Eight Surefire Moves to Improve L.A. Dodgers Management in 2011
With less than 40 games remaining in the 2010 season, there are still many questions looming for the Los Angeles Dodgers from an organizational standpoint.
The divorce trial between owner Frank McCourt and his wife Jamie is set to begin on August 30, and depending on what exactly transpires in the courtroom, future ownership may take a new direction.
The decision as to whether Joe Torre will return as Dodgers' manager will be made once Los Angeles "officially" falls from contention, while controversies as to whom will be at the helm next year are already taking shape. If Torre decides to move on and continue managing, an entirely new team of coaches may need to be assembled, as part of the staff may follow in Joe's path.
If indeed a new owner is introduced in Los Angeles, many managerial changes are anticipated. The current managers and coaching staff have been on the hot seat for most of the season, as coaching techniques, personnel decisions, and roster management were constantly criticized across Dodgertown.
And with more than a handful of players' contracts expiring at the end of the year, roster changes may be imminent heading into 2011 as well. Frank McCourt's notorious deferred money contracts have scarred the Dodgers' budget for the past several seasons, and the possibilities of several players not returning or a number of contracts being restructured loom large.
Yet with the many questions and hurdles that lie ahead, the Dodger legacy will be forever intact, and the Dodger faithful will continue to show its relentless support.
The following slides show eight areas of coaching and management that may be addressed heading into the off-season, as well as offer recommendations of filling any vacated positions. The names shown are by no means based on any fact or inside information, but simply illustrate the many possibilities that exist if the Dodgers decide to make changes moving forward.
Current owner: Frank McCourt
Without a doubt, Frank McCourt's unethical and immoral business practices have negatively effected every single operating aspect of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise. If a decision is not made by a court judge to order the sale of the team, it may be up to the commissioner and other representatives of Major League Baseball to intervene. Whatever the result, it needs to be rapid and smooth, not allowing McCourt to drain every single dollar and asset from the franchise.
Recommendation: Dennis Gilbert
As a longtime player agent and a lifelong fan of the Dodgers, Dennis Gilbert would fit in perfectly as the new owner. Gilbert's background in Major League Baseball is very extensive. Gilbert currently serves as a special assistant to Chicago White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and he's more than capable of leading a successful franchise. He's also familiar with the buying process, as he formed an investment group in an effort to buy the Texas Rangers this season.
But perhaps not acquiring the Rangers was a sign of destiny, and in the end, Gilbert may get a shot at the squad that he wanted all along. There's no secret where his loyalties lie—Gilbert holds season tickets in the front row of the Dugout Club, directly behind home plate.
Hopefully for the benefit of Dodgertown, the rumors that have recently surfaced about pop singer Britney Spears showing an interest in buying the organization have no validation whatsoever.
Current General Manager: Ned Colletti
In defense to Ned Colletti, there are certainly a few areas of management in which he is considered among the best in the business. However, upon arrival, most new owners generally start fresh with someone whom they have a long-standing, trustworthy relationship.
Moving forward, Ned's legacy will be known as the GM who did every little thing that Frank wanted. And although he did indeed do most of those things well, he did let several areas of operations slip by the wayside; most specifically the daily operations of Dodger Stadium and the marketing department.
Recommendation: Kim Ng
Kim Ng is currently the Los Angeles Dodgers' Vice President of Baseball Operations, and also serves as Assistant General Manager. She is one of only two female executives in Major League Baseball to hold such a position in baseball operations and was the first woman to interview for a General Manager's position in Major League history when she did so with the Dodgers in 2005.
In her 12 seasons as an Assistant General Manager, she has reached the postseason eight times, the LCS six times and won three World Championships. Prior to joining the Dodgers, Ng served as Vice President and Assistant General Manager for four seasons as part of the New York Yankees. At only 29-years-old when hired by the Yankees, she was the youngest Assistant General Manager in Major League Baseball. In her tenure with the Yankees, New York advanced to the World Series four times and won three World Championships.
Gender issues aside, there's nobody more qualified for the job.
Assistant GM Logan White would undoubtedly be considered for this position, but Logan continues to be the heart and soul of the Dodgers' farm system. With a new structured budget and a focused GM, White will once again have free reign to build the team's affiliates to the top tier in the League.
Current Manager: Joe Torre
There's no lingering doubt that Joe Torre will be remembered as one of the greatest managers in MLB history.
However, in his later years, it's showing that his strengths lie within managing a team with talent and potential already in place—not rebuilding.
His questionable ability to manage the Dodger bullpen and his unorthodox lineup shuffling have raised eyebrows among the Dodger faithful on many occasions this season.
Although he's yet to make a decision about his future in Dodger Blue, all signs are pointing to his departure.
Recommendation: Tim Wallach
Tim Wallach is far and away the perfect fit to become the next manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers—no questions asked.
Over the course of his 16 years as a player in the Majors, Wallach won three Gold Glove awards for defensive excellence and two Silver Slugger awards for his abilities at the dish. He was also named to five All-Star teams.
In 2004, Tim returned to the Dodgers as batting coach, and in January of last year he was named manager of the Albuquerque Isotopes, the Dodgers' Triple-A farm club. He eventually led the Isotopes into the playoffs with a franchise record 80 wins and was named as Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year.
With the possibility of several younger players emerging from the Dodgers' farm over the next several years, Wallach has the inside edge on player relations more than any other potential candidate inside or outside the organization.
Current Bench Coach: Bob Schaefer
Schaefer began as the Dodgers' bench coach at the beginning of the 2008 season, the same time as Joe Torre began as manager. Serving as Torre's right-hand man and conscience over the past two seasons, it goes without saying that they have blended together and share similar philosophies. It's traditional that a manager hand-pick his own bench coach, and Tim Wallach will certainly utilize that option moving forward.
Recommendation: Damon Berryhill
Berryhill has a total of ten years service in the bigs as a catcher with the Chicago Cubs, the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants. Damon is probably best known for hitting the game winning three-run home run for the Atlanta Braves in Game One of the 1992 World Series.
In 2008 he managed the Bakersfield Blaze of the California League, and in 2009 he became the manager of the Ogden Raptors, the Dodgers' Rookie League farm affiliate.
Berryhill's fresh approach and enthusiasm, as well as his vast experience would be a much needed positive influence in the Dodger dugout.
With the early departure of Lou Pinella in Chicago, the Cubs' current bench coach, Alan Trammell, may be looking for a job in 2011. If the Cubs don't retain Trammell, he would be an invaluable addition to Los Angeles. Trammell wrote the book on infield fundamentals, and would shore up the Dodger defense around the horn in a hurry.
Current Batting Coach: Don Mattingly
Overall, the Dodgers' offense can be considered a disappointment in 2010—especially in the power department.
This season, James Loney has the lowest batting average of his entire career at .279, Andre Ethier is batting less than .220 since the All-Star break, and in the worst part of his slumps, Matt Kemp almost looks clueless at the dish. More times than not, the Dodgers hitters have made the League's below-average pitchers look like Cy Young Award winners.
Perhaps Mattingly's aspirations of managing have impeded his batting coaching duties. If Mattingly desires to pursue managing, and the Dodgers continue to value his skills, perhaps he could fill the managing position at Ogden, if Damon Berryhill is indeed promoted in some form.
Recommendation: Rudy Jaramillo
Rudy Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in the business—hands down. Any player that he ever coached will testify to his abilities. Whether it be slap hitting, bunting, power hitting, gap hitting, or developing plate discipline, there's no better coach in baseball.
During his time with the Texas Rangers, his hitters have won 17 Silver Slugger Awards, four MVP Awards, three home run titles, two RBI championships and a batting title. Jaramillo also guided the Rangers to 13-consecutive seasons in which the offense recorded more than 800 runs scored, the longest streak by any major league team since the New York Yankees accomplished the feat in 17-straight seasons from 1926-42.
Jaramillo, now with the Cubs, may be an option for Los Angeles with the future of the Chicago management team in question.
If Jaramillo would be impossible to obtain, one other option would be long-time Dodger Franklin Stubbs. Stubbs, unlike Mattingly, was known for his power, and his presence may be a catalyst for improved Dodgers' slugging. Stubbs is currently the batting coach for the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers.
Current Pitching Coach: Rick Honeycutt
Some people across Dodgertown will say that the success of the Dodger pitching this year should be credited to pure ability alone. In 2009 Los Angeles had one of the top three bullpens in the Major Leagues, only to see it completely disintegrate in 2010. And with the starters, primarily Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, the senseless walks yielded have constantly led to what seems like game clinching runs by opposing squads.
Rick Honeycutt is both living and dying by the "nibbling" philosophy. For some pitchers, it becomes effective, but for others, such as fire-ballers Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chi Kuo, it almost destroys their mechanics. It's obvious that Honeycutt preaches the same location philosophies with all of his pitchers, but there comes a time when a pitcher needs to gear up and challenge a hitter. Honeycutt's lack of versatility and unwillingness to coach a pitcher to his strength are certainly his downfalls.
Recommendation: Tim Belcher
Ironically enough, in his playing days, Tim Belcher was acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal which sent Rick Honeycut to the Oakland Athletics in 1987. Tim went on to pitch 13 seasons in the bigs, and the highlight of his career was contributing to the Dodgers' stellar pitching in the 1988 World Series.
After eight seasons in the Indians organization as Special Assistant to Baseball Operations, he became the Cleveland pitching coach in 2009. Tim knows the mechanics of both power pitching and location, and he has the ability to coach sinker ball throwers as well. Belcher's fresh outlook and new ideas would certainly be welcomed in Los Angeles.
With Atlanta manager Bobby Cox's retirement coming at the end of this season, current Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell could be looking for employment in the offseason. With the bullpen being one of the Dodgers' biggest weaknesses this year, McDowell's experience as a reliever could be an asset.
Current Bullpen Coach: Ken Howell
Outside of making sure that a relief pitcher was warm and ready when needed, Ken Howell seemingly didn't offer much else in terms of guidance to the Los Angeles pen in 2010. Howell was a stellar reliever in his playing days, but any type of coaching that he offered this year simply wasn't sinking through to the Dodgers' firemen.
Recommendation: Charlie Hough
Charlie Hough had a brief stint as the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach in 1998 and 1999, and is the current pitching coach for the Dodgers' Single-A affiliate, the Inland Empire 66ers.
Although primarily a starter during his 24-year professional career in the big leagues, Hough is very familiar with the bullpen. He has established a repoire with the younger generation of future stars at San Bernardino, as having worked with these throwers when they are called up would certainly be a plus. Charlie undoubtedly has the experience, the ability, and the interpersonal skills to be a success on the Dodgers staff.
Although presently employed by NESN and TBS, Dennis Eckersley would be a dream to have as a bullpen coach. His detailed game analysis ranks with the best of baseball broadcasters in the business, and one can sense and itch for him to one day return to the field and coach. To this day, Eck still chats with Tommy Lasorda and Kirk Gibson regularly.
Third Base Coach
Current Third Base Coach: Larry Bowa
Very few coaches have a more thorough understanding of the game than Larry Bowa, however Bowa's personality and communication skills continue to harm his coaching career. He's tried managing more than once, yet his efforts continue to land him jobs as a specialist coach. Bowa would certainly make a fine addition to almost any major league squad, but for a team looking to rebuild management and create chemistry, there's almost no room for him at all.
Recommendation: Mariano Duncan
Mariano Duncan, the current Dodgers' first base coach, is the logical choice to slide over and replace Larry Bowa. In addition to his stellar base running fundamentals and his keen eye to pick up the littlest things anywhere on the field, Duncan offers years of experience to players at any level of development. His excellent ability to interact with all of the players on the squad makes him a logical fit with the Dodgers moving forward.
As the first base coaching spot would be vacated by Duncan, it couldn't hurt Los Angeles to make a phone call to Dodgers' legend and current Philadelphia Phillies' first base coach Davey Lopes. Lopes' reputation as a base coach precedes him as among the best in the game. One other option would be John Shelby, who has coached the bases for the Dodgers in the past. Under new management, Shelby could weigh in as a productive option.