32 Answers about the Dodgers

By Jason Wojciechowski on October 31, 2005 at 2:38 AM

Let me take a shot at answering Rich Lederer's 32 questions about Paul DePodesta and the Dodgers. This ought to be fun, right?

  1. Why did McCourt hire DePodesta in the first place?

    McCourt got caught in the kind of thinking infamous at the big LaLaLand film production companies. Get the hot young starlet, use her up, and spit her out. That's not a perfect analogy (what ever is?). DePodesta was more like the hot indie actor that some big studio was going to take a chance on, asking him to carry a movie. Then, of course, when the first movie bombs, you send the actor packing, even though the script was awful and the director was incomptent.

  2. Why did he give him a five-year deal and then fire him in less than two years?

    Hollywood mentality. Instant gratification. Moving away from metaphor and analogy, McCourt doesn't understand baseball, doesn't understand what makes a team successful. He saw Theo Epstein come in and win immediately, and he wanted the same thing. He wasn't smart enough to realize that the core Theo inherited was vastly superior to the one DePodesta was saddled with, and that he didn't have half the problems to deal with.

  3. Did he hire him because Moneyball was in?

    I'd put money on it. See also: Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis in the NFL this past off-season.

  4. With the White Sox the new World Series champs, is Moneyball now out and Smartball--or whatever the hell you call the newest, latest, and greatest way to win--in? Did that influence the McCourts?

    I don't think so, despite what I said above. I'm conjecturing that the real reason this ended up happening was a culture clash, personality problems, between DePodesta and McCourt/Lasorda. I don't think they're going to go out and hire Joey Cora as their manager and, I don't know, Willie McGee as their GM. But I think they figured, "Well, if we don't like the guy and we only won 71 games, what's the good in keeping him around?" They ignored the fact that, whether DePodesta has poor social skills, whether you don't like him or not, he's more likely than a lot of potential GMs to build a winner in Los Angeles, and in the end, winning is what makes money, not the ability of some back-asswards media to get along with your executive staff.

  5. Why wasn't leadership, now a "very important characteristic" in the search for the new GM, not valued 20 months ago when DePo was hired?

    To be fair, it's possible that DePodesta isn't actually a good leader. It's possible that this was, in fact, a reason for clashes between Lasorda/McCourt and DePodesta. It's also possible that DePodesta didn't have the force of personality to assert himself in the face of opposition within the organization, or maybe that he just didn't want to deal with it. DePodesta could drop out of baseball today and find a job getting paid big bucks at some Fortune 500 company. Baseball teams need him more than he needs them. It's understandable why he might not bother to go all Brian Cashman on the Dodgers.

    On the other hand, maybe he did try to pull a Cashman, telling McCourt that if the team wasn't going to be his team, then he wasn't going to stick around, so McCourt sent him packing.

  6. Ditto for being a "good communicator" and finding "someone with the experience to do the job?"

    Again to try to be fair, it is possible that DePodesta doesn't communicate well with his underlings. It's more likely that the team didn't like his relationship with the Plaschkes of the world and want someone with more experience soothing the giant egos in the local media. Once again, though, McCourt didn't learn the Red Sox lesson: give your guy a chance to win and the media will get in line.

  7. Why do executives go a complete 180 when they hire a replacement for the guy who failed previously?

    This is semi-justifiable. If you're firing a guy for lack of performance, then presumably you want to fix the things that he was doing wrong. Ideally, you'd just find someone better instead of different. That's not always easy, though, particularly when it'd be tough to say the guy you're replacing actually did a bad job.

  8. If experience is so important, why do the McCourts think they know how to run a baseball team?

    They are being a little presumptuous, aren't they? Also, it's not as if DePodesta was a total neophyte. He'd been around the game for a few years before he got his shot. It's not like they hired him straight out of Harvard.

  9. Why don't the standards they hold to others apply to themselves?

    It's not in the nature of the leaders in this country to display any type of accountability. Let me make a link to the corporate scandals of recent times. Why would we think that Fortune 500 CEO's would display less hubris, hold themselves responsible for their failings, if everyone in our government, right up to the President, can't do the same thing? How much passing the buck, how much hiding of secrets and shredding of documents, both in the private and public sectors, has to go on before we reach a critical point and something happens to change it all?

    How did it happen that a country with a revolutionary history got so bogged down in muck and mire of corruption and cronyism in so little time? When did the ideals get abandoned? When did mediocrity become the norm?

  10. Just why is Jamie McCourt Vice Chairman and President?

    See the Murdoch family.

    And note how well they're doing.

  11. Other than being married to Frank, what are her qualifications?

    She wasn't feminist enough to keep her last name when she married. That's all the qualification you need.

  12. Who else interviewed for that job?

    I wonder if baseball's "gotta interview minorities" rules apply to those positions? Would Bud Selig be mad if the owner just went down to UCLA and interviewed the first 20 kids he saw? He'd probably meet the diversity requirements that way.

  13. Was Drew McCourt really 23 years old when he was appointed Director of Marketing last April?

    Well, the team does have a history of hiring young whiz kids (see, e.g., Paul DePodesta).

  14. When did the Dodgers become Sly and the Family Stone?

    If only. I might dance like I've got ass in my pants if that were true.

  15. If leadership, being a good communicator, someone with experience, and having a "keen eye for baseball talent" are so important, why didn't McCourt hire Pat Gillick rather than DePodesta?

    He didn't ghostwrite a textbook on how to build a baseball team.

  16. What would Gillick bring to the table today that he didn't back when he interviewed for the same position in 2004?

    He's a few years older and that much wiser. DePodesta was just keeping the chair warm for the up-and-coming Gillick anyway.

  17. If McCourt "wants Dodgers here," then how does Gillick fit into that goal?

    Gillick has GM'd for lots of teams that wear blue in the past. DePodesta worked for teams that wear red, green, and yellow. Gillick is much more likely to bleed blue when he gets stabbed in the back in three years.

  18. What makes Bobby Valentine such a great choice?

    This one's defensible. I love Bobby V. Thing is, if personality matters as much as it apparently does down in Dodgerland, isn't Bobby V precisely the wrong choice? Isn't the only reason he's not managing in the big leagues that he aggravates people?

  19. Would Gillick or whoever becomes the new GM truly pick the next manager or will there be an understanding that Valentine is the manager in waiting?

    I wouldn't be surprised if McCourt dispenses with pretense altogether and hires a manager before a GM.

  20. Has anyone pointed out that it took Valentine more games (1,704) to reach the playoffs (in 1999 with the Mets) than any other manager since divisional play began in 1969?

    That's just unfair. Nine .500+ seasons out of twelve is pretty damn good, especially considering the talent level of some of those teams.

  21. If Tommy Lasorda is so fond of Valentine, why didn't he hire him as one of his coaches after Bobby retired in 1979 and before he became the manager of the Texas Rangers in 1985?

    Because it took some time for Valentine to prove himself as a manager?

  22. If Lasorda's comment that Orel Hershiser's "not qualified" for the GM position is correct "because he has never done it," then would any of us have ever gotten a promotion to a new position? Based on that logic, wouldn't we all still be cavemen?

    Has Lasorda ever said anything to show that he himself isn't a caveman? On the other hand, maybe I shouldn't be slandering cavemen. That Geico guy sure got himself torn a new one, didn't he?

  23. Why would a "special advisor" be so widely quoted in the press? Aren't such confidantes supposed to be more behind the scenes types?

    Lasorda-as-Karl-Rove ain't gonna happen. Really, be glad for that, because he probably would have orchestrated a locust attack on an Angels game at some point.

  24. Has Lasorda ever done anything behind the scenes, other than snipe about guys like DePodesta, Fred Claire, and Bill Russell?

    On the other hand, it's working, ain't it? DePodesta got fired.

  25. How did the Dodgers perform the year Lasorda was named special advisor?

    Now, now, we can't go instituting the same standards of accountability on people like Lasorda as we do on people like DePodesta.

  26. Is he not to blame for the Dodgers' problems this year or is that Al Campanis' fault, too?

    Blame, fault, ... what do these words even mean?

  27. Has there ever been anyone who clamored [for] the spotlight more than Tommy?

    I'm sure I could come up with someone. Tom Cruise, maybe?

  28. As long as Lasorda is in a position of power, why would anyone other than one of his cronies or a McCourt family member want to become the next GM or manager?

    There's always the hope that you can be the man (or woman) who can actually unite the factions, who can get along with everyone while still creating the team in your own mold. There are only thirty of these jobs out there. It'd be pretty damn hard to pass it up if offered, whether you know it's a toxic situation or not.

  29. If McCourt is so fond of staying the course, why did he let DePodesta go?

    Again with the demands for accountability and consistency.

  30. When did that course begin? In 1955 when the Dodgers won their first championship? In 1958 when they moved to Los Angeles? In 1977 when Lasorda became manager? In 2004 when McCourt bought the team? Or a few weeks later when DePodesta was hired?

    All of the above, depending on which is more convenient at the time.

  31. Is baseball the only business in the world in which a degree from Harvard is a negative?

    If only the rest of the world followed baseball's lead. The country would be a better place if everyone weren't so in awe of that damn place. Who knew that your grade in high school history would be so important?

  32. Wasn't the late and great Branch Rickey the forefather of the use of baseball statistics in player evaluation?

    Maybe Earnshaw Cook. He never gets enough pub.