The Los Angeles Dodgers will try to spin the Andrew Friedman acquisition as simply adding to the sum of its parts and that Ned Colletti still holds a significant role within the Dodgers hierarchy. Don’t believe it. Despite the platitudes and the pats-on-the-back for ole’ Ned this is a demotion. The Dodgers are shifting gears and moving on. As so many of their Hollywood brethren the Dodgers are chasing a younger and more buxom asset. He is 37 year-old Andrew Friedman and they hope he takes them to the Promised Land.
I don’t think Ned Colletti did a terrible job in running the Dodgers. Yeah, I said it. Ned had to work under one of the most horrific owners in Los Angeles sports history in Frank McCourt. With help from the amazing Dan Evans the Dodgers were able to draft and develop some young talent that had them riding into the NLCS in 2008 and 2009. I thought Ned did an admirable job navigating the Dodgers through these treacherous waters under McCourt. With a 90-to-95 million dollar payroll he made the Dodgers competitive. Detractors will say he didn’t develop the farm system but remember his hands were tied since Frank and his old lady, Jamie were too busy buying mansions and getting their hair done. The farm system was decimated under McCourt; and Colletti was left to just watch the burning carcass. He couldn’t spend money on domestic scouts, on international scouts and the Dodgers were a hollow organization. Bright, glitzy and colorful on the outside and lacking depth and soul on the inside.
That all changed when Mark Walter and his Guggenheim partners bought the Dodgers in 2012. The Dodgers brought in Stan Kasten and immediately gave Ned Colletti the reigns to pull off one of the most significant trades in Dodgers history. The Dodgers added nearly 250 million dollars in salary with four players and signaled to the baseball world they would be significant.
When the Dodgers added Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto, along with trading for Hanley Ramirez, many felt the Dodgers were primed and ready for a deep post-season run. But, what many of these prognosticators and analysts failed to see is that the Dodgers were still and empty shell. You can’t just throw dollars at a problem and expect it to change. Changing the way you do business, changing the culture takes time, and that is what the Dodgers are going through right now.
The Dodgers had a great run last year and Colletti felt he was just a piece or two away from getting the Dodgers back to the Fall Classic. This is why Colletti is losing his job. While it appears from the surface that the Dodgers are close, they still have a lot of work to do from both a baseball and organizational sense. The Dodgers ARE NOT a few pieces away. I believe they need a major re-structuring. It’s a task that Colletti can not oversee. He had been there too long, had become too entrenched. It’s not an upheaval, it’s not just a simple tweak. The Dodgers need a revitalizing cleansing that takes them back to the days of the doing things the Dodgers way.
You remember the Dodgers way don’t you ? Deep starting and relief pitching, stellar defense, smart base-running, and the ability to steal bases and hit and run. There is no rule that says big market teams can’t play like scrappy also-rans. Sure, I dig the long ball just as much as the next guy. But the Dodgers will not win anything until they get deeper in their starting rotation, have a lock-down bullpen and stop kicking the ball away every few games. The Dodgers defense was dreadful. Their base-running was less-than-average. I am not talking about stolen bases here. This is about taking a good aggressive secondary lead, taking the extra base with the ball in the dirt. Knowing when its a good time to take an extra base, and when it’s not such a good idea.
Under Colletti the Dodgers were deficient in the vital yesteryear keys to winning. The Dodgers had three pitchers in their rotation they could depend on. It might be a good idea to have 4-or-5. He spent 30 million dollars on a bullpen that only had two reliable arms. The parent club has players that continually make the same mistakes over and over, especially defensively and on the base-paths. Despite SOME of the constraints, this was the team that Colletti built. An incomplete assemblage of the players that had flash and glitz. The Dodgers were that shiny new car with all the bells and whistles, but then you turn on the engine, there is a Pinto under the hood. All style, no substance.
For the Dodgers to regain baseball prominence as an annual contender for not just division titles but pennants and World Series Championships, they must do some work under the hood, and that means continuing their investment in the minor league system. Over the last two years the Dodgers have done an amazing job making their system relevant. But, they need to take that next step where they become the best organization at drafting and developing in baseball. Once you strengthen your minor league system with prospects galore, then you can make trade dead-line deals that will help your parent club. The Dodgers have prime prospects, but were not operating from a position of power at this years’ deadline and couldn’t make a significant trade for bullpen or rotation help. To be fair to Colletti, every time he inquired about an Andrew Miller or other coveted arms, other organizations would ask for the only prospects the Dodgers had in their system. Colletti was stuck, while trying to improve the club for this year, Colletti did not want to dis-mantle what the Dodgers system for the quick-fix. For that I do applaud him. I wouldn’t have traded Joc Pederson, Corey Seager or Julio Urias for David Price. When the Dodgers farm gets deeper, they will be able to make deals with players in the system by mixing and matching, while not depleting their reserves on the farm. For Colletti, he was gun shy to make a deal, and I have to believe it was a directive from Stan Kasten, “don’t trade prospects under any circumstance.”
In closing, Ned Colletti was not a bad General Manager. But, his time has come and it was time for the Dodgers to move on. They hand the keys to the car to Andrew Friedman. A kid/man who made the Tampa Rays relevant on 20 cents on the dollar. Well kid, you now have the whole dollar. Lets see what you can do.