Kasten Brings Experience, Clout To Dodgers
Magic Johnson is the biggest name and Mark Walter supplies a lot of the money, but among the Dodgers’ new owners Stan Kasten is the one fans should get to know.
You see, Kasten’s decisions will have the biggest impact on how successful the Dodgers will be on the field on upcoming years.
He’s going to run the daily operation, decide which free agents fit, decide where the roster needs to be upgraded.
“I have an office in Dodger Stadium and I’m going to be in every day,” said Johnson. “But I won’t get in Stan’s way.”
I covered Johnson’s great career with the Lakers and easily understood why he’s so successful. He has ambition and the brains to get ahead. When he made a run at buying the Dodgers he realized there’d be tough competition, so he had to put together a group with well-respected partners. The quality of the group and its financial clout made him the winner.
He isn’t a baseball expert and he needed one. Who’s one of the most successful front office executives in the history of the sport? Kasten.
What credentials the man has.
Kasten prevailed over the Atlanta Braves for 14 consecutive years that resulted in playoff appearances. He later became president of the Washington Nationals. He has outstanding relationships throughout baseball, even one with hard-driving agent Scott Boras.
He’s the only pro sports executive ever who had three jobs simultaneously in different sports, with the Braves, Atlanta Hawks in basketball and Atlanta Thrashers in hockey
Now he’s 60 and rarin’ to go again.
“It’s a good day for baseball,” said John Schuerholz, who Kasten hired to be the Braves’ general manager and has since become the team’s president.
“I don’t think the Dodgers could have made a better choice.”
Steve Garvey, the former Dodger star who also was part of a group that bid for the team, calls Kasten “a Hall Of Famer among executives.”
But don’t think the Dodgers can become great immediately. Rosters are set for now and only in mid-season may some quality players from losing teams become available. Then the big test will be in the off-season when free agency begins.
This time Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder changed teams but the Dodgers, staggering financially at the end of the Frank McCourt era, couldn’t compete.
Will they compete next time?
“Dodger fans expect and deserve a winning team,” said Kasten. “I’ve been assured by Mark Walter we’ll be in a position financially to compete. But it has to be a right fit.”
It’s only a small step right now, but the Dodgers improved their team last week by signing the first well-known big leaguer to become available since the new owners took over. They signed Bobby Abreu after he was released by the Angels.
Abreu is in the twilight of his career and can’t steal bases like he used to do but he can still hit.
For now, the roster is essentially set and the Dodgers, a third place team last season, are in first place.
They had an easy schedule at the start of the season and won nine of their first 10 games. They’ve been a .500 team since, but nobody else in the division has stepped forward.
So, fans should enjoy the current prosperity while it lasts, even if it doesn’t last all season.
For the future, Johnson and Kasten wil be trying to upgrade the team. And you may be surprised to learn they almost worked together in the past.
In 1993, when Kasten was involved on basketball, he tried to hire Johnson as the Hawks’ coach Johnson considered the offer before declining.