Monday, October 31, 2005

As a follow-up, here's the email I sent McCourt Saturday morning:

Mr. McCourt,

In July, you and I had a great telephone conversation about the direction the Dodgers were headed. I stated to you my enthusiasm for this vision and my full support of it. At that time, injuries had hit the Dodgers hard (and continued to do so) and we both agreed that this was a major factor contributing to the problems the team was facing. I also shared that I felt you were getting a bad rap in the local media and stated that I hoped you would ignore them and stay the course.

I read this morning that you are reportedly set to fire Paul Depodesta. This news filled me with anger, frustration and disappointment. When we spoke, you made the analogy that much like Branch Rickey was a visionary in bringing in Jackie Robinson, Depodesta was a visionary in how teams are put together. Imagine if Branch Rickey had caved to all the outside pressure that was put on him and sent Robinson back to the Negro Leagues two seasons after being in the Dodger farm system. This is what you are doing to Depodesta.

When you gave him a three year contract, you made a committment to him and his vision. Rescinding this deal twent months in would be a colossal mistake and an injustice. The perception is that you are doing this to placate the local media and certain antiquated elements within your organization who just don't get it. Those people will never be happy or are only happy when they are miserable and have something to complain about. Throwing your general manager under the bus doesn't gain you any real good will with them. It just gives them another reason to point at you and assert that you do not know what you are doing.

As a Dodger fan of 31 years, this is the most disappointing moment I've ever experienced. Paul Depodesta deserves the extended period of time to complete the creation of the vision that you so enthusiastically endorsed to me in July. Playing to the whims of the fans and the press gets you what is tantamount to a sugar high. It's a great feeling short-term, but then you end up feeling the same, if not worse, afterward.

If this firing does indeed happen, count me among those who will stay away from Dodger Stadium for the time being. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

And now Dodger fans are getting excited because of this news:

I'd caution against getting hopes up because Epstein is basically what the Dodgers already had in so far as approach to how player personnel is evaluated and apparently, this goes against the grain of Dodger tradition. Plus, if you're Epstein and a friend of Depodesta's, why would you want this job? Things are a lot calmer in Boston from a management standpoint and if he thinks Larry Lucchino was a pain in his ass, wait until he sees the wrath of Tommy.

But, Dodger fans will clamor for him because they'd rather have a "computer nerd" with a World Championship than they would a "computer nerd" who doesn't have one.

A thanks to Rob over at 6-4-2 for giving this page a plug on his site.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Pat Gillick will interview tomorrow:

The 68-year old affectionately called "Stand Pat" doesn't come across as someone with a long-term vision and more the type who will gut the farm system to make a quick impact. Given that the last GM was shoved into a cannon and catapulted out of town twenty months into his tenure, can you blame whoever comes in next if they feel they have very little time to make an impact of some sort and mortgage the long-term for short-term gain?

Yesterday, I woke up 3 am to feed my baby daughter and made the mistake of logging online to check a high school football score on the LA Times webpage. In the margin, I saw the headline that broke my foot as my jaw fell on it: "Depodesta to be fired as Dodgers GM."

I literally could not go back to sleep, so irritated and disgusted by what I had read. This has to be your typical LA Times hyperactive hypothesizing, right?

Alas, the headline came to fruition on Saturday afternoon and for reasons still unknown to everyone, Depodesta was fired.

When I say unknown to everyone, I speak from a public sense, as there are obvious forces at work within the Dodger front office. Primarily, it appears old guard flag bearer Tommy Lasorda is fully entrenched in the ear of dee- in-the-headlights owner, Frank McCourt. Knowing Frank's desperation to get approval from the local media and "old school" Dodger fans, Lasorda convinced him that the boy wonder must go. Lasorda knew that Depodesta had zeroed in on Terry Collins as the next manager and hadn't given Hershiser a second thought. Tommy challenged McCourt to take "control" of his own organization back and to thrust himself into the process of selecting a new manager.

Frank and Tommy decided to go behind Depo's back and have dinner with Hershiser, who probably wasn't privy to any of the behind the scenes power struggles that were taking place. Also unbeknownst to him, he was being interviewed for the GM position in addition to the manager position. McCourt probably was even unaware that Hershiser was being interviewed for the GM job because Tommy was now positioning for his "son" (Tommy's words) Bobby Valentine, to take the reigns of the Dodger managerial job. If he could convince McCourt to bypass Depo, getting him to install Valentine would be a piece of cake.

With his foot in the door, Lasorda hammered McCourt on the fact that he was taking a beating from the local media and what better way to restore a positive sheen to his image (as if there was one in the first place) than to get rid of the young GM who polarized fans with unpopular, but by in large effective, personnel decisions. With no one else in his ear to provide a counterpoint, McCourt decided style and good press would be more important than seeing a long-term vision through. In restoring the "Dodger Tradition", McCourt decided to fire Depo and let him find out about it via a reporter before bringing him in to tell him face to face.

McCourt cited the fact that "high expectations" had not been met, which apparently stung more 3 weeks later than they did right after the season ended, as Depo was allowed to run the organizational meetings last week and take the managerial job search as deep as the final cut. When Tommy saw the organization was slipping further and further away from his vision and how he wanted it run, he stuck his nose in and forged a power play that resulted in Depo getting run.

Digression: Let me rewind to late June. As the Dodgers struggled, McCourt and Depodesta were getting hammered mercilessly by the local media and knee-jerk reactionaries who tried to pin the team's failures on McCourt's "cheapness" and Depodesta's "computer" while ignoring the ridiculous amount of injuries that the team had piled up. I guessed (correctly) McCourt's email address and wrote him the following email:

Mr. McCourt,
I wanted to thank you for the outstanding job you have done with the organization since taking it over. It is great to have the Dodgers as a family owned business again. I'm glad you are ignoring the skeptics and criticism and hopefully people will be able to start using their own minds instead of relying on 4th rate writers in newspapers to tell them what to think. Keep up the good work.
John Scanlan
Dodger Fan for all 31 years of my life

To my surprise, his secretary wrote me back and told me McCourt wanted to speak with me on the phone. We had about a 15 minute conversation where he thanked me for my support and compared Depodesta's vision to that of Branch Rickey when he broke the color barrier. He seemed to genuinely want to do well and did not come across as condescending in the least bit. I felt great about our chat and came away convinced the Dodgers were headed in the right direction under his ownership.

Then came yesterday.

Now I am convinced that while he has good intentions (the path to hell is paved with them), McCourt is in over his head and his sugar high style of quick reward and good feelings over long-term health lead me to believe that he must go. While I was with him up until yesterday, I cannot endorse an owner who feels it is better to be lauded by Bill Plaschke than it is to stick to the long-term vision of a bright young executive. McCourt is officially the high school slut who so desperately seeks the approval of everyone, he sleeps with them to gain their favor. And we all know how that girl turns out.

Henceforth, I will update this blog with various Dodger news and thoughts while keeping an eye on McCourt and both his fumblings and successes.