MSTI’s 2010 in Review: Management

With the players in the books, we turn to management today. Though I’m going to reference some moves from previous years, the grade is based only on putting together the 2010 club, so only moves made from the last pitch of 2009 until the end of the 2010 season are considered.

Ned Colletti (D-)

Ned Colletti got off to a pretty atrocious start as Dodger general manager after arriving in the winter of 2005-06. He signed Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, and Andruw Jones to disastrous big-money deals. He gave nearly $10m to broken-down Bill Mueller, who played all of 32 games for the Dodgers. He traded top prospect Carlos Santana to Cleveland for far less than his value, and he made more than one terrible trade with Tampa, ultimately losing Edwin Jackson for veterans and spare parts. Those are only the marquee mistakes, since there’s plenty of arguments to be made that several good young role players were lost in the name of keeping useless veterans like Ricky Ledee and Jose Cruz, Jr. Besides, he signed Angel Berroa. Twice!

Fairly or unfairly, even the successes that did happen weren’t seen as being fully credited to him. No one on the planet saw Andre Ethier turning into what he has, signing Hiroki Kuroda was in large part due to Logan White (who at one point said he’d “stake his reputation on him”), and the Manny Ramirez deal basically fell into his lap. Though much was made of the team going to the playoffs three times in four years, the 2006 club was largely Paul DePodesta’s doing, and the 2008 and 2009 teams were built on the back of White’s farm system. It’s no secret that I, and many like me, have not been the biggest fan of Ned Colletti.

However, after the 2008 season ended, I felt his performance began to improve. Though I didn’t like giving three years to Casey Blake, it wasn’t fatal (Blake was very good in 2009), and he did a masterful job in waiting out Scott Boras in the Manny negotiations (and although there’s an argument to be made that the deal wasn’t worth it, don’t forget what Boras originally wanted, and that this was pre-suspension, much-loved Manny). He was able to land Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudson when they signed below-market one-year deals, and picking up Vicente Padilla off the scrap heap late in the 2009 season worked out wonderfully. Santana aside, all of the prospects we’d grown attached to – Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, etc. – were still in the organization, and we can’t possibly know what the real impact of the McCourt divorce was on his decision-making, which is largely why I’m giving him a pass here on the foolish decisions to not offer arbitration to Wolf or Hudson after 2009.

Though I still wouldn’t consider myself a fan of Colletti, my opinion of him had definitely improved heading into the 2010 season. Sorry to say, nearly all of that goodwill has now been washed away after a series of disastrous moves.

Let’s be fair here and start with the one really good offseason move, trading Pierre to Chicago for John Ely and Jon Link. At the time, I said:

Indeed, because despite how much some of us may have wanted to get Ned Colletti’s promised “back of the rotation” starter, this deal is not about the players who the Dodgers get. This deal would be a win even if no one came back.

Think about the gift the White Sox have bestowed upon the Dodgers, even without the players. They’ve basically paid LA $8m to have less controversy and better defense off the bench. Who cares if the pitchers coming back are even breathing?

Of course, Ely and Link both look to be useful, so that’s a nice win for Colletti, even if it is rectifying a huge mistake of his own making. Signing Jamey Carroll also worked out a lot better than most of us expected, as well. Otherwise? Yikes.

The problems began in the spring, where not one but two horrible retread Ortizes made the roster. Then Eric Stults, hardly a star but certainly usable for a team with rotation questions, was sold off to Japan without much of a reason. And despite several rounds of begging on my part, Garret Anderson was signed and made the team.

At the end of April, with the Dodgers struggling on all fronts, Colletti chose to call out Matt Kemp for his baserunning and defense. The issue here is not that Colletti was wrong, but that his timing was absurd. The Dodgers of late April had huge problems with pitching and fielding, while the offense was doing fine. Kemp had an OPS of .934 at that point; he managed just .730 for the rest of the season as controversy swirled. That’s more on Kemp than Colletti, of course, but the comments certainly didn’t help. As I said at the time, there were about three dozen reasons bigger than Kemp why the team was flailing.

In May, Xavier Paul and Ely were sent down in order to keep the atrocious Anderson and Ramon Ortiz, which would be bad enough, except the kicker was the comments made by Paul:

“I don’t fit here right now, that’s it,” Paul said after being consoled by teammates Casey Blake and Matt Kemp. “Right now, I just don’t cut it here.”

Paul said he was told by general manager Ned Colletti to work on his mental approach to the game “and being a big leaguer.”

In addition, when Rafael Furcal was hurt that month, Nick Green was chosen to replace him rather than Chin-lung Hu. In the space of a week, three young players were passed over for three useless veterans.

Then July hit, and things really got ugly with three ill-conceived deadline deals. Octavio Dotel pitched just 18.2 IP for the Dodgers before being dumped on Colorado. Ryan Theriot was horrendous, with a .606 OPS, and Scott Podsednik managed just a .313 OBP before being injured. Only Ted Lilly provided any value at all, but as I said more than once before the deadline, the starting pitching wasn’t the problem – the offense was. Even with Lilly making a good impression, adding Theriot and Podsednik sunk the offense even further, and we all saw how well that ended. These were trades that never should have been made.

That’s just talking about who came to LA, without even considering the prospects that left town. Though giving up Andrew Lambo and James McDonald for Dotel was a crime in itself, what really bothered me is that for the seven prospects the team gave up, they got one good pitcher and a pile of crap. If you were going to trade all that, shouldn’t you have received more? This bothered me at the time

In the last few days, the Dodgers have traded James McDonald, Blake DeWitt, Andrew Lambo, Lucas May, Kyle Smit, Elisaul Pimentel, and Brett Wallach.

They’ve acquired Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, Scott Podsednik, and Octavio Dotel – basically, a decent but not vital starter, a lousy middle infielder, a mediocre outfielder, and a decent veteran reliever, and all over 30.

Now, most of the baseball community has spent an enormous amount of time lately laughing at the Diamondbacks and Astros for the seemingly meager hauls they pulled in for Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt. You’re telling me that some combination of the players the Dodgers just traded couldn’t have pulled in one of those guys? Alternatively, is there really anyone who wouldn’t have preferred Haren or Oswalt rather than the collection of mediocre, over-30 veterans they just pulled in?

Yet despite all the moves, the offense – the biggest problem – didn’t get improved, and arguably was made worse. That’s supposed to help propel the team to October how, exactly? Really, what a terrible day all around.

…and I don’t feel much differently about it now. It soon became clear the new acquisitions weren’t going to get the team to the playoffs, and other than Lilly were proving to actively hurt that goal. This led to Manny being claimed off of waivers by Chicago, a move I promoted. However, when you’re letting your most talented hitter walk for nothing, that seems like a pretty big sign that this is not your year and it’s time to move on.

If you decide that it’s time to pack it up, and to move Manny, it shouldn’t stop there. Ted Lilly should go. Hiroki Kuroda. Octavio Dotel. Casey Blake, if you can get anyone to pick up his contract for next year. Really, anyone who’s not signed for 2011 or doesn’t have a good chance of returning should be moved. I’m probably not speaking for the majority here, but if the team doesn’t make the playoffs then it makes no difference at all to me whether they finish 4 games out or 10.

Manny did get claimed, and the next day I begged Colletti to swallow his pride and start selling in August for what he could get:

Hiroki Kuroda, perhaps at the peak of his value after last night’s gem, was claimed on waivers by the Padres, who could badly use a veteran starter.

Ted Lilly, who’s been brilliant since coming to the Dodgers except for his last start, was claimed on waivers by the Yankees, who have serious depth issues in the rotation.

Yet the Dodgers, in their infinite wisdom, decided to trade neither one, meaning they’re doing exactly what I begged them not to last week: they’re doing this half-assed. They have a 4.1% chance of making the playoffs, and they just dumped their best hitter on the White Sox, yet they’re acting like they’re primed for a playoff push.

Of course, none of that happened. Yes, they did re-sign Lilly and Kuroda, but if they wanted to play in LA so badly that could have still happened this winter.

All  in all, not a great season for the general manager, and it doesn’t engender a lot of confidence going forward. Hey, I’m not perfect either. Not every move I liked has worked out, and you’re always going to come up with some stinkers, no matter what you do. There’s just a big difference between well-intentioned moves that don’t pay off, and moves that were a terrible idea from the moment they were conceived. I’d like to see the Dodgers get a few less of the latter.

Joe Torre (D-)

So much has been said about Torre already that I’m going to take the easy way out and reiterate what I said about him when he officially stepped down:

As for Torre not returning, you know me well enough by now to know that I’m thrilled by this news, because Torre’s time in LA had clearly passed. Honestly, I could go for weeks about the issues I’ve had with his management – you know, things like incorrectly playing the matchups, generally overworking the bullpen, bringing in George Sherrill against a righty in the 9th inning of a tie game, letting Jonathan Broxton throw 95 pitches in five days (which he still hasn’t recovered from), sitting Matt Kemp in favor of Juan Pierre, continuous usage of clearly busted veterans like Garret Anderson & Mark Sweeney, running Russell Martin into the ground (in addition to his ridiculous “third base days off“), batting Juan Pierre leadoff every goddamn daytempting the fates of both Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda by using them before and after long rain delays, and finally, the most ridiculous quote anyone’s ever given:

“I tried to reason who was going to give me the better at-bat – Berroa or Loney,” Torre said.

…which I’m still reeling from, even though it was two years ago. I’ve barely scratched the surface there, but I’m not going to go any further. Partially, that’s because I don’t have the time to clear my schedule for two solid weeks to dig up every stupid thing he’s done, but mostly because the last three years of this blog provide a pretty solid record of it.

Besides, it’s unfair to not at least recognize his accomplishments, and the team did make it to the NLCS twice in his three years. While I haven’t always agreed with the way he ran the clubhouse, the off-field drama this team has had to deal with since arrival – the divorce and Manny’s suspension, just to name two - could have easily led to a complete collapse under a lesser manager. It hasn’t been smooth, but Torre mostly avoided that, and he deserves credit for it.

Mostly, I’m just glad he’s moving on. Torre may have been the right fit for the 2008 and 2009 teams, talented outfits that were trying to heal from the “veterans-vs-kids” split of the Grady Little years. Clearly, he’s not the right fit for the 2010 club, and I can’t see his “old-school” style working as this team moves forward.

That about sums it up.

******

That’s it for the 2010 season in review pieces; thanks for sticking through me despite how depressing most of them ended up being. Unless anything happens on the player front, we’ll be back on Monday as the Hot Stove really gets going. Enjoy the weekend.

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