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Dan Shaughnessy

Lucchino, Werner up for Dodge ball?

By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / April 22, 2011

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — You think it was a dark day for the Dodgers and their fans, just because the commissioner announced that Major League Baseball was taking over control of the team?

Hardly. Here in Southern California, Wednesday was like Liberation Day for Dodger Nation. Free at last, fans rejoiced at the removal of Frank McCourt from his position as controlling partner of the fabled franchise.

Within seconds of the announcement that the Dodgers were becoming a ward of the state, speculation swirled that Red Sox bosses Larry Lucchino and Tom Werner might be headed out of town to rescue or buy the National League’s signature franchise.

Lucchino has been viewed as a flight risk since coming to Boston. He built Camden Yards in Baltimore and Petco Park in San Diego and rebuilt Fenway in the Back Bay. He’s a lawyer. He has feuded famously with his protégé general manager, Theo Epstein.

His work in Boston is done. He still has a home in La Jolla. Why not rescue the Dodgers to cap off a spectacular career in baseball?

Lucchino sounded annoyed when I asked him about the possibility.

“This is a highly charged, controversial issue of some real importance to baseball, and I’m not going to complicate it any further by saying anything or making any comment about the Dodgers situation,’’ he said from his Boston office last night.

OK. That’s a non-answer, I told him. It’s sort of like when you ask a guy if he’s running for president and he won’t say yes or no.

I gently asked Lucchino if he realized his vague response might be interpreted as leaving the door open.

“No, I don’t realize I’m doing that,’’ he said. “I realize I’m not making any public comment on the Dodger situation.

“I’m very happy right where I am. I love Boston and that’s really all I’ll say about the Dodgers. I love my position and I’m proud of my position with the Red Sox.’’

Werner is also at the top of the rumor list. He’s a former owner of the Padres, he’s tight with Uncle Bud, he’s a big-time Hollywood guy, and he has been decidedly marginalized in the John Henry regime.

Reached at his California office yesterday, the Sox chairman said, “Anything you can do to quash that [rumor] would be appreciated. I’m very happy as the co-managing partner of the Boston Red Sox.

“I look forward to summers in Boston, I pay property taxes in Boston, my daughter’s in Boston. I’m a member of Old Sandwich [Golf Club]. I’m very happy to be moving to Boston for the summer.

“How much better is life when you can be the chairman of the Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool Football Club?

“Seriously. I am seriously not interested.’’

What if Selig calls and asks him to come save the Dodgers?

“I would tell him what I’m telling you,’’ said Werner. “Any hint of my being interested is false.

“Frankly, I think being with the Boston Red Sox is about as great a situation as one can have in life. Being the co-managing partner of the Boston Red Sox is a dream and I’m living that dream.

“As it reflects the stewardship that John and Larry and I have had on the Red Sox, I suppose it’s flattering. But I actually find it kind of annoying. It’s like I’m happily married.’’

Taking Lucchino and Werner out of the mix, I’d look for Selig to name Stan Kasten as interim Dodger boss. Kasten made his bones with the Braves and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks as Ted Turner’s guy, then kick-started the Washington Nationals before stepping down last fall.

Tony Tavares (former Expos CEO), John McHale (executive with the Rays, Tigers, and Rockies, now an MLB vice president), Corey Busch (former VP of the Giants), and Peter O’Malley (Dodger Royal Family Member) are among other potential stopgap stewards.

Selig needs to move slowly when selecting the next Dodgers owner. The approval of McCourt, a South Boston real estate developer/parking lot owner, back in 2004 remains one of the great mysteries of the Selig era.

Southie Frank and his Baltimore wife Jamie were not taken seriously when they made a bid for the Red Sox back in 2001. So how did they end up buying the Dodgers with hardly any of their own cash? Where was the vetting process in this highly leveraged deal?

McCourt needed a $145 million loan from the Fox network to close the deal, using his parking lots as collateral. Fox wound up selling the lots. Last week, the Los Angeles Times learned that McCourt arranged a $30 million personal loan with Fox in order to meet payroll. Apparently that was the last straw for Bud.

Do not expect the parking lot guy to go gently. McCourt will probably sue Selig to get himself back in power.

Selig is not saying much about any of it right now. But he knows whom he likes. He knows whom he trusts. And he likes and trusts Lucchino.

Running the Dodgers is like getting a chance to coach football at Alabama or basketball at Kentucky. If they offered you a slice of the Dodger Blue pie, it would be hard for anyone to say no.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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