Baseball BeatOctober 30, 2005
The Morning After
By Rich Lederer

There are more questions than answers on the morning after Frank and Jamie McCourt fired Paul DePodesta. (Note that I didn't say the Dodgers. The Dodgers didn't fire DePodesta, the McCourts did. Besides, aren't the McCourts the brand and the Dodgers the product?)

Here are 32 questions -- 32 seems like a good number when discussing the Dodgers -- that are on my mind:

1. Why did McCourt hire DePodesta in the first place?

2. Why did he give him a five-year deal and then fire him in less than two years?

3. Did he hire him because Moneyball was in?

4. With the White Sox the new World Series champs, is Moneyball now out and Smartball--or whatever the hell you call the newest, latest, and greatest way to win--in? Did that influence the McCourts?

5. Why wasn't leadership, now a "very important characteristic" in the search for the new GM, not valued 20 months ago when DePo was hired?

6. Ditto for being a "good communicator" and finding "someone with the experience to do the job?"

7. Why do executives go a complete 180 when they hire a replacement for the guy who failed previously?

8. If experience is so important, why do the McCourts think they know how to run a baseball team?

9. Why don't the standards they hold to others apply to themselves?

10. Just why is Jamie McCourt Vice Chairman and President?

11. Other than being married to Frank, what are her qualifications?

12. Who else interviewed for that job?

13. Was Drew McCourt really 23 years old when he was appointed Director of Marketing last April?

14. When did the Dodgers become Sly and the Family Stone?

15. If leadership, being a good communicator, someone with experience, and having a "keen eye for baseball talent" are so important, why didn't McCourt hire Pat Gillick rather than DePodesta?

16. What would Gillick bring to the table today that he didn't back when he interviewed for the same position in 2004?

17. If McCourt "wants Dodgers here," then how does Gillick fit into that goal?

18. What makes Bobby Valentine such a great choice?

19. Would Gillick or whoever becomes the new GM truly pick the next manager or will there be an understanding that Valentine is the manager in waiting?

20. Has anyone pointed out that it took Valentine more games (1,704) to reach the playoffs (in 1999 with the Mets) than any other manager since divisional play began in 1969?

21. If Tommy Lasorda is so fond of Valentine, why didn't he hire him as one of his coaches after Bobby retired in 1979 and before he became the manager of the Texas Rangers in 1985?

22. If Lasorda's comment that Orel Hershiser's "not qualified" for the GM position is correct "because he has never done it," then would any of us have ever gotten a promotion to a new position? Based on that logic, wouldn't we all still be cavemen?

23. Why would a "special advisor" be so widely quoted in the press? Aren't such confidantes supposed to be more behind the scenes types?

24. Has Lasorda ever done anything behind the scenes, other than snipe about guys like DePodesta, Fred Claire, and Bill Russell?

25. How did the Dodgers perform the year Lasorda was named special advisor?

26. Is he not to blame for the Dodgers' problems this year or is that Al Campanis' fault, too?

27. Has there ever been anyone who clamored the spotlight more than Tommy?

28. As long as Lasorda is in a position of power, why would anyone other than one of his cronies or a McCourt family member want to become the next GM or manager?

29. If McCourt is so fond of staying the course, why did he let DePodesta go?

30. When did that course begin? In 1955 when the Dodgers won their first championship? In 1958 when they moved to Los Angeles? In 1977 when Lasorda became manager? In 2004 when McCourt bought the team and hired DePodesta?

31. Is baseball the only business in the world in which a degree from Harvard is a negative?

32. Wasn't the late and great Branch Rickey the forefather of the use of baseball statistics in player evaluation?

Please help. I need to know the answers to all of the above questions.

* * * * *

Sunday evening update: I highly recommend to all readers of Baseball Analysts that you head over to Dodger Thoughts, if you haven't already, and check out one of Jon Weisman's masterpieces (The Dodger Tradition).

Comments

It ain't my bleeping fault! Campanis is the bleeping guy!

Gillick's only connection to Southern California is, well, Southern California. He played college baseball at USC.

28. As long as Lasorda is in a position of power, why would anyone other than one of his cronies or a McCourt family member want to become the next GM or manager?

You heard it here first, kids: the Dodgers' fate is not to become the Mets.

It is to become the Royals, whose front office is loaded with relatives.

"This bleepin' job is not that bleepin' easy!"

33. How can you ask your owner to choose his next Manager from a lame list of candidates including Ron Wotus, Alan Trammell, Jerry Royster & Terry Collins, and expect to keep your job?

I think the reason for hiring DePodesta was the promise, either explicit or implicit, that he would field a consistent winner for less money than other GMs could. Given the McCourts' dubious finances, DePo's reputation for winning efficiently had to be appealing.

I think the success of their neighbours/rivals Angels has an influence too. The McCourts probably feel they have to win in 2006 regardless of any/all costs.

31. Is baseball the only business in the world in which a degree from Harvard is a negative?

It is in this case, and I'll tell you why. There's a lot of resentment in Los Angeles for McCourt's "Bostonization" of the Dodgers -- eliminating names from the backs of the uniforms, changing the Dodger Stadium walls from blue to green -- and hiring a Harvard guy, even if he wasn't necessarily from Boston, won't make you any more popular among Angelenos. (Especially since his people skills apparently weren't the best.)

Anyway, the Ivy Leaguers run everything else as it is, from the Supreme Court to sitcom writing staffs. Do they have to take over baseball, too?

Drew, I'll take a crack at #33.

Ron Wotus -- Believe it or not, just because he's not a proven Major League manager, he does have a resume and on it is two minor league Manager of Year awards. Also, he knows the Giants inside and out. You think that's worth anything?

Terry Collins -- DePodesta was ready to hire him, so clearly the two saw eye-to-eye. DePodesta was looking for someone to instill his philosophies, something DePodesta and Tracy had a hard time doing. Plus Collins knows the Dodger farm system as well as anyone.

Torey Lovullo -- Weak-hitting infielder turned successful and popular Double A manager. Who know who else had a career like that before becoming a Major League manager? Tony LaRussa. I actually think Lovullo was not only the best choice (young, appealing to media, from up-and-coming organization, "LA guy", etc.), but I commend DePodesta for not only having the vision to interview Lovullo, but having the stones to possibly hire a guy the everyday fan wouldn't "get" and the media would most definitely rip ("Another kid...", "Who?", "He's won exactly zero major league games as a manager...", etc.)

DePodesta thought out of the box (something he learned at both Harvard and Oakland) when he put together his list and for that he should be commended, not crucified. How where Mike Scoiscia, Terry Francona and Ozzie Guillen perceived as managers when they were hired? All I know is that they each have been fitted for World Series rings in the last four years.

Drew, since you don't like the "lame list" DePodesta came up with, who are YOUR choices to manage the Dodgers in '06?

Joe, great point on Lovullo. Let's keep an eye on that guy and not forget DePo when he is successful.

Also, let's examine the criticism of DePo having not played in the bigs. How many GMs have?

And while we're at it, his stay the course message was preceded with this: "You can't get too high with the highs and too low with the lows. We're not as smart as we seemed in 2004 and not as dumb as we seemed this year. You've got to be steady and have a plan and be smart enough to adjust the plan, but stay the course."

Seems to me he's absolutely bottoming out on this low.

"I think the reason for hiring DePodesta was the promise, either explicit or implicit, that he would field a consistent winner for less money than other GMs could. Given the McCourts' dubious finances, DePo's reputation for winning efficiently had to be appealing."


I agree with jmacdonald on this, although I suspect DePo said something like "I can show you how to use your financial resources more efficiently to build a consistently good team," and McCourt heard it as "I can win you a World Series on the cheap." Just another one of those communication problems we're hearing so much about.

Current GMs who have played in the majors:
Kenny Williams
Bill Stoneman
Billy Beane

Have I missed any?

Three out of 30. 10%.

That's four no-hitters...Williams and Beane couldn't hit (that's two) and Stoneman contributed a couple of no-nos himself.

:-)

If you go by 2005 standings, I think the former big leaguer GMs have a hellacious winning percentage compared to the other 27 teams.

Which is not particularly meaningful.

Two quick things:

1. It doesn't matter if a GM has been a player or not. That has no bearing on success or failure.

2. Every experienced manager was, once upon a time, an inexperienced manager. They all have to start somewhere.

(No, these aren't revelations but, well, I thought these two things had to be stated.)

Nice post Joe commenting on the Manager choices. Let me throw in my diatribe/two cents on this.


Depo's Acquisition Transactions of note;

Jayson Werth- for pitcher Jason Frasor, very good deal for the Dodgers even with Werth?s injuries this yr.

Milton Bradley- for basically nothing, very good deal for Dodgers

Brad Penny- 7-9, 3.90 ERA not as good as expected, but still young and a power pitcher which has value

Hee Seop Choi .253 ave, 15 HR, 42 RBI in 320 AB- Not very good, but only costs $350k

Steve Finley- very instrumental in helping get to Postseason in 2004, good acquisition.

Jeff Kent- led team in almost all hitting categories- major improvement from Alex Cora

JD Drew- excellent talent but needs to stay healthy. Only 72 games in 2004, but had .412 OBP so was playing well

Jason Philips- cheap, C/1B, played well early but tired, still a great trade for Ishii

Dioner Navarro-Heir apparent to LoDuca? Much more talented

Jose Cruz Jr- Cheap fill in that played well (gift from Theo for Roberts in 2004)

Derek Lowe- 12-15 3.61 ERA. Too many HR?s (28) for a sinker ball pitcher but deserved better record. Had much better stats than Weaver but Weaver was 14-11.

Releases

Kaz Ishii- worthless, great to get rid of him
Hideo Nomo- 2003 was his last bit of success, done, good job to get rid of him
Shawn Green- bloated salary, continues to perform way below prime, 22HR, .286 ave 7.8M at a discount after trade
Paul LoDuca- 6 HR, 57 RBI, 4.67M
Guillermo Mota- 4.57 ERA, lost closers job early
Juan Encarnacion- 16 HR, 76 RBI, .287 ave but only .349 OBP, 4.4M
Steve Finley- .220 injury plagued season. 40 yrs old
Alex Cora- worthless as Cleveland and Boston found out
Adrian Beltre- 19 HR, .255 ave, 87 RBI 603 AB.. Not worth 11.4M a yr
Jose Lima- Horrible season for aging veteran on poor team, 5-16 and 6.99 ERA
Dave Roberts- one dimensional, very useful to steal a base in 8th inning but no arm and can?t hit

Since I?m a Yankee fan, I don?t have any personal attachment to these players, but I can?t really see where Depodesta went wrong. LoDuca has heart which is tough to value, but Navarro is a major upgrade in the long run, Encarnacion was a dud with a big salary, so nobody misses him and Mota hasn?t exactly lit up the NL since his departure, so what is the big deal? Penny hasn?t done that great, but 3.90 ERA for a starter is still good, so you can?t complain that much. Choi, for 350k is a steal. Fans don?t like him, but .250, 15 hrs in 302 AB, is 25-30HR over a full season AB. Beltre had only 19 and batted .255 for Seattle?. You still pissed they didn?t give him the money?? Kinda similar to his 2003 stats? hmmmmm?

Ishii, Nomo, Cora, Lima are all done, so getting anything for them is robbery. Finley was injured so tough luck but would really only be around 1 or 2 more yrs anyway, so?

Then we have Green, way past his prime but still functional. I?d pay 5M for him, but 12+, down to 7.8M?? Az still gave up too much IMO.

OK, so 2003 Dodgers had no offense, but Brown and Nomo had great seasons which made them look better than they were. 2004, the team looks a little better, has a monster yr from Beltre to carry them, but they were not a 90+ win team. The team played above its head. 2005 started great, 12-2, but tough to say since too many injuries. If we (Yanks) lost Rivera for the yr, Rodriguez and Sheffield for half season each, Jeter for 2nd half.. we would have been close to 71-91, LOL. Bottom line, Dodgers were not a good team when Depodesta took them over and they actually look better now than they were in 2003 so, I would have kept him around for at least 1 more yr. That and Frank McCourt is a stooge. He is not exactly in George?s category yet, it takes 20+ yrs of stupidity to get in his shoes, but McCourt is trying hard to bridge the gap.

3. Did he hire him because Moneyball was in?

Yes. Plain and simple. Now he's firing him because the "Smallball/Smartball" White Sox have made Moneyball "out." Plain and Simple. McCourt is utterly at the mercy of popular opinion, as expressed in the media.

And yeah, that's a bad thing.

I don't have my media guide with me at work, but IIRC, Jamie McCourt has both a law degree and an MBA. Other women have served as president/chairman of their teams (Joan Kroc and the woman who owned the Red Sox come to mind). I'd like to see a management philsophy of hiring the best possible candidate for a job and leaving them alone to do the work.

I'd like to see a management philsophy of hiring the best possible candidate for a job and leaving them alone to do the work.

Agree.

Jamie McCourt's official bio states:

Jamie earned her B.S. degree in French from Georgetown University. She holds a diploma from La Sorbonne at the University of Paris. She received her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law and spent a semester of law school abroad at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She then earned her M.S. (MBA) degree in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where she concentrated in both organizational learning and corporate finance.

At least Depo will have a job now that Theo has resigned. If the BoSox have any sense left and don't want to wait 86 years for the next title they should hire him NOW!

Keith

18/ Easiest answer of all the questions you ask. Valentine is Tommy Lasorda's pick.

Joe -
The lameness of DePodesta's list was it's lack of consideration for the Dodgers' current P.R. crisis. In addition to being a good baseball hire, this needs to be someone that will at best excite, and at worst not alienate an increasingly pissed-off Dodger fan base.

But there was no one on the list with any big league managing success, and no one on the list with any significant Dodger bloodline.

That's a tough sell for a team coming off a 71 win season in the second biggest media market.

I've got nothing against first-timers....including Ron Wotus (except he's a Giant), or Torey Lovullo (except there are dozens of light hitting infielders for every Tony LaRussa who made the jump from AA to big league success). I even understand the politics of including Jerry Royster, whose big league shot was a 94 game loser in his year (actually less than a year) in Milwaukee. But Alan Trammell?

My list:
Mike Scioscia - You never know unless you ask, and it was inexplicable not to...particularly when Arte Moreno said he wouldn't stand in the way.

Grady Little - 2 90+ win seasons in the toughest division in baseball make him a far more attractive candidate than Terry Collins, whose .500 managerial record and history of quickly wearing out his welcome outweighs the benefit of his knowledge of the Dodger farm system.

Bobby Valentine and Kevin Kennedy - If we're looking at managers with .500 records, let's at least include a couple with Dodger bloodlines.

By the way, I'm very familiar with Torey Lovullo. I saw him play... have seen him manage....and have met him several times. I agree that Torey will be managing in the major leagues some day... but this was his first major league managerial interview, and it's a big jump from AA to the Dodgers. I've got no problem bringing him in to meet, but is he honestly one of the 5 best candidates for this job?

Regarding the list of managerial candidates: wasn't Tracy an unknown commodity when he was hired? I know I had never heard of him.

My fear is that even with McCourt's financial issues, he's going to panic and trade away all his prized prospects for aging overpaid vets (to keep Gagne and Kent happy) and end up with the same bad results.

For those of you in the LA area: I listened to the Loose Cannons today. You can never take them seriously, but today I wanted to drive to the studio to punch Vic the Brick in the face for singing "Satisfaction" while crowing about DePo's firing.

As a Padre fan, I am absolutely delighted with the (lack of) direction the Dodgers are headed.
BWAAH HAAAA HAAA HAAA!!!!

Drew--
Your criteria for Dodgers manager -- PR considerations, excitement, experience and Dodger bloodline (I'm guessing you'd choose Bobby Valentine) -- illustrates conventional thinking. If that's your method, there's no point in having DePodesta who is all about thinking outside the box.

Drew, thank you for the response (and a well thought-out one at that.)

Mike Scioscia - A complete 180 from DePodesta's vision. Now with the new general manager, I have no problem with Scioscia being brought in(although I'm not a huge fan of him.)

Grady Little - This guy was run out of Boston. How would that excite the fans and media?

I think a manager's first job is to win games which begets fan excitement and media support. He shouldn't be hired to please anyone but the owner and the general manager.

Tom -
With all due respect, what makes Terry Collins a worthy "out of the box" choice? Because in the 6 years since his most recent managing job he's fallen so far off the radar as to now be an unconventional choice?

Drew--
Did I say Collins was an out of the box choice? If you want to hang Collins around DePodestas neck as a symbol of his decision-making, go ahead, but I think it is grossly unfair. My take is that DePodesta was already feeling handcuffed by McCourt and, therefore, he was making a compromise of sorts. To have to look over your shoulder (and hear the whispering in the owners ear) at this point in time is unforgivable.

Either give your GM the freedom to implement his vision or be prepared for a hybrid that is destined for failure or, at best, mediocrity. McCourt has created a circus atmosphere and his lack of credibility contaminates the entire operation. As a consequence, the press has found it that much easier to criticize DePodesta.

Hypothetically, if Peter OMalley had kept control and maintained the standard stability to this point and handed the reins to DePodesta with his absolute support, the situation would be totally different. DePo would be creating the player personnel structure that he wants. Sure, there would be pot shots to be taken, but there would not be the mass feeding frenzy that exists now. After four years, a more reasonable assessment could be made on his progress.

This concept of being unfairly handcuffed.... that's also come up in the case of Theo Epstein....wow! Name one business where the owner just turns over the keys to his manager, and gives him, as you say, "the freedom to implement his vision." That's just not realistic. What successful owner....in sports or in the business world...completely vacates responsiblity like that... let alone to a 31 year old GM without a proven track record?

Terry Collins was DePodesta's choice. DePodesta is being lauded for his "out of the box" thinking. Collins is in no way an "out of the box" choice. How is that unfair?

OK, it's a black and white world. Since no one "just turns over the keys" there can't be any validity to a claim that McCourt has created circumstances any different than would be encountered in every organization.

You'll get no argument from me that the McCourts are the worst owners in baseball. That said, Terry Collins was still DePodesta's choice. His first opportunity ever to hire a manager, and that's who he came up with? There's no indication what so ever that he was pressured by the McCourts to even consider Collins...in fact, there seems to be a pretty clear indication of the opposite...that his firing was at least in part a reaction to his managerial choice.

Not black & white at all. There's a whole lot of people out there qualified to manage a baseball team, and surely DePodesta could have presented a candidate that would have been acceptable to both him and the McCourts.

Again, this isn't about Collins per se. However, if I understand you correctly, you don't think Terry would have been a wise choice principally because he would have been a "tough sale" to the public in an increasingly competitive market with the Angels.

I agree and, as such, believe Collins would have been an "outside the box" choice. Conventional wisdom would NEVER select a guy like him. Let's see, "Twice fired. Most recently by the bad guys down Interstate 5. Players hated him. Yeah, let's go get him!"

DePo had the nads, not the stupidity, to trust the Dodgers and his very own position on Collins. Why? Because Paul believed Collins was the right guy, not because he thought his choice would be well received by the media or the public.

Picking a manager isn't a popularity contest. Instead, it's about getting a guy in which you have trust and confidence; someone who has the right skill set, talent, knowledge, and experience; and at a cost effective price that enables the employer to earn a reasonable return on his investment.

I have no doubt that Collins met all of the above tests.

To clarify, I don't think he would have been a wise choice because I've seen him manage first-hand, often, and I don't think he was a very good manager.

He may have met those tests in your eyes...and in DePodesta's, but the six year gap since his last managing job is a pretty good indication that no one in a position to hire him for a managers position in the major leagues agrees with you. There's a reason he's an "outside the box" choice.

Using that logic, Joe Torre never should have been given a third opportunity. Like Collins, he managed two different teams (although to losing records rather than winning records) in the early going, then sat out SIX years before getting another shot with the Cardinals (1990-95) and, finally, the Yankees (1996-present).

If, and when, Torre makes the HOF, it will be as a manager. And it won't be for anything he did in his first two stints nor for what he did those six years waiting for another opportunity to develop.

I'll buy you a drink in Cooperstown when Terry Collins goes into the Hall.

You've either missed my point or your tongue is tied.

Tongue tied? To the contrary... I think we've beaten this moot point into the ground. I understand and respect your opinion... I just don't agree with it. On to the next issue....


Now that Bobby valenten has "re-uped" in Japan he can't start a rumor about any player(s) with the Dodgers. He can continue to bungle and argure in Japan.(It's like our (USA) gift to Japaneese baseball.
Who knows, maybe Bobby can "manage" the Japaneese team in World Baseball in 2006.(With any luck, Lasorda will be his "Bench Mouth", opps I mean his "Bench Coach")

Think that World Baseball thing will be on US's TV? With Lasorda's mouth on a bench,you can bet on it. Good riddence, "Mr King of the BS". RIP