Baseball BeatOctober 02, 2005
Should Tracy Stay Or Should He Go?
By Rich Lederer

Darling you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are mine
I'll be here 'til the end of time
So you got to let me know
Should I stay or should I go?

Stay Tuned for the Clash

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and his agents, Alan and Randy Hendricks, met with owner Frank McCourt and general manager Paul DePodesta last month and reportedly asked for an extension that has little, if any, chance of being granted on his terms. Tracy has one year left on a two-year deal that was signed last winter. The contract has an escape clause that allows Tracy the right to opt out within seven days of Sunday's final game in San Diego.

Tracy is obviously going for the jugular here. Either the Dodgers agree to his request or he leaves to pursue a multi-year deal elsewhere. However, there is a third alternative, one that is likely to be exercised sooner rather than later. According to Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times, "the club plans to let the manager know by Tuesday whether he's fired or is given a contract extension." DePodesta previously said that the Dodgers would not wait until after the opt-out period to fire Tracy "out of respect for what he's done here."

DePodesta inherited Tracy when he was hired by McCourt before the 2004 season. He had no choice other than to give him an extension after the Dodgers won the NL West last year, but there was never a reason to think that Tracy was DePo's man. If anything, the Dodgers GM made a statement by negotiating a two-year deal rather than a longer-term contract last winter.

Tracy has a penchant for taking responsibility only for wins and not losses as Jon Weisman so eloquently editorialized on his Dodger Thoughts blog this past week. Tracy's attitude in this regard reminds me of Tommy Lasorda's not so eloquent retort when asked about trading the homegrown Dave Stewart, who went on to win 20 or more games in four consecutive seasons for the Oakland A's. "Ain't my (bleeping) fault, Campanis is the (bleeping) guy!"

Nothing is ever Tracy's fault. He has cited missing components (obviously referring to the departures of Adrian Beltre, Alex Cora, Steve Finley, and Shawn Green), lack of familiarity, injuries (Milton Bradley, J.D. Drew, Eric Gagne, and Cesar Izturis, among others), and too many rookies for the Dodgers' woes this year. Tracy said Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, in which Luis Gonzalez hit a go-ahead two-run HR off Yhency Brazoban in the eighth inning, was indicative of the team's season.

"It's games like that that make the difference between being mediocre and being very good. We have 14 rookies out of 32 active players in there. . .I can't remember a team that was playing in October that had that many rookies."

Rob McMillin at 6-4-2 reminded Tracy and what he called his defective memory, "Let me introduce you to this team called the Atlanta Braves, with a roster containing thirteen rookies." I would also add that the extra players in September are more likely than not going to be rookies, so it's a bit misleading to suggest that Tracy was handed a team with first-year players comprising nearly half the roster.

Tracy, in fact, was singing a different tune while the Dodgers were in the process of matching the best start (12-2) in the club's history. Here is what he had to say after the Dodgers scored eight consecutive runs to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6 on April 19:

"If you look at what we've been able to do in one-run games over the past couple of years, it's indicative of a ballclub that understands what it has to do to win games like that. . .It's a tremendous team win. When you look at my lineup card and see the number of players involved, I think that would constitute a total team effort."

Hmmmph. Sounds like the components, familiarity, rookies, et al weren't a problem back then. Of course, knowing the way Tracy is, I'm sure he was as much patting himself on the back for winning those one-run games and working the roster in a masterful way as anything else.

Regarding the so-called components, does Tracy really believe that the Dodgers would be better off with the likes of Beltre (.257/.304/.415) and Finley (.220/.269/.373), players who cost their new employers $17.4M for this year alone? Would he prefer Cora (.275/.315/.402) over Jeff Kent (.289/.377/.512)? Who knows, maybe Tracy thinks these players would have magically played better had he managed them.

Rather than speculating about players who are no longer with the organization, let's concentrate on a fellow who is on the current roster. Hee-Seop Choi. The way Tracy has handled him is indefensible. To wit, Choi hit six home runs in a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins in June and slugged another vs. the Kansas City Royals in the team's next contest, giving the left-handed-hitting first baseman seven HR in a matter of four games. He went 1-for-7 over the following two games, sat out against Mark Buehrle, a southpaw, then was inexplicably benched against right-handers Woody Williams, Tim Stauffer, and Brian Lawrence after being reinserted in the starting lineup for all of two games.

Just as it appeared Choi (with 13 HR and a .540 SLG in 161 AB) was about to break out and become the offensive force both scouts and statheads have long predicted, Tracy saw fit to let him ride the pine in four of the team's ensuing nine games. His use (or misuse) of Choi just underscores the philosphical differences between the field manager and the general manager. DePodesta traded for Choi in July 2004, ostensibly to play--yet Tracy has seemingly defied his boss by going with Robin Ventura, Olmedo Saenz, or Jason Phillips more often than the 26-year-old who at least could be the longer-term answer at first base.

Let's face it, Tracy and Choi simply can't co-exist. One of them has to go. But this isn't about Tracy and Choi. It's about whether Tracy and DePodesta can co-exist. Choi is expendable. But whether he realizes it or not, Tracy is expendable, too. DePodesta is in charge here, and he needs to find a manager who can command the respect of the players as well as implement his vision. Tracy succeeded in the former requirement but failed in the latter.

Tracy has won the support of the local press and appears to be doing his best to leverage his current popularity into a longer-term deal. I recognize that it doesn't hurt to ask, but I think he has boxed himself into a corner here. He is forcing management to make a decision on his future from a position of weakness rather than strength. Yes, Tracy will be paid his 2006 base salary of $700,000 if the Dodgers fire him and he doesn't find another job, but the timing is less than ideal from his standpoint. Tracy is a full-time resident of Southern California and has two sons, Chad, a junior at Pepperdine, and Mark, a senior at Claremont High, who are highly-thought-of catchers.

If Tracy had laid low, he would have kept his job and had the chance to earn another extension at the conclusion of his contract next year. He could have seen his kids through their final year in college (Chad is a lock to be drafted next June) and high school. Instead, Tracy went all in with a short stack, and the soon-to-be former skipper is going to realize that he doesn't really have the cards to win at this table. Oh, he will surely be invited to play another game elsewhere, but his time in Los Angeles is all but up.

DePodesta, in the meantime, has three more years on his five-year deal. The next manager is on him. He won't get another shot at doing it right. So, who will he turn to when the moment arrives? Well, he could hire third-base coach Glenn Hoffman or director of player development Terry Collins, if he wanted to stay within the Dodger family and pick somebody with previous managerial experience. DePo could go outside the organization and get an Orel Hershisher or Bud Black, two highly respected pitching coaches, or perhaps Ron Roenicke, the third-base coach of the Angels who spent five years as a minor-league manager for the Dodgers during the 1990s. He could also go back to his roots in Oakland and choose Ron Washington, who is in his tenth season as a coach with the A's.

* * * * *

What do you think? Should Tracy stay or should he go? If he goes, who would you hire to replace him?


Go. Go now. Tracy refuses to take responsibility for his part in this awful season, and has a chronic inability to comprehend that his prejudices are keeping an imperfect lineup in the L column far more often than they have to be. Judging by his statements recently, I also get the impression that he wouldn't be satisfied unless he were given the Yankees (flawed, expensive) lineup. This means he has failed to learn one of baseball's most fundamental lessons: when it is time to fall on your sword in public, it is necessary to do so rather than deflecting blame.

I would get rid of Tracey and see if you could replace him with Bobby Valentine or Davey Johnson. Those are two guys who might not need to be told that Choi is a guy they should put in the lineup over Phillips.

Don't both those guys have some of the same sorts of prejudices that we're keelhauling Tracy for?

BTW, Rich, brilliant subhed.

I don't think Johnson or Valentine have a prayer of becoming the next manager of the Dodgers. With respect to Johnson, been there, done that. Tracy, if you recall, was Davey's bench coach. Rather than hiring Johnson, the Dodgers should have turned to Mike Scioscia. I think that was one of the biggest mistakes of the FOX era.

Re Valentine, if Lasorda had a say, he would undoubtedly be the next manager. Heck, if Tommy was the GM, Bobby would have been named field boss long ago. But Lasorda's not in charge so the only way Valentine returns to the Dodger dugout would be for an oldtimers game.

My guess is Scioscia would have little use for Choi as a regular either. And Scioscia's Small Ball Free-Swinging fetish would grate against DePo even more than Tracy. I do agree Scioscia would have been a popular hire.

Why wouldn't Valentine be a possiblity?

Dodger roots? - check

Big market managing experience? - check

WS ring? - check

Saber-friendly? not sure

Although I read he has 2 years left on his contract with Chiba Lotte.

My guess is Scioscia would have little use for Choi as a regular either.

I have two words for that: Steve Finley. By God, if the front office says he's a starter, he will get every freaking chance imaginable, long past any justification, to get at bats.

My guess is Scioscia would have little use for Choi as a regular either. And Scioscia's Small Ball Free-Swinging fetish would grate against DePo even more than Tracy. I do agree Scioscia would have been a popular hire.

I would agree that Choi isn't Scioscia's prototypical player. However, Choi isn't all that different from Dallas McPherson. Mike may have been slow to turn to McPherson last year, but he gave him the 3B job once he was healthy this year.

In any event, I was only referring to Scioscia as it related to hiring Davey Johnson rather than if he and DePo would be good fits.

Why wouldn't Valentine be a possiblity?

I'm just being forthright here -- I don't think DePodesta would be comfortable with the Valentine-Lasorda connection. Paul needs to bring in his guy this time around, not someone else's.

As far as Valentine having a World Series ring, I don't recall him ever being a part of a championship team, at least not at the major-league level. Do they give out such things to the teams that lose the World Series?

Great analysis Rich. Ultimately, while Tracy's handling of marginal players like Choi, or A. Perez may have deeply offended purists and those who regularly comment at DodgerThoughts, his recent comments about the roster, lack of responsibility for a 90 loss debacle, and willingness to play his pals at the LA Times will be his ticket out. Getting the Florida job is no sure thing, with other candidates (Joe Girardi) being rumored.

But will the guaranteed hatefest engineered by the LA Times following Tracy's departure signal the end for DePo, especially if things aren't turned around next year?

Thanks, Gvette. I agree with your take of the situation. I think the way Tracy deployed those players is a factor in the decision, but his insubordinate comments will ultimately be, as you say, "his ticket out."

The Tribune owns the Times and the Cubs but not the Dodgers so Simers and Plaschke and such types will have no say about DePodesta's future, other than to try and sway public opinion.

Unfortunately it does appear that the McCourts are desperately trying to court favor with the Times,and its twin terror columnists (Plaschke and Simers) to a degree far out of proportion to the diminished level of influence that they, and their paper, with its ever shrinking circulation figures, actually have.

Witness the recent "mea culpa" interview between Frank and Plaschke, the "exclusive" story given Plaschke of the oldtimer from the '40's allowed to run around the field, and most recently, the one on one between Simers and Jaime McCourt at the Water Grill downtown.

Given this irrational need by the McCourts to be accepted by the Times, DePodesta could prove to be a convenient fall guy for them if poor results continue with a roster, and manager selected by the GM.

The last time I saw Bobby Valentine in Dodger Blue was as a horrible thirdbaseman in '72. That adolescent memory is enough for me to never want to see his return, especially as a self promoting managerial clone of Lasorda.

McCourt is a businessman first and foremost and is trying to reach out to the city's major newspaper for p.r. purposes more than anything, especially during a losing season and one in which the Los Angeles Angels are headed to the postseason for the third time in four years.

As far as DePodesta goes, he won't be the "fall guy" if the team performs poorly with his people. He'll just be rightfully out of a job. But let's give him some time first. I wouldn't give him too much credit for last year or too much blame for this year. But if the press is going to fault him for the team's poor performance in 2005, then these same writers should have given him some of the glory for the club's success in 2004 (which they clearly did not do).

You can't have it both ways.

The only reason Tracy is beloved by the LA Times (and others in the press) is that the press has seen the writing on the wall for Tracy for some time. They know he's gone, and see the opportunity to savor a few more jabs at McCourt & Co. when Tracy is "unfairly" fired and treated just like all those other guys who were so roughly trod upon when McCourt took over.

Remember when Tracy was *always* the butt of Simers' unpleasant comments? Chemical Dan and The MicroManager? Tracy only because a "well-respected" guy and had attention drawn to his winning record in LA when it started to lok like he might be fired.

reason #1 not ot hire Valentine...

He stinks as a manager.

I actually don't think Simers comments mean much one way or the other. He was probably surprised he had enough influence in getting Kevin Malone fired. Simers just wants to have fun. He makes fun of Phil Jackson and if any coaching figure in L.A. deserves some respect, it's likely him. Does Simers have a nickname for Pete Carroll?

Plaschke tends to write more of the "I think this should be so" columns. He had the list of "10 things he wanted changed about Dodger Stadium" column. He's had numerous bills of indictment against DePodesta and has referred to the Lo Duca and Mota for Penny and Choi trade as "the stink bomb rolled into the tent."

But Plaschke's columns tend to be written as sports as battles between good and evil. Somebody always does something to anger Plaschke or disappoint. Last year he had a column about how USC offered Ken Norton, Jr. an assistant coaching position because UCLA wouldn't give him one. It was almost made out that USC was winning the national championship because of Norton's presence

But Plaschke's best work was his column after the Angels clinched the AL West when he wrote that he wasn't going to compare the Angels to the Dodgers because "there was no comparison". Then he listed a bunch of comparisons.

Rich, great piece and great comments by the others below. My main question which might not be answerable, by Tracy asking for the extension now, is this another case where an agent gets in the ear of a player or manager and tells him things and the player loses all touch with reality-goes somewhere else and ends up being a huge dissapointment and is released, traded etc. I always thought that the way the Mike Piazza negotiations were handeled was a classic case where the agent and player were not on the same page, and while Piazza ended getting the big dollars in New York and did make it to a World Series, in my mind he would have made more money and potentially would have pushed the Dodgers over the hump and they may have won had he stayed.

What I also wonder about and have know way of fully knowing is how pissed off Tracy was when he and his coaching staff were low-balled and by DePo and McCourt and whether he felt hung out to dry when the additional money saved by trades at the begining of the year, was not used at mid-season or before to get another bat when it was clear in early June that there were severe problems. Perhaps in his mind forcing DePodesta to fire him allows him to leave an organization where he is more upset with the owner then the GM! Hence why I think the LAT has suddenly fallen in love with Jim Tracy.

Ron Washington in my mind would be the best manager for the Dodgers for next year, with a veteran pitching coach and great bench coach. I believe has a hitting coach and perhaps of all of the Dodger coaches, Tim Wallach seems to be the most in tune with DePodesta, and he could be a real dark horse, and perhaps bring in Orel to be the pitching coach.

Larry Dierker?

On the LA Times front, it should be noted that Simers ripped regularly on Tracy until he figured out, early this year, that Tracy's
"plight" would give him more ammo to use against the McCourts. Suddenly, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Jim Tracy switched sides faster than Hulk Hogan during a ratings slump.

I know this will never be done again (and quite frankly it is amazing it was done back in the 50s) but I would like the Dodgers to go with an unknown say like Walt Alston was back in 54. My choice would be Dan Rohn who has managed the team in Tacoma for the past few years. I don't know him personally but I get out to the ballpark enough to see him on the field and what I see I like. In contrast to Alston he is very outgoing, though not in the LaSorda way which I found hard to take after a few years. His teams always hustled; he would push his players back from arguing with the umps; he seemed in control of himself and his players. He would probably anger some of the Dodger Thoughts readers because he does bunt and does put the game in motion when he has speed on the bases. It would not bother me because I like that style of play; I grew up with the Dodgers of the 60s.

Larry Dierker would be a great fit for DePo. In his five-year stint with Houston from 1997-2001, not only did he post division finishes of 1st, 1st, 1st, 4th and 1st but he did it with consistently strong Beane Counts. The Astros' Beane Count for the entire NL were 2, 2, 1, 6, 3. For the five-year era, Houston was second to Atlanta.

If he's healthy and interested, he's a good fit.

I would second Horatio's nomination and Tom's research on Larry Dierker. Born in Hollywood, CA, the 59-year-old Dierker should be on any short list to become the next manager of the Dodgers.

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't Dierker get fired because he lost control over the Houston clubhouse? There is more to being a manager than making in game decisions. If the only criteria for managing was strategy, a robot could be a successful manager.

While Dierker would be an interesting choice, he won't get the job. He stepped down as manager of the Astros because the players stopped respecting him. They thought he was a joke.

Dierker is definitely a different sort of character, but I think his health (he had brain surgery a few years ago) and the fact that he doesn't really like Southern California anymore (I remember him saying so when he was a player), that I doubt he would want to put up with the hassle of managing the Dodgers.

Just because he ultimately lost control of the clubhouse in Houston (after multiple division titles) wouldn't seem to necessarily disqualify him from another job. That's not to say that there might not have been other factors which would indeed hurt his chances of getting a job, but I'd imagine if the Dodgers (or anyone) could get even a few years of whatever he gave the Astros during the bulk of his tenure there, they'd take it.

As for whether or not he's interested in managing anymore, I have no idea - though I do seem to remember his name being thrown around a bit before the Red Sox hired Francona.

A fine analysis. Thanks. And now that it's official, here's one longtime Dodger fan's thoughts:

No chance: Valentine, Johnson, Dierker (btw, records or no, Dierker was a terrible manager in my opinion, from what I saw of him, made some truly stupid lapses in judgement and was indeed not respected by players; no way in heck does DePo even consider him. Er, I think.)

Chance: Wallach, Hershiser, Terry Collins, Jerry Royster

Good chance: Ron Washington, Bud Black

My pick: Washington. DePo knows him, the A's connection, well-respected, frequently mentioned in the "why didn't they consider..." conversations. Just a shot in the dark but...

They need someone who can work seamlessly with both veterans and a lot of youth - as they will have an influx of top prospects coming up from the minors over the next year or so (some already have but the biggest names are still down there, likely up next year. A mix of pitchers and everyday players...)


My favorite player on the Dodgers is Hee Sop Choi..
I am a big fan of his and think he is an awsome 1st baseman. The way Tracy treated him was sickening and disheartening. Lasorda wouldn't of done that. Choi is the man in my book! Go Chop Chop!!!!!!!

That is just one womans opinion but , I still wanna marry you.

It would be great to see Orel come back; DePo might have a problem hiring a manager who looks like he could be his older brother...

What about Davey Lopes? Surely he shouldn't be disqualified based on his stint in Milwaukee...

Bud Black: Would they turn to the Angels' pitching coach? Wouldn't they have to swallow some pride to admit that they needed an Angel to save them?

Wouldn't the selection of Ron Washington highlight the whole Moneyball issue? Is that enough of a PR problem to deter DePodesta from hiring him?

Now that Alan Trammel is out in Detroit, what about Gibby??