Let me preface this by stating that I really like the Andruw Jones signing, so while I come off harshly on Colleti I don't have a profound hate for the man or anything of the like.
I also want to state that when I sat down and wrote about my ideal front office I didn't allow my Rays' ties or bias to interfere, only after the fact did I go back and reference them. Some will likely doubt me on that, but I can promise you I hit control-s many a time before the Rays entered my mind.
Throughout history the most dominant of nations have always been the most efficient in production and usage of their resources as well as making the most of their brains and might. In the world of baseball the same traits apply to successful dynasties, and when an organization has all the resources to make history happen but fails on the most elementary of requirements it can easily lead to a bit of resentment from the fan base and follow spectators of the game.
Welcome to Chavez Ravine, home of the Los Angeles Dodgers - one of the proudest clubs purely from their historical achievements. Began way back in 1884 as the Brooklyn Atlantics the team has since underwent a number of name changes - Grays, Grooms, Bridegrooms, Superbas, Robins, and since 1932 the Dodgers. The amount of stars who have played for the organization is just scary and it extends beyond Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale into the likes Fernando Valenzuela, Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser, and so on.
26 years after officially becoming the Dodgers, the team would jet from Brooklyn to the west coast and Los Angeles; otherwise cosmetically not much has changed since Branch Rickey left the team in 1950. It's a bit ironic that perhaps the most innovate "general manager" in the history of the game - one who created the modern day minor league system, helped to break the color barrier, and began using statistics as a tool of judgment towards player value - would work for the Dodgers.
Ned Colleti shares very little with the great Rickey, he's not much of a stats guy, and resembles pretty closely to his mentor and division rival San Francisco Giants' general manager Brian Sabean - something that depending on your point of view may or may not be a good thing. Throughout his two years as Dodger general manager Colleti has shifted from a general manager who undervalued youth for the fabled "veteran style" and dealt a number of gifted youngsters for marginal older players into a general manager who overvalues his young players in the trade market, but would still rather have a veteran playing over them - in effect he's hurting their trade value by wanting to increase it.
When Colleti was hired he replaced a younger baseball mind - both in theory and actuality - in early 30 something Paul DePodesta. A heavy hitter from the sabremetrics revolutionary breakthrough known as Moneyball in Oakland, DePodesta was Billy Beane's right hand man and highly regarded by Beane and others for his keen sense and reliance on statistical analysis.
DePodesta is quite an intelligent man - he graduated from Harvard University with cum de laude honors in the field of economics and has been named as one of Forbes' magazines top 10 innovators under the age of 40 - he was never known for giving great quotes or sound bytes and ultimately this lead to his demise.
In Los Angeles, like New York, Boston, and any other large television market - signifying a high populous - the media is usually relentless for stories. That applies to the sports media as well, where expectations are usually unfair to the men in charge. Unfortunately for DePodesta his smarts and computer innovation lead to him being dubbed "Google Boy" - a nickname which reeks of ignorance from the writers - by two Los Angeles columnists. Despite a 164-160 career record, with a 71 win sophomore year thanks to an injury plagued team, DePodesta would be fired just two seasons after taking the job.
Whether the team's performances under DePodesta merited his dismissal or not is up for debate, however there were some indications that two of the leading factors behind the split were dealing with the managerial search not producing "appropriate" names to the owner, Frank McCourt - I would assume that means star power - and the media's great distaste for "Google Boy" - quite likely.
During his tenure DePodesta acquired the likes of Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, and withhold from overpaying Adrian Beltre following a fluke season along with trading away team - and media - favorite however chronically overrated Paul Lo Duca - beloved for his grit and steroid use, although the Lo Duca deal actually may have hurt DePodesta despite "winning" the trade - the media used it as a reinforcement for DePodesta not feeling compassion in players and understanding the emotion of a clubhouse.
While DePodesta's firing certainly raises eyebrows it wasn't the first time the Dodgers' had quickly dismissed of innovative personnel - not even this decade. In 2000 the Dodgers dropped manager Davey Johnson after a third and second place finish, Johnson has a pedigree of winning and using statistical analysis.
Despite being the second largest city in the United States, and 42nd largest in the world, the pressure from Los Angeles' fans always seems lacking. The stereotypical Dodger fan arrives in the fourth inning and leaves in the seventh, after all they don't care about baseball and they don't have football. Despite that the Dodgers routinely rank in the top five in National League attendance, averaging nearly 4 million fans per season.
With those high attendance numbers the Dodgers rake in cash - consider the average income for a four member family in California is nearly the same as New York - around 75 thousand. Despite that the Yankees have spent approximately 490 million more on payroll since 2000 than the Dodgers. Of course both teams have the same amount of World Series championships to show for their money invested for the time period - none.
The lack of presence in fan pressure is likely traced to the state having four teams around the large state, where as New York has a cluster effect of the Mets and Yankees being located in an exponentially smaller state - same for the pair of Chicago. Look at Florida - rich in baseball history, if not with its pro representatives - you don't see the same venom and passion poured into the baseball media as you do in New York, and despite a few columnists in Los Angeles it places as a median between the two extremes.
Another thing the team can lay rep to; having some of the better recent draft classes around, and therefore top farm system ranks have been placed on them, thanks to Logan White. While he's not nearly as into statistics as DePodesta was, White does study past trends - including acknowledging that prep players have a higher percentage of becoming above average players than college players. While that concept is seemingly common sense - consider that most college players are done growing by the time they get drafted, prep athletes still have another four years before reaching that same age and body development.
Some of White's notable selections include Russell Martin, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Eric Stults, Delwyn Young, and the top young lefty in the minor leagues Clayton Kershaw. That's a high rate of success without spending large sums of money to acquire "hard signs" and slipping players with concerns over the likelihood of inking a contract - in fact DePodesta's old team, the Athletics, routinely spend more on the draft than the Dodgers - also don't disregard the Dodgers' free agent promiscuity - signing numerous high profile players and therefore taking away high draft picks.
The title "assistant general manager" is bestowed upon White - as he was under DePodesta - and the two formed the best two-headed monster that money could acquire. For all purposes the general manager position has become outdated, no longer can million dollar industries in a competitive world work with a singular individual having free reign without an equal - it equates to a dictatorship.
White and DePodesta worked - and would've continued to work because of their willingness to share and combine information and ideology into a single fusion without getting in each other's way. White's keen sense of amateur talent mixed with DePodesta's analysis of professional players provided what the Dodgers needed - a healthy mix of efficiency thinking in a large market.
In the business world efficiency is the desired approach, right next to profit - the two usually come hand in hand, the more cost efficient the better. Running a baseball team is much the same way - if you can keep the cost of your team's least important players down to the minimum without losing value the higher end players can be paid more, and in result if you can draft and acquire higher end talent you should win - therefore gaining enough money to pay for it.
The Dodgers are in the perfect market to become a truly dominant baseball dynasty. They have the fiscal means to sign any player they like and overpay to do so - much like the Yankees and Mets who vastly overrated the majority of players on their collective rosters. In their division no other team can match that financial commitment, and yet they don't feel overly pressured like their big market brethren.
Instead Colleti has signed Jason Schmidt, Juan Pierre, and Nomar Garciaparra to deals combining 10 years and 110 million dollars - roughly 10 million a year for three players who at this point in their careers have no business making that much, all in the effort of "winning now". Call it the Steve Phillips theory; fans won't be happy if youngsters are playing and struggling - yet that also applies to veterans - hence why assembling the best team shouldn't be about having more veterans than rookies or rookies than veterans, but rather the most efficient 25 players around.
The human body's organs work to maintain homeostasis - a perfect balance - the Dodgers achieved that when their front office bolstered both DePodesta and White as their main digs, perhaps this same balance can be achieved through other personnel - highly likely - but the point is having a qualified multi-person committee working as one becomes nearly fail-proof when you consider how many different ways the single man operation can fail.
At times the pairing would disagree and provisions would have to be taken in those circumstances - but the Dodgers were the perfect team to buck conventional wisdom - the Steinbrenner's aren't about to let the Yankees become less than marquee, the Mets and Omar Minaya have to keep up with the Yankees, the Cubs aren't much for new ideas, that leaves the Red Sox and Dodgers are the other large market teams - and we all saw how unorganized the Red Sox appeared to be after Theo Epstein retired to play music for a while.
The ideal of a front office is changing - it has to for smaller market teams to compete - we saw how Boston copied Beane after unsuccessfully trying to get him, but we've yet to see a big market team truly become a trend setter - the Dodgers had that chance. Instead the best example I can think of that fits the bill would be the Tampa Bay Rays - Andrew Friedman and Matt Silverman provide the DePodesta figure while Gerry Hunsicker, R.J. Harrison, and Mitch Lukevics fill in as White.
As it turns out the Dodgers had the perfect formula on multiple levels to blossom into a relentless empire - the cash, efficient personnel, and an appropriately sized market - along with the opportunity to break a trend that is almost sure to cost them any titles during Colleti's reign.
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