Saturday, October 29, 2005

Morons In Los Angeles
By Ben Valentine

Sometimes there’s not much else to do but call it like it is.

Today, that title is the quickest and easiest way to sum up the Dodgers ownership after firing General Manager Paul DePodesta.

For some reason, the Billy Beane’s former sidekick was never liked in LA, a place where apparently they value “good old fashioned baseball” over these new fangled statistical “Moneyball” theories. At least that’s what it seemed to me as an outsider here in New York, as DePodesta suffered through about ten years worth of criticism in what amounted to just two years on the job.

Oh, and year one of DePodesta’s reign? He got the Dodgers the NL West crown.

After an injury plagued year two where the Dodgers were one of baseball’s unluckiest teams suffering key injuries to their pitching staff and offense, the ownership out there decided DePodesta had destroyed the organization enough with his crazy moves and decided to go in a different direction. So what exactly did the guy to get fired?

He traded Paul Lo Duca, the heart and soul of the Dodger team in 2004. That bastard! How dare he trade an aging catcher for Brad Penny, the Dodgers’ best pitcher of 2005! That’s right, he also gave up Guillermo Mota in that deal. You know, the same Guillermo Mota who was a complete washout this year for the Marlins and lost his job to the immortal Todd Jones. Hey, did I mention the Dodgers won the division last season, you know, the one same one where he made the aforementioned trade?

Unfortunately for DePodesta, it appears that perception and reality, a common theme around this blog lately, have no relation in Los Angeles. The critiques I’ve heard from everyone who has been on his case has been with his Moneyball techniques, always citing the Lo Duca trade as a classic example of a bad trade because he dealt away the “team’s heart and soul” for Hee Seop Choi. Again, never mind that it was a good trade for the Dodgers, helped them win the division and probably helped them this year. And it wasn't as if he traded Mike Piazza here. But after that trade, DePodesta seemed to have burned so many bridges with the fans and the media, it may have taken a World Series win this year to save his job.

Oh yeah, and that didn’t help either.

As evidenced by the recent edition of the Sporting News, there is a perception that Moneyball techniques aren’t so valid anymore, since the White Sox and Astros made the postseason using good old fashioned “small ball and pitching.” It probably helped justify this move, especially since it comes just days after the World Series. Of course as David has pointed out before, the White Sox didn’t win using small ball at all, they used the home run (4th in the AL overall). Plus, if one remembers, the White Sox were terrible from August through the last week and a half of September and almost DIDN’T MAKE the playoffs. Why? Their offense was putrid, if you recall. Then a bunch of guys who stunk the whole year, Joe Crede I’m looking squarely in your direction, got hot and White Sox offense suddenly came to life. Their pitching also got hot at the right time and well, the rest they say is history. The Astros meanwhile had the best rotation in the playoffs, which is why they made it. Unfortunately, where did their small ball play get them in the World Series, when they couldn’t drive anyone in?


Oh right, this is about ripping the Dodgers for firing DePodesta. Well let’s see a few of his moves. Outside of the Penny/Lo Duca trade, he dumped Shawn Green, who the Dodgers had been trying to trade for years. He acquired Milton Bradley who unfortunately got hurt, but was a pretty productive player when healthy (.290/.350/.484/.834). Of course he acquired Bradley in 2004, so he helped the Dodgers win that division title. He let Adrian Beltre walk. Boy I bet Zach and the Mariners are just counting their blessings DePodesta was stupid enough to do that. He also let Steve Finley go after acquiring him last year. I know the Angels are just thrilled to have to pay him next year after he went (.222/.271/.374/.645). He brought in Jeff Kent, who went .289/.377/.512/.889 this year. Not bad huh? He also brought in Derek Lowe, and while I think he overpaid for the guy, Lowe didn’t have a terrible year for LA, posting a 3.60 ERA, a 5.92 K/9 and 2.65 K/BB. Sure he was an embarrassment off the field, but I tend to think with all of LA’s injuries, Lowe’s affairs with reporters should be the least of LA’s problems. JD Drew, was DePodesta’s worst move since while he put up good numbers, proceeded to get hurt. Since Drew has an injury history, this move should be criticized, but it is nothing worth getting fired over. I mean he paid Drew a lot less than the Mets paid Carlos Beltran and Drew was a damn good hitter when in there. (.286/.412/.520/.912 in 252 ABs).

The bottom line here is that DePodesta may not have made all the right moves, but it seems quite clear he made more good moves than bad. Last year, that resulted in a division title for the Dodgers. This year, he was unlucky and the team got hurt. And while you can blame him for Drew and I guess Lowe, how do you blame him for Eric Gagne’s second career Tommy John surgery, Odalis Perez’s injury plagued lost season and Edwin Jackson’s failure to develop beyond “hyped prospect” status? Sure he gave Perez a new contract last year, but it was at a rate that was arguably below market value for a guy with his numbers.

But then again, nowadays, it seems like perception has more of a place in baseball than reality. So, it figures that if the Dodgers and their new GM struggle next year and in 2007, the fans and the media will suck it up, look themselves square in the mirror and say:

“This is all Paul DePodesta’s fault. If he hadn’t traded Paul Lo Duca, we’d have won the World Series by now!”

I wish DePodesta the best of luck. I know if I owned a baseball team and needed a GM, my search would be a short one.

3 Comments:

Blogger booth52 said...

i agree 100% ben. as an A's fan though, i'm hoping he somehow gets involved with the org. again, or gets a 2nd chance with another team.

2:29 AM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

I thought a lot of the same things, so this is just adding to your piece... First, how the hell can the McCourts bow down to fan and media pressure so easily? This is a classic example of why more people should be English Lit majors; Plaschke and Simers wrote over and over again that DePo sucked-- but everything they wrote was Skip Bayless-esque in that the columns were gut reactions and lacked evidence for said reactions. Paul LoDuca was the reason the Dodgers were winners! Winning attitude! How can you argue against 71-91! The Dodger Way! Um. Something like that.

http://www.latimes.com/sports/columnists/la-sp-plaschke30oct30,1,3579533.column?coll=la-headlines-sports-columnists

Read the column closely. Pat Gillick is a scouts' general manager, but ironically enought he is, I suspect, like Billy Beane, smart enough not to buy into any "Us vs. Them" mentality when it comes to gathering information. And Bobby Valentine and Orel Hershiser are somehow best-suited for the job because they've made it to the World Series before either as player or manager? I call bullshit. Second, over at Dodger Thoughts (http://dodgerthoughts.baseballtoaster.com/), they made the point that DePo's plan never was about winning right now. Winning now would be gravy because the team as constructed last year was a train wreck of Orioles (circa 2000) proportions waiting to happen. His PLAN (note that he actually had a plan and was following it, which is more than can be said for the Jim Bowdens of the world) was to maintain the solid farm system that Dan Evans had built while simultaneously making the major league club more efficient. The idea was to make them clearly the best team in the NL West beginning either next year or the year after, depending on when Barry retired, the Padres grew old and let Giles and Klesko walk, the DBacks actually got around to rebuilding, and the Rockies... let's not start with the Rockies. Third, and finally, the only way the Dodgers can salvage this situation and not have to start another five year plan is to hire Kim Ng as general manager. Not only does she have the baseball insider stamp of approval, having been mentioned as a GM candidate for years, and not only would it be a PR boon, but she also has the Yankees imprimatur and, again, I suspect, is smart enough to carry through what DePo started. Netizens everywhere: When the Phillies hire DePo this offseason, then win the World Series in 2008, please barrage Plaschke with email. Morons indeed.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

DePodesta should have never challenged Gagne to that game of Spring Training pepper.

10:15 PM  

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