Los Angeles General Managers Making All the Right Moves
Make way, Mitch Kupchak, Ned Colleti has quickly propelled himself into the general managerial elite.
As Kupchak transformed the Lakers into title contenders with one swift move, Colleti turned the Dodgers into a complete package with one move, as well.
Before the monumental Manny Ramirez trade, many in Dodger town were screaming for Colleti’s firing. The Dodgers were underachievers with past-prime veterans and young talent that seemed to be a couple steps from translating their skills to the big league pay, withthe multi-million dollar signings of Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt turning out to be the decisions that came to haunt Colleti. While Jones was a consistent, top performer for the Atlanta Braves, hitting 50 homers in one season, his final year with the Braves was not worthy of the contract the Dodgers gave him.
Schmidt, although injury- plagued, pitched well-enough down to the last stretch for the San Francisco Giants to gain interest from various clubs. Colleti made the obvious move and signed the pitcher who was once a Dodger killer and pitched well in Dodger Stadium. His shoulder injury limited him to only six Dodger starts in his two years. He may be on the Dodger 40-man roster, but it seems like he is still a San Francisco Giant.
Colleti’s approach was not illogical; in fact, it was wise. When he inherited the Dodgers’ payroll, he had a team rich with young talent that was at least two years away from success. Wisely, he filled the roster with experienced veterans, who knew how to win and who could help the young talent develop. His flaw, though, was that he compromised with these veterans, who longed for contractual security and signed to long-term deals. Jones received a two year contract at $36.2 million and Schmidt at three years for $47 million.
Couple that with poor play, and Colleti looked like a disaster. That was until he pulled the “Kupchak.” He brought in a superstar even bigger than Pau Gasol, and brought the team and Dodger nation together.
By plugging Ramirez into the cleanup position of the Dodger lineup, Colleti created a hydra of problems for opponents. Andre Ethier, for example, began receiving more pitches to hit because he was hitting in front of Manny.
Take a look at the stats. In 91 games before Manny’s arrival, Ethier hit .274 with 11 home runs and 46 runs batted in. In 41 games after Manny’s arrival, Ethier hit .341 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs. Just by having Manny’s power bat in the lineup, teams were pitching around him and as a result, created more opportunities for the young talent.
Kupchak brought in Gasol and stuck with his draft picks, who turned out to be key-role players. Luke Walton brought the versatile big-man role, Jordan Farmar displayed some big play ability, and others stepped in complimenting Kobe and Gasol en route to a conference title.
Ramirez did the same, but better. He brought hope and passion. With the excitement and buzz created, the youth responded. Russell Martin, James Loney and Matt Kemp, all of whom who Colleti refused to trade, began playing like the players the people expected.
Even the pitchers turned things around. Chad Billingsley has begun to look like a staff ace, and he would be one if it weren’t for the stellar Derek Lowe. The bullpen is as solid as you will get in the entire league with arms like Clayton Kershaw, Corey Wade, Joe Beimel and Johnothan Broxton, among others.
All of this was confirmed when the arrival of Ramirez ensued a division title and a sweep of the team of destiny, the Chicago Cubs.
To top it off, Kupchak and Colleti brought their big men in at no expense. Gasol came for Kwame Brown, and Manny came for an underachieving Andy LaRoche and minor league prospect Bryan Morris. Morris was the Dodgers’ first round pick in the 2006 draft, but following Tommy John’s surgery his return to form is questionable. With the Red Sox paying off the rest of Manny’s contract, the Dodgers basically got a future first ballot Hall of Famer, who is also in his prime mind you, for free. For free!
Do not fire Ned Colleti, but that was obvious.