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Baseball, Politics & Public Money

by George Mitrovich, published


The item that follows is more than a baseball note. Baseball teams that play in ballparks funded in whole or part by public money are thereby inherently fair game for political comment and judgment:

Bill Center of the U-T San Diego reported last night on the newspaper's Web site, and confirmed in a major front page story today, the Padres have been sold for $800 million to the O'Malley family, generally celebrated in LA for their ownership of the Dodgers.

Walter O'Malley, the father and grandfather of the new majority owners, was a major figure in baseball history, as he and Horace Stoneham changed the game when they moved the Dodgers and Giants west to LA and SF in 1958.

How will the new out-of-town majority owners be received?

The reaction of most fans and media will focus on how much money will they spend?

My concerns are twofold, neither of which relates to spending money for high profile players. They are: 1) keeping Tom Garfinkel as president and CEO, and 2) the depth of the O’Malley’s civic commitment.

Center reports Garfinkel is staying, which is reassuring at the leadership level, given my strong feeling that changing out Garfinkel for people who know neither our town nor our team makes zero sense; and if Garfinkel is indeed staying, that’s reassuring and answers my second concern, civic commitment. (To be fair, Ron Fowler, who is a member of the new ownership group, along with golfer Phil Mickelson, is one of our city’s most generous benefactors.)

I have no idea as to the O’Malley politics, but if they are as conservative as most baseball owners (the Red Sox are a notable exception), they will be well received by the business community of San Diego, which is conservative and Republican, but I repeat myself.

Besides, no one will care about their politics because there is nothing in their history to suggest that they, like Joe Ricketts of the Chicago Cubs, would ever get caught in a race baiting campaign to defeat President Obama. (The New York Times reported some months back that Ricketts was spending $10 million to fund a study to see how the president might be tied, a second time, to Reverend Jeremiah Wright.)

On the price of $800 to buy our hometown team, I have nothing to add. If you want an explanation it makes sense to ask someone who went to Wharton or Harvard.

On second thought, maybe not, because those are same people who brought us hedge funds.


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