?) and David Geffen, and a reputed architecture firm drawing up new plans for a new and improved Dodger Stadium.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: Seven. Cohen would have a better upside if he was actually one of the movie-making Coen Brothers. He’s got the bounty, but some SEC things hanging over his head.

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== The Peter O’Malley Full Spin-O-Rama:
The former Dodgers owner hasn’t revealed much about who’s on his team. Anyone know if Ron Burkle is hitched up here?
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: Five, and slipping. We trust his instincts. But now would be time to pull the Sandy Koufax card and announce that he’s on board or else O’Malley may peter out fast.

== The Orel Hershiser/Steve Garvey Kennel Club:
The only fancy financier that you’ve made public is the guy who runs a pet food company.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: On all fours. You’ve got to throw us a bigger bone. Lasorda?

== The Fred Claire Prayer:
The former Dodgers general manager always has the best intentions, including bringing in a former team bat boy to arrange the investors.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: Two. It’s got a better chance of a made-for-Lifetime TV script.

== The Mark Cuban Threat:
Twice thwarted in attempts to buy the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers, the aptly named maverick owner of the NBA champions Dallas franchise has no need for this, except for ego stroking. Which means he could be all in at any moment.
Winning chances, on a scale of 1-to-10: 0.00000001. He’s smart enough not to get rejected again.

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== The Citizens Uptight Brigade:
Stanley Stalford’s public ownership group, OwnTheDodgers.com, hasn’t gone away, but it’s been told by the Blackstone Group LP, which is managing the Dodgers’ auction, that it can’t be allowed into the bidding in its current formation.
Stalford’s next plan of attack: A hybrid model.
Once the new owner is decided, the Hancock Park boutique real estate investor said he will approach him about selling off a share to the public via NASDAQ – as Selig allowed the Cleveland Indians to do in 1998.
“We understand the limitations on our proposal and we’re not going to argue with Mr. Selig,” Stalford said Wednesday. “It was important to put that concept out there, but the logistics and the mechanics of this particular sale is the biggest hurdle. So we’ve gone from the world of Utopia to reality. Now instead of a pie-in-the-sky idea, we’d like a slice of the pie. And a seat at the table.”

Because for now, these fans are just fanning the flames away from the next smokescreen investment group.

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