Baseball BeatOctober 29, 2005
As the (Dodgers) World Turns...
By Rich Lederer

News Item

According to the Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily News, Frank McCourt is expected to fire Paul DePodesta this weekend.


  • This is a(nother) sad day for the Dodgers. The organization has been in disarray since FOX purchased the franchise from the O'Malley family.

  • The McCourts don't know what they're doing. Frank and Jamie own the team so I guess they can do anything they want. However, if the McCourts had a boss, they would have been fired for incompetency long before Jim Tracy and DePodesta.

  • DePodesta was never given a fair shake to prove his worth. He was at the helm for less than two years and only had one off-season to make trades and sign free agents. DePodesta inherited Tracy and was essentially forced to give him a new contract after the Dodgers won the NL West in 2004.

  • The Dodgers and Tracy parted ways after the 2005 season and DePodesta was several weeks into his search for the next manager. Six candidates had been pared to three finalists (Terry Collins, Orel Hershiser, and Alan Trammell) as of Friday.

  • When Hershiser interviewed for the job, he met with McCourt and Tommy Lasorda and not DePodesta. Let's label that Exhibit One that DePodesta was on shaky grounds. To be fair, DePodesta and Hershiser had a lengthy conversation on the telephone prior to the so-called interview. One could argue that Lasorda's title (special advisor to the chairman) and past relationship with Hershiser dictated that he sit in on the meeting, but it made no sense to exclude DePodesta. None.

  • A conference call DePodesta had scheduled with reporters to discuss the managerial search was canceled on Friday. We'll call that Exhibit Two.

  • Collins, thought by many to be the leading candidate, was scheduled to meet with McCourt on Friday night but their dinner was postponed to sometime next week because "something came up" according to the former Astros and Angels manager who currently is the player development director for the Dodgers. Can you say Exhibit Three?

  • Neither McCourt nor DePodesta would comment for the Steve Henson and Tim Brown article that appeared in this morning's Times. However, "Dodger spokeswoman Camille Johnston said she could not confirm that DePodesta, who has three years remaining on his contract, would be fired." That was the proverbial kiss of death and Exhibit Four. I found it ironic that her name was mentioned. Normally, such sources are anonymous. Furthermore, it doesn't take a psychologist to read between the lines here. Note that Johnston failed to say DePodesta would NOT be fired.

  • Suffice it to say, if and when McCourt and Collins meet again, it will not be about the Dodgers managerial vacancy. Collins has ZERO chance of getting the job if DePodesta is fired as expected. McCourt and the new GM will be forced to go in a different direction. Hey, it's human nature. Anybody who was labeled as a guy DePo favored will be nixed, no matter their qualifications or merits. Collins, in fact, will be lucky to keep his job in the front office because the next GM might want to start his reign free of any leftovers from the previous regime.

  • The timing is such that I can't help but think the McCourts pulled the plug on DePodesta because they decided to go in a completely different direction as far as hiring the next field boss. This is nothing more than conjecture on my part, but I think Lasorda has finally convinced Frank and Jamie that Bobby Valentine is the right man for the job. If Valentine is hired, DePodesta's firing will have Tommy Lasorda's fingerprints all over it.

  • Valentine is not only Lasorda's all-time favorite, but he is "saleable" to the fans and the Los Angeles media. He was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round in 1968, was managed by Lasorda in the minors, and played parts of three seasons with the big league club before being traded to the then California Angels in November 1972. Valentine can also be sold as a winner, given that his Chiba Lotte Marines just won the Japan Series. Collins, on the other hand, was fired by the Angels in 1999, and the local press has generally been critical of his candidacy from day one.

  • Will McCourt hire a manager before a general manager? If he does, it will be a mistake as well as a hypocritical move. When Tracy was fired, McCourt said "The relationship between a general manager and a manager is critical for the long-term success of a franchise. Given this, I fully support Paul DePodesta in his decision to make a change." Hmmm.

  • Look for Hershiser to get the GM job and Valentine to be the next manager. Orel thought he was interviewing to work in the dugout when, in fact, he was really under consideration to become DePodesta's replacement. I believe McCourt and Hershisher probably have an "orel" agreement already and Valentine's Day will be celebrated in November rather than February.

  • When O'Malley sold, I feared the team I grew up rooting for was no longer going to be my Dad's Dodgers anymore. Although the return of some traditional Dodger blood to the GM and manager posts might seem like a good idea to some diehards, I won't celebrate until the McCourts return to Boston.

    * * * * *

    Check Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts and Rob McMillin's 6-4-2 for additional commentary.

    * * * * *

    3:00 p.m. PST update: It's official.

    Excerpts from an article by Ken Peters of the Associated Press:

    LOS ANGELES - Paul DePodesta was fired as general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday.

    Team owner Frank McCourt cited the team's lack of success as the reason DePodesta was let go.

    "Our high expectations were not met," McCourt said.

    "I met with Paul DePodesta this morning and let him know that the Los Angeles Dodgers were moving on," McCourt said at the afternoon news conference at Dodger Stadium. "I thanked him for his contributions."

    * * * * *

    Comment: Too bad the McCourts aren't the ones moving on.

  • Comments

    Thanks're the best, baby.

    This quote heard during a meeting with Tommy Lasagna and McCourt.

    McCourt: "Tommy, we stink, what are you doing."

    Lasagna: "Ain't my #%$@*&# fault, DePodesta is the #%$@*&# guy!

    Lasagna never met a guy he didn't want to blame.

    What about Dusty Baker? There are rumors on the net that he's attempting to get out of Chicago -- and get back to the West Coast...these rumors surfaced during the season -- he shot them down.
    However, with De Podesta gone -- and a 'traditional' GM probably installed -- why not a marquee manager like Dusty? As a Cubs fan, I'm hoping for this.....

    As a Cubs fan, I'm hoping for this

    That's funny! Nice try but don't be dumping Dusty on L.A. (although Baker and McCourt probably deserve each other).

    It all started with the Piazza trade. Since then, and Fox's ownership, it has steadily gone downhill, with a brief respite at the end of the 2004 season. I remember when the McCourt's were trying to get the financing to buy the team and there was a rumor that Mr. O'Malley might try to buy the team again with a consortium of LA businessmen. Prayers would not be answered. The Commish and his cronies were against this. Jamie McCourt as President? Please. The team I grew up rooting for in Vero Beach and later was employed by for three years from 1988 to 1991 while working with quality baseball people in the minors is one I hardly recognize. Crass advertising all over the outfield, no more pitcher foul territory, no more Mike Brito behind homeplate, no names on home jerseys, Ross Porter gone . . . It's Shakespearean in its tragic descent.

    It all started with the Piazza trade.

    The trade of Piazza was a big deal for two reasons. First of all, they should not have discarded him so easily. Secondly, they should not have traded him behind the then GM Fred Claire's back.

    The money that Piazza asked for essentially went to Kevin Brown. Mike had four more great years after the Dodgers let him go. He would have been a very productive player even at $15M per year.

    The Dodgers have passed from the O'Malleys to FOX to the McCourts, and the situation has gotten worse AND worse. The way Claire, Porter, and other longtime employees have been dismissed has been shameful.

    McCourt has hired AND fired many more people than just DePodesta in less than two years, while promoting his wife Jamie to the ascendancy of team President. Her only qualifications for the job are being married to the right guy.

    Why anyone would want to work for the Dodgers at this point is beyond me.

    They could do far worse than hire Valentine, who is for all intents and purposes the polar opposite of Baker: good with in-game strategy, hated by the players.

    "Collins, on the other hand, was fired by the Angels in 1999, and the local press has generally been critical of his candidacy from day one."

    For good reason.... he was a divisive, volatile and ineffective Manager with the Angels AND the Astros. I never understood the obsession with Collins, particularly when Arte Moreno publicly stated that he would grant the Dodgers permission (if asked) to talk to Mike Scioscia. Given that Scioscia replaced Collins with the Angels, hiring Collins would have been an ongoing reminder to Dodger fans that the Angels had surpassed them as a franchise.

    The McCourts may be coming to the realization, albeit very late in the game, that they need to cultivate the good will of their fans.... and while they may take a hit for cutting loose DePodesta so quickly.... they would have taken an even bigger hit had they allowed him to hire Terry Collins.

    I'm not here to defend Collins but the idea that he was an ineffective manager for any period other than 1999 is groundless. Collins had winning records and finished second every year from 1994-1998. Rightly or wrongly, the Angels quit on him in 1999 and their record plummeted. He was fired and replaced by Scioscia, who was 157-167 in his first two years.

    I like Scioscia and think he is a perfectly fine manager but that doesn't mean Collins wasn't a good one or can't be a good one in the future. He has had six years to reflect on his one poor season and has earned kudos for his work as the player development director with the Dodgers.

    You're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Hire a guy with no experience and you get slammed. Hire a guy who was fired by another organization six years ago and you get slammed. Make up your minds, people. Good managerial candidates with experience who have never been fired are simply not around or available at the price McCourt has been willing to pay.

    Groundless? Collins is a career .500 manager without a single post-season appearance. Larry Dierker took the same core group of Astros, and won 3 divisions in a row.

    Collins alienated players and wore out his welcome everywhere he managed. It's no coincidence that both the Astros and the Angels got progressively worse over his 3 year tenures in each place.

    Team chemistry was undeniably an issue for the Dodgers, and everything in Collins' past says he's the wrong guy to hire to lead a team with chemistry issues.

    You may see 1999 as "one poor season." I see it as an inevitable and cumulative, mutinous response from a team that he alienated... certainly a red-flag that any future employers shouldn't ignore. Particularly that he was fired for the same reason in each of his 2 managing experiences. "Fool me once...."

    Does that mean that Collins should never get an opportunity to manage again? Well, in my mind, yes... but granting that other Managers have been axed twice (or more) and gone on to great success (I don't for a minute think Terry Collins is in the same league as Joe Torre).... this is the Dodgers we're talking about. Is this guy worthy of carrying Walter Alston's torch?

    The Dodgers can't ignore the fact that they're vying with the Angels for the loyalty of LA area baseball fans. What message does it send to have seriously considered a candidate widely and correctly perceived as an Angel failure... particularly in light of the fact that his replacement, the ex-Dodger Scioscia (who I think is more than a "perfectly fine" manager) has subsequently taken the team to a World Series title and 2 Division Championships?

    Drew, Walter Alston had never managed before the Dodgers hired him. In your mind, and likely McCourt's as well, he would have been a risky hire. Like Plaschke, you seem to have forgotten this.

    I have nothing against first-time hires, depending on the situation. The ill-will created by the McCourts since they purchased the my opinion...demands a hire that will be excite their fans.

    For this reason, I think Terry Collins...who's hardly a first time hire ... would be alienating to players and fans alike, and therefore a risky hire.

    I think Torey Lovullo will be a great first time hire...just not for the Dodgers at this moment in time. To me, Orel and his history with the team and goodwill with fans, make him a much smarter hire.

    I'm an Angel fan who despises the Dodgers, so frankly, I'd love nothing more than to see them hire Collins. But as a baseball fan, I'm suggesting this is not only an important baseball and hire for the Dodgers ... but they need to be wary of further alienating their fan base.

    Given the parameters of the Dodgers' GM job description as most commonly reported by the mainstream media (Bulldog as GM-in-waiting, Bobby V managing, Tommy hovering, Size 0 in charge), it's hard to see how anyone would be interested:

    1. You don't get to choose your own #2. With Orel waiting in the wings, how many Plaschke columns would it take before the new GM is fired and the prince assumes the throne? Therefore, rule out anyone who would like to have the GM job for more than a couple years.

    2. You don't get to choose your own manager. If you liked DePo vs. Tracy, you'll love [fill in the blank] vs. Bobby V. Has everyone forgotten what BV was like before the end of his last MLB managing job?

    3. If he isn't already, Tommy Lasorda is now your new best @#$%^& friend. Just remember, he's armed and dangerous.

    4. You work for people whose strategy for selling an unappealing building would be to give it a cheap coat of blue paint, fire the salesman and raise the price. They are not trying to bring back the good old days; they are only trying to make people believe they are trying to being back the good old days. That's the best they can come up with.

    Kevin Malone is gone. Kevin Brown is gone. Darren Dreifort is gone. Dan Evans is gone. Eleven Dodger front office hires are gone. DePodesta is gone. Who will be blamed when the next Dodger management team fails? Not the McCourts and not Lasorda, count on that.