Thom Loverro: Just like he did in 2005, Kasten works his Magic

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In August 2005, I wrote, based on good information, that the Washington Nationals would be sold by Major League Baseball for the set price of $450 million and that the group with former Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten would be the one to get the team.

Then I didn't pay attention to my own press clippings.

Trying to handicap the various groups bidding for the Nationals, I bet on the Jeff Smulyan horse in large part because he had the strong support of his close friend, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a very powerful and influential voice in baseball.

Of course, what I wrote initially came true -- the Nationals' sale price was set at $450 million, and the Lerner family, whose ownership group included Kasten, was awarded the franchise.

It became clear that Reinsdorf wasn't the only one with strong influence in baseball. Kasten had considerable sway as well -- and still does -- based on the news that the Los Angeles Dodgers will be sold to a group that includes Kasten and Magic Johnson.

The $2 billion bid was one of three approved by Major League Baseball from which beleaguered owner Frank McCourt could choose. It reportedly was McCourt's decision, and there was a certain amount of public pressure for him to pick Magic -- perhaps the most beloved figure in Los Angeles sports.

But as in 2005, it was clear that the group with Kasten was the one that would come out the winner if most things otherwise were equal.

Kasten's power in the game apparently was not diminished by his five-year sentence as president of the Nationals. Kasten's quick return to the game -- just one season removed from his last year as Nationals president in 2010 -- shows that he couldn't wait to get out of town and as far away from the Lerners as possible -- across the continent, in this case.

In Los Angeles, Kasten should have the ability to rebuild a once-proud franchise without being burdened by a group of neophyte owners who put their trust in a snake oil salesman.

I don't think you'll see Jim Bowden riding a Segway around Dodgers Stadium wearing a Manny Ramirez wig.

Kasten was forced to deal with Bowden's influence over the Lerners as the general manager for much of the time he was here. But he knew sooner or later Bowden would self destruct, and when he did with the Esmailyn Gonzalez baseball scandal, Kasten put the baseball man he had brought in as an assistant GM, Mike Rizzo, in charge.

That brought the Nationals to this moment -- one full of anticipation as the 2012 season is about to begin. It has been a rocky path, but Stan Kasten paved the way for it.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Thom Loverro

Sports columnist
The Washington Examiner