The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today they will extend general manager Ned Colletti's contract. After speaking with the team's PR department, I was informed that while they will not release the exact number of years in the agreement, the word is it will be a long-term deal.
For Dodger fans who were hoping for a change in that position, this comes as bad news. I have to admit to being in that camp, as I had been hoping the Dodgers would make current assistant GM Kim Ng the first female general manager in major league baseball. Now it will be incumbent upon another organization to step up and give Ng the opportunity she deserves.
The San Diego Padres had a preliminary conversation with Ng on Saturday, when new Padres owner Jeff Moorad was seen having lunch with Ng, according to a release on the Padres Web site. The article also claims Moorad has indicated the new Padre GM would not come from within the San Diego organization nor from the Arizona franchise, with whom Moorad was previously associated.
If Ng is hired by San Diego and performs the duties to the degree I feel she is capable, this could be the greatest loss of management-level personnel since the former owners—the fine folks at the Fox Corp.—drove off Mike Scioscia, who subsequently found fertile ground in Anaheim to ply his trade.
The greatest loss of player personnel in Los Angeles also occurred under Fox's watch, when Chase Carey, an avowed Yankees fan, usurped the position of then-GM Fred Claire, dealing Mike Piazza to Florida mainly to solidify a cable TV transaction. How any self-respecting sporting commissioner could allow such a travesty to occur is a good question, but I digress.
The Dodger press release highlights Colletti's accomplishments, of which there are more than a few. His first trade, which flushed Milton Bradley up to Oakland in exchange for Andre Ethier, has turned out to be a deal any GM would be happy to hang his hat on. Well, any GM except for the A's Billy Beane, that is.
The Dodgers have qualified for the postseason in three of Colletti's four seasons, a feat never before accomplished by a Dodger GM. Of course, no Dodger GM has lasted four seasons since the Foxification endured by Dodger fans. Under the O'Malleys, Dodger GM tenures would be at least a decade long, not to mention the smaller postseason pool.
Colletti has turned in an excellent job in retaining the core of the Dodger farm system, players such as Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Jonathan Broxton.
He is also responsible for bringing in Hall of Fame-caliber talent like Greg Maddux, Manny Ramirez, and Jim Thome. Other key additions during Collette's watch include Casey Blake, Orlando Hudson, Randy Wolf, Vincente Padilla, George Sherrill, and Ronnie Belliard. This year, the bench has been strengthened greatly with the addition of veterans Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus, and Juan Castro.
Still, the other side of the ledger must be considered. A massive error was committed when Jayson Werth was not tendered a new contract after the 2006 season. While Werth had missed the entire year due to a broken bone in his hand, Colletti should have been able to recognize that Werth possessed plus-level abilities in all five tools.
Granted, none of them were maxed out, but the non-tender was not a wise choice. Werth has come back with a vengeance in Philadelphia, a team that has tormented the Dodgers the previous couple of years.
Colletti's memory shouldn't have been so faulty, given he was in the same division for many years, serving as the assistant GM in San Francisco. Players brought down from his time there are another reason for some of the black marks on the ledger.
Colletti is responsible for one of the greatest wastes of free-agent money ever, when he inked Jason Schmidt to a long-term deal. This, in spite of Schmidt's transition from hard-throwing demon into a sore-armed server of juicy slabs of prime rib, seemingly unable to chew gum and walk at the same time without getting injured. A transition that started while both were still sporting black and orange.
One must also not forget the signing of Bill Mueller to a two-year contract, ostensibly to play third base. Mueller did play third, for all of 30 games before injuries converted him to a front-office position.
Another former Giant whose best days were in the rear-view mirror was pitcher Brent Tomko. His already marginal numbers with San Francisco ratcheted upward, as his ERA rose to 5.24 from 4.26 and his WHIP went from 1.357 in SF to 1.470 with LA.
Of course, the less said about Andruw Jones, the better.
A final bone of contention I'll put on the table isn't truly a negative as far as production on the field is concerned, but can be considered a burning hole in the pocketbook. Juan Pierre was given a massive five-year contract to play center field and spark the offense at the top of the order.
Pierre brought the bat, hitting .293 with an OBP of .331, however he is a speed demon not a slugger. It can be argued Pierre is being paid a slugger's salary. Juan also brings the leather and range to patrol center field, but his arm has been found lacking. This can not be considered surprising given Pierre was a known quantity, having played seven National League seasons before being signed.
Pierre's days as a starter with the Dodgers ended when Manny Ramirez was acquired. Given the Bostonian roots of the Dodgers ownership, I have always stopped short of giving Colletti credit for bringing Manny to town. The way Manny's retention played out gives even more credence to that point.
Still, the gritty way Pierre goes about his job, always working hard hours before the game, sets a fine example for the younger players. His hitting remains consistent with his career numbers, and the blazing speed can be intimidating to opposing pitchers and fielders.
It had been widely speculated Colletti overspent to keep Pierre from signing with the Giants. If so, one can hope three years later Colletti has been seasoned enough not to overreach in a similar situation.
The recent news regarding the impending dissolution of the marriage of Dodger owners Frank and Jamie McCourt has given Dodgers fans much to be concerned about. How will the franchise be operated? Will there be cuts in the major league budget? What about the farm system?
The long-term nature of Colletti's extension could be an attempt to provide some stability in what could turn out to be a very unstable situation. The lack of a firm announcement on the number of years leaves a tinge of concern still lingering in the minds of Dodger fans. Many will remain skeptical regarding the future direction of this landmark franchise.
Photo credit—J.C. Ayvazi, 2009
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