GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, despite Indiana roots and allegiance to Larry Bird, had no trouble finding complimentary words for his new part-owner and Bird adversary, Magic Johnson.
"As soon as you hear the name Magic Johnson, it turns into a positive," Mattingly said about the new ownership group of the Dodgers, which includes the Lakers legend. "There's positive energy around the team and around the city. I think it will be a positive for us.
"What could be better? Magic and [co-owner Stan] Kasten. If Bird was in the group, now we're talking. Magic was my nemesis, I'm from Indiana. He got us in the Final Four, beat Bird. Now we're on the same team."
Mattingly repeated comments he made during the Winter Meetings that while he didn't feel the uncertain ownership of the past few years was a distraction, it did leave the organization in limbo.
"I've talked before about that, the driving forces above you," he said. "Nothing really changed for us [on the field] -- we still are getting ready to play. It's still about executing, making good pitches, making plays.
"But the biggest change is that driving force. We were kind of in limbo, up in the air. We've known something was going to happen. Now we know who the driving force is."
And although Johnson and Kasten reportedly have only small equity stakes, they are expected to be active in franchise management. The credibility and emotional equity they bring to the franchise cannot be quantified by any investment banker, Mattingly implied.
"From the athlete's standpoint, you've got ... guys that have been competitive at the highest levels, who know what it's like," said Mattingly. "Magic is able to relate to what the player goes through, and Stan, with his [front office] background. As a player, and me as a manager, they've had success in the competitive arena and been in the locker room."
Mattingly said he's never met Johnson and knows Kasten only casually, having met at December's Winter Meetings. But he knows what they've accomplished.
"They've been through it, won championships, and at the end of the day, that's what we're all here for," Mattingly said.
While Mattingly said he'd like to think the club now has the financial wherewithal to swing a Trade Deadline deal to improve the club, he said that's a double-edged sword for a manager.
"No doubt, at the Deadline, teams are able to pick up that key guy that can put them over the edge," he said. "We did it with Manny [Ramirez] and [Casey] Blake [in 2008], and all of a sudden we're in the playoffs. I saw it in New York with David Cone as a late addition [in 1995], and it adds confidence.
"But on the back end of that, we're getting ready to win with the guys we have. It's hard to say, 'Hang on to the break and we'll get rid of you guys and get new guys.' But no doubt we'll have the driving force and power to get that guy."
Mattingly said he has no problem if Johnson and Kasten are hands-on executives (Kasten has that reputation). After all, he played for a hands-on owner -- George Steinbrenner.
"I don't think 'hands-on' is the right word talking about Mr. Steinbrenner -- that's 'iron fist,'" he said. "But you want somebody involved who wants the best for the club. So we have that in common. Mr. Steinbrenner was the same way -- win, win. To me, that's welcome. You don't want somebody hoping we play .500 and make money. That's not what the players want. We're kids in a sense. We want to win."
Mattingly again said the ownership status hasn't been a distraction to him.
"We've been going through this on our third year now," he said. "The public divorce the first year, the soap opera going on. That settled down, then answering questions about the bankruptcy. We've been dealing with obvious anticipation of this day. And the guys are kind of used to it. If they've taken my way, you can't do anything about it, can't control it, just play our game. I think our guys are fairly immune to it."
Mattingly didn't know where to start when asked about the $2 billion purchase price.
"I had trouble in math class," he said. "That's not even computing for me."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.