Torre Quits MLB Job to Bid on Dodgers

Joe Torre has quit his job with Major League Baseball to pursue ownership of the Dodgers ESPNLosAngeles reports. Torre was named executive vice president for baseball operations and took the lead for on-field discipline and umpiring, among other duties. Torre managed the Dodgers from 2008-10 after 12 years as skipper of the Yankees, a run in which he won six pennants and four World Series titles.

Torre's had the job since last February. In that time he has dealt with umpires, replay and discipline for on-the-field stuff.  For now the job will be filled on an interim basis by MLB Senior Vice Presidents Joe Garagiola, Jr., Kim Ng and Peter Woodfork.  A permanent replacement will be found later.

"I am so appreciative of the chance (commissioner Bud Selig) gave me to see the game from a different perspective by working for Major League Baseball, especially during such a great time for our sport," Torre said in a statement. "I have made this decision because of a unique chance to join a group that plans to bid for the Dodgers. After leaving the field, this job was an incredible experience, one that I enjoyed very much. I want to thank the commissioner and all of my colleagues over the last year, particularly the members of the baseball operations group and the major league umpires."

The Dodgers sought bankruptcy protection in June after Selig rejected a new TV deal with Fox that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was counting on to keep the franchise solvent. The Dodgers ultimately reached an agreement with the league that calls for a sale of both the team and the media rights. The team must be sold by April 30.

MLB senior vice presidents Joe Garagiola, Jr., Kim Ng and Peter Woodfork will replace Torre on an interim basis, the league announced, saying that a permanent replacement will be named at a later date.

"Joe has been an invaluable resource for me and all of us at Major League Baseball this year and has splendidly communicated with our on-field personnel, general managers and the umpires," Selig said in the statement. "I understand his desire to pursue an opportunity in Los Angeles. Joe has been a life-long friend and I know that will continue in the future."

A number of groups have expressed interest in buying the Dodgers. Former team stars Steve Garvey and Orel Hershiser headline one group, Lakers legend Magic Johnson leads another, while former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley has put his name in the ring.

The team will be sold in a bankruptcy auction, similar to how the Rangers were sold last year. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban came in second in that bidding and has also said he would be interested in the Dodgers at the right price.

Initial bids for the team are due by Jan. 23 with the Blackstone Group, Frank McCourt's investment banker. The price likely will break the record for a baseball franchise, topping the $845 million paid by the Ricketts family for the Cubs in 2009.

Torre's group is backed by Los Angeles real estate developer Rick Caruso. He is known for building high-end outdoor shopping centers, including The Grove at Farmers Market.

"In Rick I found a partner who understands consumers and fully appreciates that the Dodgers are a treasured LA institution," Torre said. "Since moving to Los Angeles, I have seen firsthand Rick's dedication to business and the people of Los Angeles."

Characterizing himself as a "lifelong Angeleno," Caruso said: "Joe and I believe in the Dodgers and Dodger fans and know that together we Will Foster a winning culture and deliver a premier, fan-focused baseball experience at Dodger Stadium."

Winners of six World Series titles but none since 1988, the Dodgers have been in turmoil since October 2009, when Frank and Jamie McCourts separated and Frank fired Jamie as the team's chief executive officer.

Selig installed former Rangers president Tom Schieffer as the Dodgers' financial monitor in April, ruling he must approve any expense of $5,000 or more.

The Dodgers finished third in the NL West at 82-79, had just three sellouts and fell short of 3 million in home attendance in a full season for the first time since 1992.

Dodgers Bidding Deadline Now January 23
The the deadline by which prospective buyers must submit their opening bids for the Dodgers have extended. Bids now are due Jan. 23. The deadline was delayed 10 days to accommodate the "substantial interest of potential bidders," Dodgers spokesman Robert Siegfried told the Los Angeles Times.

Siegfried said the delay had "nothing to do" with the ongoing dispute over whether the Dodgers can sell their television rights along with the team. U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Stark has granted a Fox Sports stay that forbids the Dodgers from marketing their TV rights, pending a Jan. 12 hearing.

Owner Frank McCourt and Major League Baseball set January 13 as the "goal" for potential buyers to submit opening bids. The agreement stipulates that McCourt shall identify the winning bidder by April 1 and complete the sale by April 30.

Recently the Dodgers asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to approve a $1-million settlement with Geoff Wharton, their former chief operating officer. Apparently McCourt hired Wharton to lead the Dodgers' stadium renovation plan, announced in 2008 and targeted for completion before opening day 2012 McCourt failed to secure financing for the project and abandoned it by the end of 2009.

McCourt, who had agreed to pay Wharton $1 million per year in salary and $500,000 per year in a deferred bonus, then installed him as the Dodgers' COO. The Dodgers cut ties with Wharton earlier this year, and the $1-million settlement represents two years of deferred bonuses.

Wharton surfaced in the McCourt divorce case when court documents showed the Dodgers had squirreled away some $4 million in 2010 — including Wharton's salary — to the construction company overseeing the already-halted Next 50 project. 

Red Sox Interested in Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda's 41-46 record with the Dodgers does not indicate how effective he was. The 37-year-old posted a 3.45 earned run aveerage but his won-lost mark suffered from sub-par run support.

The Dodgers probably attemtped to sign him for less money than he made in 2011 and when he balked, they went another direction and signed a pair of free agents.

Kuroda announced he is "open to pitching on the East Coast" and has gotten interest from Boston and the New York Yankees. The word is that Kuroda would like to get a one- or two-year deal worth around $12 million or $13 million annually, a price that some say would put the Sox over their budget, the site notes.

"I think that the starters that we've considered and talked about, and in some cases pursued, are a pretty broad range of pitching options," Sox GM Ben Cherington said. "We're actively considering and looking at starting pitching options, but we haven't found one yet where we feel like the acquisition cost is the right one. That doesn't mean that it won't come. It just hasn't come yet."

Roster of coaches filled with ex-Dodgers
One of the items that Ned Colletti has tried to instill since taking over as general manager is bringing back the so-called "Dodger Way."

Asking individuals in the organization to define "the Dodger Way" will bring a variety of opinions. A lot of it is based on tradition, winning, using the farm system to constantly bring in new talent and keeping the legends involved in the organization after their careers are over.

One way to make that happen is hiring former Dodgers to work in the minor league development system and the major league coaching staff. A look at the 2012 minor league coaches and coordinators, which Colletti announced recently, show that he's continuing to do that.

Matt Herges and Doug Mientkiewicz might not be the most beloved Dodgers. They weren't in the organization very long. But they wore the colors, they wanted to stick with the organization, and they're among the highlights on the 2012 staff.

Herges, the former relief pitcher who was named in the Mitchell Report, will be the pitching coach at high-A Rancho Cucamonga. It's a quality promotion after making his debut last year as the Arizona Rookie League team's pitching coach.

Mientkiewicz, most known for his time with the Twins and for making the final putout for the 2004 world champion Red Sox, will make his coaching debut as the hitting coach at rookie-advanced Ogden.

Those two join many other familiar former Dodgers who are part of the minor league personnel: Ramon Martinez (senior adviser, Latin America); Jody Reed (infield coordinator); Charlie Hough (senior adviser, player development); Franklin Stubbs (hitting coach, Double-A Chattanooga); and Alejandro Pena (pitching coach, Dominican Summer League).

Mientkiewicz was given a courtesy invitation to spring training in 2009 because of his relationship with then manager Joe Torre.

It was fitting, given his reputation, that Mientkiewicz forced his way onto the Opening Day roster with his attitude, determination and performance. He was injured early in the season sliding head-first into second base. But he remained with the team all year rehabbing his injury, cheering on his teammates and serving as a de facto extra coach on the bench.

The last 5-6 years of his career, Mientkiewicz was usually a reserve or pinch hitter. The Dodgers are collecting lots of those for hitting coaches. After all, they already employ three of the most decorated pinch hitters in baseball history.

Dave Hansen is the major league hitting coach. Manny Mota assists with the hitters, helps the pitchers hit, and supervises bunting. Mark Sweeney is a special assistant to Colletti's front office. Lenny Harris was working in their farm system until some health-related problems sidelined him.

Pinch hitting is the toughest job in baseball. Spending an entire day getting ready to potentially have one critical at-bat late in the game takes discipline and patience.

Those are qualities needed to a hitting coach, and now Mientkiewicz joins the club.

Belisario must serve suspension
--RHP Ronald Belisario has, indeed, obtained a working visa to play baseball in the United States for 2012. He must serve a 25-game suspension for violating baseball's Joint Drug Program. The 25-game suspensions are usually for drugs of abuse, not performance-enhancing drugs. Belisario is not guaranteed a spot on the Dodgers' roster, even after he serves the suspension.

--The American Association of Independent Professional Baseball announced today that the contract of El Paso Diablos Infielder Maikol Gonzalez has been purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Gonzalez becomes the 27th league player sold to a major league organization in 2011.

?Gonzalez played in 62 games for El Paso this past season. He batted .335 with 28 RBI, 47 runs scored and nine triples (T-5th best in league). The resident of Naples, FL also collected 80 hits, stole 21 bases and walked 27 times.

?The 25-year-old was a 35th round selection of the Colorado Rockies in the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft. Gonzalez played three plus seasons in the Rockies farm system, including nine games with Modesto in the California League this past season.

--RHP Mike MacDougal remains a target of GM Ned Colletti to return to the Dodgers' bullpen. MacDougal was on a minor league contract last year, won a job and earned his way into a prominent late inning role. If MacDougal is signed to a guaranteed contract, that would make it even more difficult for Ronald Belisario to win a job in the majors after his suspension.

--CF Matt Kemp continued his community work around the holidays. Kemp attended the 25th annual Sweet Alice Toy Drive in Watts and was at the Dianne Feinstein Day Care Center. Kemp also returned home to Oklahoma. He was presented the key to the city in his hometown of Oklahoma City. He donated a $10,000 check and volunteered at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. He announced a new campaign, "Score Against Hunter" in which he'll donate $1,000 for every home run he hits this year. That would be $39,000 if he equals his 2011 total.

--RF Andre Ethier came out to Los Angeles from his home in Arizona for the holidays as well. Ethier hosted a holiday shopping trip to Best Buy for 10 selected children. It was the third such shopping trip Ethier has sponsored, having earlier joined forces with A Better L.A. and the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services for similar excursions.

--Joe Block, the co-host of "Post Game Dodger Talk" on 790 KABC last year, is taking his talents to Milwaukee. He'll join Bob Uecker in the Brewers radio booth, doing three innings of play-by-play each game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8.3 -- Estimated net worth, in billions, of hedge-fund executive Steven Cohen. He's one of numerous individuals who have expressed an interest in purchasing the Dodgers in a bidding auction. If Cohen's group wins the bidding and is selected by current owner Frank McCourt, it's likely that super agent Arn Tellum will join him in running the club. Tellum would join Dennis Gilbert and Jeff Moorad as agents who have switched sides of the bargaining table.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a person of integrity and may well have more financial wherewithal than anyone bidding. He's a lifelong baseball fan, and from all I know, I believe he would be a responsible owner of the Dodgers and would be satisfied with nothing less than eventually winning the World Series." -- Statement issued by noted L.A. businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad, about the possible ownership group led by billionaire Steve Cohen. Broad is a major donor to Democratic political candidates. The Newsmeat Power Rankings identify Broad as one of the top eight "most famous and powerful Americans."