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Friday, March 10, 2006

The Fools And Their Money Are Some Party

I can't blame Frank for gushing optimistic before the season starts; after all, it's his team and he's part of the marketing crew. However stupid Frank has appeared in the past, when he bought the team, he reckoned correctly that Dodger fans would stand in line to be shorn each year, regardless of the merits of the team's play on the field. We put up with mediocrity throughout the 90's, and now, following the team's second worst record since moving to Los Angeles, we're willing to forgive and forget. The Dodgers have already sold their two millionth ticket, and that's without Eric Gagné blowing out an ulnar collateral ligament or J.D. Drew leaving his patellar tendon behind in right field.

Yet, for all the optimism, as Jon points out, McCourt is also long on vainglorious incompetence and roughshod public humiliation handed out like clockwork to subordinates and former subordinates, in the press, no less:

"Truthfully, as a new owner, I had never been through a search for a general manager before," McCourt said. "Certainly, I thought I hired the right person, and at the time, I verbalized why. The difference is, I had more experience this time and more time to be more deliberate about it.

"The most important point is that I knew what I wanted. We learn from experience, and I feel I learned immensely from the two years I've owned the club. That's what growth is. It's what players go through. You look at failures you have to overcome to become a champion. We all have bumps in the road -- it's how we deal with them. You have to be willing to admit it and fix it."

Once more, McCourt confirms how little he brings to the table, neither honesty, nor shrewd business acumen, nor even yet direction. At the risk of parroting Jon, McCourt demands our forgiveness -- and we grant it! -- for the team's failure to produce, and yet refuses it to his own subordinates, publicly caning Paul DePodesta for an injury-filled season whose origin in total is far from entirely his fault. Jay Jaffe, who wrote the Dodgers section of Baseball Prospectus 2006, said
In all, the Dodgers would lose 1,357 player-days to injury, the third-highest total in the majors, while leading in both dollars ($36.7 million) and percentage of payroll ($45%) lost to the DL. Granted, that included the full-season absence of the always-injured Darren Dreifort, but even without counting him, the Dodgers would have placed near the top in all three categories.
Jaffe continues that DePodesta certainly didn't help himself by leaving Tracy-luring garbage like Scott Erickson on the roster. Some maintain that offering J.D. "D.L." Drew a five-year contract amounted to a guarantee of far too much Jason Repko in right. At the same time, there was little DePodesta could do about Tracy stubbornly refusing to bench Izturis or even move him from the leadoff spot as he collapsed in a 2-46 death spiral, or dumping Choi in favor of Jason Phillips. But despite all these things -- many of which were clearly beyond his control -- DePodesta at least had the good grace to apologize for the Dodgers' horrible season.

After DePodesta's brutal and capricious firing, front offices and individual coaches throughout baseball laughed at McCourt outright whenever he came to call for a replacement GM or a manager. What followed was a stretch of unintentionally comedic weakness and incompetence that one might expect from the denser front offices on some of the NL East teams, the Phillies, say, or the Mets.

It's far too late to hope the banks will rid Chavez Ravine of Frank McCourt. The fans, apparently, aren't willing to help, either, or are incapable of noticing that the 2006 Dodgers, for now, look remarkably like the 2005 Dodgers: old, injury-prone, and generally declining. The major difference this time is that the team at least has the hope of replacements readily available at Las Vegas, a depth last year's club sorely lacked. In that sense, Ned Colletti has dodged -- pardon the expression -- a bullet; Frank McCourt has dodged his responsibilities.

Update: Thanks to Jon for the link back.


Comments:
Depo's (healthy) Dodgers are much stronger than Ned's and the rest of the 2006 NL West.

NL West Standings
Standings
Team W L GB Streak
PD Dodgers 31 14 _ Won 5
DBacks 24 21 7 Lost 5
NC Dodgers 22 23 9 Lost 1
Giants 22 23 9 Won 3
Padres 20 25 11 Won 1
Rockies 16 29 15 Lost 3
 
Nicely stated Rob. Good work.
 
Webmeister -- not sure where you're going with that.
 
Rob, Depo's Dodgers are blowing out the 2006 NL West competition. Assuming all teams healthy.
vr, Xei
 
Xei is running a simulation with both last year's and this year's Dodgers teams in the NL West.
 
Yeah, that's a pretty good motion for summary judgment on the Enemies List.
 
I don't really remember because I couldn't care less about the Dodgers, but didn't a lot of people complain about DePodesta's moves at the time he made them because he picked up injury-prone players? And if that is the case, isn't he at least somewhat responsible for having a team that could fall apart at the seams like the Dodgers did?
 
Josh -- Nobody's saying DePo was faultless here. Certainly, Jose Valentin was old, and J.D. Drew had a significant injury history. But both failed in ways that were wholly unrelated to their past injury patterns, Valentin damaging his knee on a slide into second, and Drew getting hit by a pitch. If you could foresee injuries of these kinds, please contact the Dodgers front office; they have an opening for you.
 
>> look remarkably like the 2005 Dodgers: old, injury-prone, and generally declining

Disagree. Per BP the '05 Dodgers were the 7th youngest team in the NL. The opening day lineup had sub-30 players at 6 of 8 positions. By swapping out Choi/Bradley for Nomar/Lofton Colletti has made the team older and given away upside.
 
despite all these things -- many of which were clearly beyond his control -- DePodesta at least had the good grace to apologize for the Dodgers' horrible season.

Shouldn't it be "within the control" of a GM to get the manager with his program? That's a management issue, and its one that DePo failed at. (And indeed, one he exacerbated by signing Tracy to an extension after '04.)
 
Certainly, Jose Valentin was old, and J.D. Drew had a significant injury history. But both failed in ways that were wholly unrelated to their past injury patterns

That's what old and injury-prone players do, isn't it?

And let's not forget that Valentin was a just a lousy signing, period, given his plummeting offense, unfamiliarity & lack of quality at that defensive position, in addition to his advancing age.
 
For the record, I don't think the DePo did a particularly bad job or that he should have been fired so quickly (who fires a GM after just two years?). But, just because the injuries were different, or even fluke injuries, it doesn't change the fact that injury-prone players were injured. Now, it is fine for a team to take a gamble on those guys, but if you build a team around them, you are playing with fire.
 
I dont remember Jose Valentin being an injury risk, he was good for 500+ PA's a year 2000-2004. Just because Depodesta lost in his gamble for Drew doesnt make it a bad gamble; what about Drew makes him more suseptable to getting hit by pitches? With a chance to get an MVP-quality player for only $11 million, there was and is plenty of upside in this deal.

Besides, what exactly were Depodesta's other options when it came to putting a 90 win team on the field in 2005? Trading prospects wouldnt have been wise considering he saw this as a team in transition. Other wise your talking about the free agent market. I doubt that the Dodger season wouldve been much better if he had kept Beltre, or overpaid Koskie keep him from Toronto. Should he have kept Finley, or gone toe to toe with NY for Beltran? There was a serious lack of good FA options that offseason (and 2006). The only real move or non-move the Depodesta made was trading Green for essentially Navarro and some payroll relief, but even then, would Shawn Green have made enough of a difference last year? Its one thing to critize his moves, but what exactly should Depodesta have done?

Pretty much every team that made a lot of FA moves that offseason made a couple clunkers and couple of decent moves. If he made any mistake, I think it was trying to compete with the talent (and their prices) available on the market that season. He would probably have been better off just punting the season from the get go, reinforcing and making room for the young talent in the minors. But in LA "rebuild" is a forbidden word. Would the Dodgers be better off today if they had been rebuilding for the last 2-3 years instead of trying to have it both ways?
 
I have to largely agree with Sanchez, Matt. I just don't see how Drew gets attacked by more fastballs at his wrist than other players. Now, if you were going to argue that he's more likely to stay injured once injured, that might be a reasonable point, but I'm pretty sure it's not your starting point.
 
Or you could argue that if it wasn't a beanball, he may have pulled something in the field, or torn an ACL on the basepaths, or whatever. Just because someone got a fluke injury doesn't mean they weren't going to get another injury if they had just played a tad longer.
 
I just don't see how Drew gets attacked by more fastballs at his wrist than other players. Now, if you were going to argue that he's more likely to stay injured once injured, that might be a reasonable point, but I'm pretty sure it's not your starting point.

I'm going to stop arguing this, because it's obvious that you'll never understand what I'm talking about, but J.D. Drew has a variety of chronic medical conditions, many of which (knee, wrist) were well-known to the Dodgers before they signed him, and have prevented him from ever really being a full-time player.

That the injury that screwed him in 2005 wasn't from one of the chronic medical conditions only makes that decision look worse, from where I sit. A guy that has proven to be either preternaturally brittle or unlucky throughout his career suffered another season-shortening injury last year, and yet somehow the burden of proof is on me that it was bass-ackwards to give him an $55 million contract with a back-out clause after two years (on the odd chance that he'd not be injured)?

My "starting point" is that Drew -- much like Milton Bradley -- has not proven that he can play baseball full-time, and that there are plenty of good reasons to think he'll never get there. Also, he's a corner outfielder exiting his prime. Ergo, signing him to a $55 million contract for the next five years WAS REALLY EFFING STUPID, and if I have to read one more argument about how DePo really didn't have any other options in that market. You *always* have more options.

As for Jose Valentin not being an injury risk, every 35-year-old 3Bman is basically an injury risk. It's a tough position to play, and old guys get hurt. AND EVEN IF HE DIDN'T GET HURT, Valentin's offensive skills were in steep decline, and he's never proven himself as a good third baseman.
 
According to that line of reasoning, the Angels should trade Casey Kotchman at the first possible opportunity, because his injury history in the minors is pretty bad. Ditto -- and maybe times two -- for Dallas McPherson. I mean, subtract some because both are young guys (in Kotchman's case, really young), but both those guys had serious reputations for being injured in the minors. All that said, I'm going to give out some props for your position, Matt, because the Angels appear to have been interested in doing exactly that with Kotchman in the offseason when they were pursuing Paul Konerko. Now, that may have simply been a piece of theater for the newspapers (I think it was, anyway), but I'll admit as to how the Angels are willing to apparently think along those lines, anyhow.
 
Of course, that ignores the point that, combined, McPherson and Kotchman are going to be about $45 million cheaper than Drew over those same 5 years. Which, of course, allows you more options on replacements if something does happen to them.
 
Drew's injuries (knee[s], wrist, shoulder?) are of the chronic variety, and both his slow healing from them and famous willingness not to play for whatever reason suggest either brittleness, a low pain threshold, or horrible luck. IN ANY CASE, HE HAS SEVERAL CHRONIC INJURIES, AND A CAREER'S WORTH OF TRACK RECORD. The same is not true in any way of Casey Kotchman.

I *am* worried about Dallas' health, as are you. And I thank Buddha that the Angels haven't bet $55 million on it.
 
Given all the injuries, the only thing that would have saved the dodgers last season is if they had been able to sign Vlade the previous year. Or if Arte had bought the Dodgers instead of the shysters from Boston.
 

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