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MLB Owners Approve Padres Sale

Aired 8/17/12 on KPBS News.

Major League Baseball owners have approved the sale of the San Diego Padres to a group that includes the O'Malley family and pro golfer Phil Mickelson.

Major League Baseball owners have approved the sale of the San Diego Padres to a group that includes the O'Malley family and pro golfer Phil Mickelson. Baseball Commissioner Allan (Bud) Selig made the announcement earlier today.

San Diego Padres players high-five after beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in a baseball game at Petco Park on August 6, 2012 in San Diego, California.
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Above: San Diego Padres players high-five after beating the Chicago Cubs 2-0 in a baseball game at Petco Park on August 6, 2012 in San Diego, California.

The owners met this morning in a downtown Denver hotel. Under the deal, the O'Malley group will buy the franchise from John Moores for around $800 million.

The new ownership group includes Kevin and Brian O'Malley, the sons of former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley. Peter and Tom Seidler - the nephews of Peter O'Malley - also will be involved in the deal. Two of the four are expected to move to San Diego.

San Diegan Ron Fowler, chief executive of Liquid Investments, is set to become controlling owner.

Selig praised the deal in a statement released by Major League Baseball.

"On behalf of Major League Baseball, I am pleased to congratulate Ron Fowler, the Seidler and O'Malley families," said Selig.

"With significant local representation and extensive baseball experience," the commissioner added, "this group understands the Padres' binding role in the community and will ... serve the fans of San Diego well in the years ahead."

The agreement came months after Jeff Moorad's attempt to buy the team on a layaway plan collapsed. Moores' deal with Moorad, who began his attempted purchase of the club in 2009, was valued at about $500 million. Moores' divorce forced him to put the team on the market in 2009.

The price for this sale was inflated thanks to a deal with Fox Sports and the recent sale of the Dodgers for $2 billion.

Reaction to today's news has been mainly positive. But baseball followers say we have yet to see if the new owners have the money, and the will to spend it, to boost the Padres' meager payroll.

A review by USA Today put San Diego's payroll of $55,244,700 at the very bottom of the major leagues. By comparison, the San Francisco Giants, who are in the same division, have a payroll of more than $117 million.

The Padres are 52-67 this season and sit in fourth place in the NL West.

Tim Sullivan is a sports columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal. He covered the Padres for many years for UT-San Diego.

"Everything the new owners do will be seen though the prism of what they're willing to spend," said Sullivan, who believes the O'Malley group will boost the Padres payroll for PR reasons, at least.

"But it's not how much you spend," Sullivan added, "it's what you spend in comparison to everyone else."

Andy Strasberg, author of the book "Baseball Fantography" who once worked for the Padres, said the new owners are entering a honeymoon period with Padres fans.

“There’s going to be a period of time when all the right things are going to be said,” Strasberg said, “to renew hope that a competitive team will be back on the field.”

Strasberg said he expects the Padres to pursue the strategy of signing young players and developing their farm system, rather than competing with big-spending teams to sign free agents.

Bill Swank is San Diego’s unofficial baseball historian and the author of six books about baseball. He said he expects the new owners’ greatest contribution to the team will not be a dramatic infusion of funds.

“I think the main thing they’ll bring is stability to the franchise, which is in bad need of some leadership,” said Swank.

Walter O’Malley, the father and grandfather of the Padres new owners, made baseball history when he moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to Los Angeles. Swank pointed out the old man was tight with his money, refusing at one point to give raises to the LA pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax.

Swank said that’s why he skeptical O’Malley’s heirs will be free spending.

“We be better off if we could bring back Ray Kroc!” he said, referring to the one-time Padres owner and McDonald’s chairman.

UT-San Diego reports there are no plans by the new owners to rearrange the Padres front office. Peter Seidler has said that Tom Garfinkel will remain the Padres CEO and Josh Byrnes will remain the general manager.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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