A New Blueprint

Times Staff Writer

With today’s expected approval of Frank McCourt as the new owner of the Dodgers, Bob Daly’s four-year reign as chairman and chief executive of the team is about to come to an end. That much is certain.

Whether the procession of front-office employees following Daly out the door is as long as a Dodger Stadium concession-stand line remains to be seen, but significant changes are expected in the coming days, weeks and months.

Bob Graziano, who has been with the organization for 18 years, probably will be ousted or resign as team president, a position he has held for six years, General Manager Dan Evans’ status is tenuous, at best, and Manager Jim Tracy’s days could be numbered.


Former San Francisco Giant executive vice president Corey Busch, who served as McCourt’s point man in negotiations to buy the team, is expected to have a prominent role in a restructured Dodger front office, most likely as president or the head of business operations. Duffy Jennings, vice president of public relations for the Giants from 1980-92 and another McCourt confidant, is expected to join the front office in some capacity.

Oakland Athletic General Manager Billy Beane and former Seattle Mariner general manager Pat Gillick are considered front-runners to become general manager if McCourt decides to replace Evans, who is entering the final year of a contract and nearing the end of an off-season in which he has been roundly criticized for doing little to bolster the team’s anemic offense. Tracy is also entering the final year of his contract, putting him on shaky ground.

“Every organization goes through this when there is a change of ownership,” said Derrick Hall, the Dodgers’ senior vice president of communications. “There’s an evaluation process, and a lot of decision making goes into how the organizational structure will be changed.

“The new owner needs to decide whether certain employees and executives will be retained. On the other hand, the [current] executives also need to determine whether they want to remain a part of the executive team after becoming more familiar with [McCourt’s] business plan.”

If Busch takes over as president, Graziano is gone. A team source said he was not interested in remaining with the Dodgers in a diminished capacity.

But even if Busch assumes a lesser role, perhaps replacing Kris Rone, the current vice president of business operations, a Dodger source said Graziano would resign out of loyalty to Rone, who has helped the Dodgers increase revenues about 50% in the last five years, from $100 million a year in 1998 to $150 million a year in 2003.


Likewise, if Jennings were to replace Hall, the highly respected Dodger communications executive who oversees the team’s public relations, broadcasting and community-affairs departments, Graziano probably would resign out of loyalty to Hall.

“I don’t know what the immediate future holds for me,” Graziano said. “Until Frank and Jamie [McCourt, Frank’s wife] get in here and lay out their plan, their vision for the organization, it’s premature to jump to any conclusions.”

Most have concluded since McCourt reached agreement in October to purchase the Dodgers from News Corp. for $430 million that Busch, 53, would be part of the new front-office team.

Busch, who in the 1970s served as press secretary for then-San Francisco mayor George Moscone, is remembered as something of a villain in the Bay Area for acting as former Giant owner Bob Lurie’s front man in the 1992 negotiations to sell the team to a Florida group that was set to move the Giants to St. Petersburg, Fla.

A $115-million deal was struck with the Florida group, and the Giants were all but gone before a group headed by Peter Magowan swooped in at the eleventh hour to buy the Giants and keep them in San Francisco.

Busch was hired by Lurie in 1978 primarily because the owner thought Busch’s political connections would help the Giants win approval for a new publicly funded stadium to replace Candlestick Park.


But during his 14 years with the Giants, 10 as executive vice president, all four of the new-stadium campaigns Busch engineered were overwhelmingly rejected by voters, in San Jose in 1992, Santa Clara County in 1990 and San Francisco in 1989 and ’87.

Busch left baseball in 1992 and became chairman and chief executive of Golden Gate Productions, an independent television production and sports marketing company that folded in the mid-1990s.

In 1998, Busch was retained as AmericaOne’s director of development and sponsor relations, overseeing public relations and marketing for the San Francisco-based yacht’s 2000 America’s Cup effort.

Busch, a UCLA graduate, continued in the consulting field, and in the summer of 2000, Major League Baseball hired Busch to investigate about 10 markets, including Portland, Ore., Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, Va., as potential sites for baseball expansion or relocation franchises.

It was during his tenure as a relocation expert that Busch met McCourt, and Busch was involved in McCourt’s failed attempts to buy the Boston Red Sox and Angels. Busch is described by former co-workers as “bright” and “personable,” but as one baseball executive noted, Busch “hasn’t worked for a team in 12 years ... and the baseball world has changed a lot since then.”

Lurie doesn’t think Busch’s absence will be an impediment.

“He’s been with the commissioner’s office for a while, he’s kept his hands in the game, and he knows everyone in baseball,” the former Giant owner said. “I think he’ll do a great job. He’s a terrific executive, he has lots of personality, a good sense of humor, he’s very dedicated, he loves baseball, and he works really hard.”


Evans, according to a team source, has been given no indication that his job is in jeopardy, and he declined to comment about how the imminent sale would affect him. But some believe McCourt will want to make a bold move to put his immediate stamp on the team, and what better splash than to hire a dynamic new, big-name general manager?

Beane, who has built a perennial contender in Oakland despite severe payroll limitations, would come at a price. He is signed through 2008 at about $1 million a year, and the Dodgers would have to send players or draft picks to the A’s as compensation for hiring him.

Beane’s daughter from a previous marriage lives in Orange County, and it is widely known that he would jump at the Dodger job, though he said this week that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on it.

But there also is some question whether the A’s would grant the Dodgers permission to interview Beane. After Beane initially accepted and then turned down the Boston GM job last winter, A’s owners Steve Schott and Ken Hofmann did not grant Seattle permission to interview Beane for the Mariners’ GM job this winter.

“I know one thing,” a source close to the A’s owners said, “they’re not going to let this become the soap opera the Boston deal was.”

Timing may be an ally for Tracy, who has a 263-223 record in three years as Dodger manager, finishing in third place twice and second place once in the National League West. With spring training three weeks away, it’s not the ideal time to conduct a managerial search, and many inside and outside the Dodger organization expect Tracy to open the 2004 season as manager.


“No,” Tracy answered firmly when asked Wednesday whether he was concerned about his job or felt any anxiety about the ownership change. “As a manager, you have to look yourself in the mirror after every season and ask yourself the question: Did you get everything out of the group that you could possibly get? This may sound egotistical, and I don’t mean it to sound that way, but I think the answer to that question is yes.”

Amid all the uncertainty of an ownership change, today’s news conference introducing McCourt as the new Dodger owner will at least bring closure to a sale process that has dragged on for a year.

“The finality of it is something that, to a certain extent, we’ve all been looking forward to, because there needs to be closure so we can move forward,” Tracy said. “Spring training starts soon, and to have gained definitive direction is obviously important for our situation. Not only from my standpoint, but for a lot of different people and departments that are important to this club.”