Johnson Hopes to Bring Magic back to the Dodgers
So with baseball’s opening night last night (and the opening series in Japan a week ago!!!) we have officially started the 2012 season. Pretty much every other team plays today. And there are plenty of big story lines and things for new teams to be excited about. Johan Santana is back, pitching his first game since 2010. 2011 MVP/Cy Young Winner Justin Verlander takes the mound against a Boston Red Sox team hoping to erase an historic late season collapse. Stephen Strasburg will take the mound today and that’s always big news. But I think the most excited fan base has to be the Los Angeles Dodgers who are finally under new ownership after the disastrous Frank McCourt years.
The fact is, this couldn’t have worked out any better for the city of Los Angeles. Mark Cuban was an interesting option as an owner and would have been great in that role for the Dodgers. But selling the team to an ownership group whose public face is the most popular athlete in Los Angeles. (Sorry Kobe….I know you read my blog all the time.) And while this move has been viewed mostly as positive across the board (and I think it is too), there is some concern about the cost Magic and his ownership group paid for the team. $2 billion is the most anyone has ever paid for a professional sports franchise. The concern is that the group (which includes Magic Johnson, long-time baseball executive Stan Kasten, Hollywood producer Peter Gruber and the Guggenheim Baseball Management Group) overpaid for the Dodgers in an attempt to keep other teams out of the bidding. Essentially, they were flying in to be a part of an auction for the team, and offered enough money to keep the auction from happening. You can read the whole story here. It’s a great article by Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports, and one of my favorite parts is the assertion that, strictly from a business standpoint, Frank McCourt is the most successful baseball owner in history, walking away from the team with $2 billion dollars and still owning the parking lots. But with Magic comes excitement, ticket sales, and a $4 billion television deal that will keep the Dodgers relevant and return a team in the second highest media market to it’s former glory. This is great for baseball and great for Dodgers fans. Even with all the major trades this winter/spring, I think the biggest story of the offseason is the sale of the Dodgers and I think we will be seeing them return to the top of the NL West soon.
Now let’s make some picks for the games today:
Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets- I like the Braves here. Johan Santana is a wildcard this season, as we don’t know what he has left in the tank and how he’ll pitch after all that time off. Tommy Hanson is a great young pitcher who is looking to put together a strong season and launch himself into the elite tier of pitchers where he wants to be. The Mets are likely to struggle this season, and I think the Braves start their season off with a win.
Boston Red Sox @ Detroit Tigers- This might be the best game of the day. I like Jon Lester. I like the Red Sox offense. But I don’t know how you pick against the Tigers today. They have the best pitcher in baseball on the mound, and put together one of the best offense in baseball during the offseason. This will be a good one, but I think the Tigers take the win.
Philadelphia Phillies @ Pittsburgh Pirates- Erik Bedard takes the mound for the Pirates who hope to turn a strong half season in 2011 into a strong full season in 2011. But Roy Halladay might be the best pitcher in the NL and I think he’ll dominate this young lineup. And despite injuries, I think the Phillies still have enough juice in that offense to get past Pittsburgh with relative ease.
Toronto Blue Jays @ Cleveland Indians- The Blue Jays were the best 4th place team in baseball last season. They are the best team that nobody picks to make the playoffs. They have a fantastic offense and have their ace on the mound in Ricky Romero. The Indians are improved, but I don’t think their offense is good enough to take down Romero. And Masterson is obviously a good pitcher, but I don’t think he has the stuff to keep this offense down. Toronto should win this one.
Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs- Stephen Strasburg is the story here for the vastly improved Nationals who continue to look like a playoff club. Their hitters are good and coming into their primes. The Cubs are in a full on re-building mode and that doesn’t bode well for them against Strasburg’s nasty stuff. I like Dempster and I like what Epstein has done in Chicago. But this isn’t their year, and the Nats should win a close one.
Miami Marlins @ Cincinnati Reds- This will be tough for the Marlins who opened their season at home last night. They then hopped on a plane and flew out to Cincinnati. They have to be tired. And after being almost no hit by Kyle Lohse, I don’t think they are in a good place today. Buehrle’s first start for the Marlins will be spoiled by a strong Cincinnati offense that wants to return the playoffs after a big letdown last season. Cueto will step up and the Reds should slug their way to a victory.
Los Angeles Dodgers @ San Diego Padres- Clayton Kershaw was the NL Cy Young Winner last year. The Padres are one of the worst offensive teams in baseball. He’ll shut them down. It won’t matter how strong Edinson Volquez pitches today as the Padres will lose to the Dodgers in a low scoring game.