Column: Give Dodgers ownership kudos for landing the 2020 All-Star game
Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Wednesday that the Dodgers will host the 2020 All-Star Game, the first time since 1980 that the team has hosted the midsummer event.
They spent more than any baseball owners before them to make the Dodgers contenders again. They made sizable investments to rebuild a neglected farm system. They upgraded their stadium without compromising the qualities that make it the city’s most treasured building.
Wednesday, the owners of the Dodgers delivered on another long-standing promise.
They persuaded Major League Baseball to let them host the 2020 All-Star game, which will be the first Midsummer Classic to be played at Dodger Stadium since 1980.
So go ahead and complain about how the Dodgers vanished from television under Guggenheim Baseball Management. Disagree with how the group has empowered a baseball operations department that lacks a personal touch.
At the same time, acknowledge the role that Mark Walter and his partners have played in the improvements that have taken place over the last six years.
Take the announcement made Wednesday by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, which was much of an endorsement of the owners as it was of the storied ballpark or the vibrant city in which the stadium stands.
The Dodgers have won two World Series since the All-Star game was last played at Dodger Stadium. The most valuable player of that game, Ken Griffey Sr., has a son in the Hall of Fame.
Asked about the four decades between All-Star games, Manfred joked, “I can only take responsibility for the last three years.”
Manfred was elected commissioner in the summer of 2014.
Speaking on a temporary blue-carpeted stage in center field, Manfred spoke about his involvement in Guggenheim’s purchase of the franchise. Manfred was MLB’s chief operating officer in 2012, when the group paid a record $2.15 billion for the franchise.
“We always take into consideration the commitment that the ownership group has made to the facility that will be used for the All-Star game,” Manfred said. “I was very involved with the sale process where Mark and his partners took control of the Dodgers. They made an amazing financial commitment to purchasing the club and I think one of the things that really is most impressive is the money that they’ve put in to making Dodger Stadium a first-class modern facility while maintaining its history and tradition.”
The reference was to the nine-figure renovations made under the direction of architect Janet Marie Smith, which included an expanded clubhouse and weight room. Team President Stan Kasten said the Dodgers would make further improvements over the next two years.
Manfred wouldn’t say it, but this level of investment wasn’t seen under the previous owner, Frank McCourt, as well as the corporate overlords at Fox from whom McCourt bought the team.
“Without drawing any comparisons to the prior group …” Manfred started before listing virtues of Guggenehim that McCourt clearly lacked: fiscal responsibility and a willingness to invest in the team.
The bid for the All-Star game required outside help, specifically from City Hall. In February, the Los Angeles City Council authorized the city to receive $100,000 for city services required to host the game. The city also helped ensure the Los Angeles Convention Center would be available for the four-day event, according to Naomi Rodriguez, the team’s vice president of external affairs and community relations.
Councilman Gil Cedillo laughed.
“I’ll say what the commissioner said,” Cedillo said. “I could only talk about my experience.”
Cedillo was elected in 2013, about a year after Guggenheim took over the Dodgers.
“This is a first-class organization,” Cedillo said. “We have the responsibilities of security and transportation, but they’re first class. They do all the lifting.”
Which really makes it a shame the majority of households in the greater Los Angeles area can’t watch the Dodgers on television.
“That bugs me,” Cedillo said.
Manfred was also bothered.
“We want full distribution of our games,” Manfred said. “We have two ways to grab our fans, in the ballpark and by television, and less than full distribution limits our ability to get at our fans. It’s not a good thing for the game.”
But Manfred didn’t blame the Dodgers for the situation, which made a certain degree of sense, considering MLB approved the $8-billion agreement with Time Warner Cable.
“I commend the club,” Manfred said. “They’ve really gone down every avenue that they could think of and we could think of to get fuller distribution. It’s just been an intractable issue.”
With the All-Star game nationally televised, it is guaranteed to be a nonissue over a few days in the summer of 2020. Guggenheim earned itself at least that.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez
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