Locally, the news of Magic Johnson fronting a group that had the winning bid in auction for Dodgers continues to create a buzz headed into the 2012 Major League Baseball regular season.
Nationally, it’s that $2.15 billion price tag that has others wondering how that will affect the state of the game.
“I think from the owners’ and players’ perspective, it’s the most dramatic thing that’s happened in baseball since free agency in 1976,” said Tim McCarver, Fox’s soon-to-be Baseball Hall of Fame inducted analyst.
“Marvin Miller, the head of the (players) union at the time (when McCarver was still a player) said that not only would free agency help the players but the owners also. Well, this is going to help everyone.
“Baseball is swimming in money and I’m reading where (sports economist) Andrew Zimbalist said that once the deal was made the average value of a team went up 10 percent. That’s a dramatic increase. I think this deal is nothing but positive for baseball.”
Fox continues to have a stake in the Dodgers’ future, with its regional sports channel Prime Ticket controlling the local TV rights through 2013. Beyond that, it will be bidding with Time Warner Cable for a projects $3 billion-to-$5 billion deal that will extend the relationship toward 2030.
“In general, we’re excited that the process is over, because it was taking a lot of people’s time around here,” said Fox Sports co-president and co-COO Eric Shanks. “Obviously, Magic and his group are going to be great for baseball, great for the city and great for the team. I think fans will have a new reason to support the team and we hope our relationships with the Dodgers go well beyond next year.”
Fox lead play-by-play man Joe Buck said he was “shocked” by the announced figure, and that he could only imagine “every owner had to be privately dancing whatever dance they’re capable of dancing at this point in their lives.”
Eric Karros, the former Dodgers first baseman and an analyst for Fox’s games and KCAL-Channel 9’s “Think Blue” studio show, says from his Manhattan Beach home, the arrival of Johnson is “obviously a breath of fresh air. He brings more of a feeling of community. It’s ‘we’ now instead of ‘aw, the Dodgers and Frank.’ We feel as if we’re in this all together, on the same side. It didn’t’ feel that way the last few years talking to fans and being part of the organization in certain capacities.”
Karros also said that with management stabilized, the media’s focus will also change.
“Last year, a lot of the media gave the team, the players, I don’t want to say a free pass, but there was more concern with what ownership was doing with Frank McCourt and what a distraction that was. The players didn’t use it as an excuse, and neither did (manager) Don Mattingly. But I think a lot of things went on that the media didn’t focus on – Andre Ethier’s year, James Loney’s year, Chad Billingsley’s year. Maybe they didn’t get swept under the rug, but that wasn’t the main focus. I think that’ll be much different now. A lot of players are saying, ‘Oh, it’s Magic, this is great.’ But now they’ll have to step up and play like a lot have expected from them the last few years.
“The honeymoon for Magic is going to be as long as the fans feel his group is doing everything they can to support the team and bring in players. Where the honeymoon may falter is in the community’s patience with some key players.”
Fox’s four-game regional coverage starting Saturday sends Buck and McCarver to see Boston-Detroit, while the Angels’ game in Anaheim against Kansas City airs locally (Channel 11, 1 p.m.) with Kenny Albert joined by Angels team broadcaster Mark Gubicza. The new Fox/MLB Network pregame show launches at 12:30 p.m. hosted by Matt Vasgersian.