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Turns out Peter O'Malley won't be going home again

February 21, 2012 |  7:02 pm

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Well, so much for that little fantasy. Peter O’Malley has given up the ghost of returning as owner of the Dodgers.

I was never convinced he had a real shot, not after he came out publicly and criticized Frank McCourt’s ownership, saying it had lost all credibility and he needed to sell the team.

Not that every word spoken wasn’t completely true, but this was back in September 2010, before everyone and his Aunt Gracie was calling for McCourt to step down, long before Major League Baseball’s invasion and team bankruptcy.

Plenty said more severe things, but you had to figure O’Malley’s words particularly stung McCourt. They came from the long-time head of the family that owned the team for 47 years, the family ownership McCourt said he wanted to emulate when he bought the Dodgers from Fox in 2004.

O’Malley was probably the last person in Los Angeles whom  McCourt wanted to hear disparagement from –- though he had never actually mentioned McCourt by name –- and probably the last one he wanted to see come riding in as a white knight.

The O’Malley group, apparently sponsored largely by the South Korean conglomerate E-Land, had made it through the first round of cuts in this odd ongoing auction. But a new, and understood, higher bid is due in the next round this week.

It’s possible that O’Malley, 74, simply looked at the escalating numbers involved in the auction --  speculation is the winning bid will run $1.5 billion to $2 billion -– and determined that the price had  skyrocketed to a completely impractical realm, huge TV contract waiting or not. O’Malley had warned in November about the new owner overpaying; he sold the team to Fox for $350 million in 1997.

The Times’ Bill Shaikin reported Tuesday that O’Malley was concerned that he might not win the auction even if he made the highest bid. Clearly a very legitimate concern, though one he had to recognize from the beginning, so the timing is at least curious.

There were some who did not want to see O’Malley regain the team, figuring he was a tad too mature and it would be going backwards. Reasonable concerns maybe, though with O’Malley you had no doubt he would put the team first and would be buying it for the right reasons.

Besides, he had said on more than one occasion that he envisioned actually running the team only for the first year or so to help it get back on track. That could yet prove his role, albeit in the employ of someone else.

I’d loved to have seen O’Malley return, offering calm to a team and front office desperately in need of it. He made his share of mistakes, but there was never any question of where his heart was, and it seems, still is.

But 15 years ago he made a decision, one which may now haunt him. He and the team moved forward then, and now they do again.

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Count on the Dodgers for these early rites of spring

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley. Credit: Mike Groll / Associated Press

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