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About Jon
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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
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La Vida DePo
2005-03-31 22:20
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Dodger general manager Paul DePodesta lives, learns - and most of all, listens

As the shadows spread their fingers across the field during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium, Paul DePodesta, executive vice president and general manager of the Dodgers, sat with vice president and assistant general manager Kim Ng in the isolation of manager Jim Tracy's office.

It was October 2, 2004. The Dodgers were attempting to come back from a 3-0 deficit against San Francisco, in a game that would either win them the National League West title or squeeze their lead over the Giants down to one game with one game remaining.

Four years earlier, DePodesta had been assistant general manager with the Oakland A's when they needed a victory to clinch the American League West on the season's final day - or else travel to Tampa Bay for a makeup game. Oakland broke a 0-0 tie in the seventh with a Randy Velarde home run, hung on to a 3-0 lead in the ninth despite the tying run coming to the plate, and won the division before a home crowd goin'-crazy.

"The intensity of the moment was indescribable," DePodesta recalled Thursday morning in an interview with Dodger Thoughts, "and the raw emotion, because of the odds we had overcome to get there. I wasn't a fan, but I felt like a fan – probably the only time in my career that I allowed myself to feel that way."

"I really expected that if I had the opportunity as a general manager to get a team in the playoffs it must just be overwhelming … if there's something more intense than this."

In Los Angeles, the rally began. Hee Seop Choi walked on a 3-2 pitch to drive in a run. Jayson Werth got a big two-strike single to tie the game. Steve Finley then came to the plate with the game tied, three on, one out, and the first-year general manager somewhere between holding down the fort and the fort holding down him.

"As soon as I saw the ball leave his bat, I literally just stood up and put my arms straight over my head and looked at Kim and … basically, that was all I had," he said with a laugh. "That was all I could muster. I was just so spent.

"The thing I realized at the moment … when you're the GM, the difference is, you take it so personally. You feel a huge sense of responsibility, not just for your team but for the city, for the impact it's going to have. When [the game] was over, it probably was just a giant relief as opposed to joy."

As the evening went on, DePodesta was able to savor the moment as a celebration rather than an escape. But the memory may be enlightening to those who have pigeonholed the second-year Dodger executive as beholden to no one but his computer, or for that matter, his immediate superior.

Call Him WePodesta
It takes more than one person to wrassle a stereotype to the ground, and DePodesta isn't going to do it alone. He is an architect of change, no doubt – a leader – but he crafts his blueprint with the input of many, many others.

"It's constantly evolving," DePodesta said of his method of player evaluation. "We constantly try to learn about it. We spent two full days (this week) with our pro scouts and almost had an open forum talking about our players and sharing our perspectives and sharing all different kinds of experiences.

"I don't want to say we're creating a new model. (It's) some kind of marriage between objective and subjective analysis that leads to better decision making."

Two years after the publication of Michael Lewis' Moneyball, people inside and outside the baseball establishment have finally begun asking whether the war between scouting and sabermetrics is as antagonistic as it has seemed. Under DePodesta, the Dodgers appear to have brokered a peace in different ways – by not only conscripting experts in scouting alongside experts in numbers, but those who are equally comfortable in both arenas.

"Hopefully, you cover every angle to form a particular decision," DePodesta said. "I don't necessarily believe in sitting in a room and throwing out my opinion and having people agree.

"I don't think all of us have to be versed in objective and subjective analysis, but we at least have to appreciate that both exist and will be pieces of the puzzle. Our professional scouts have asked me, are there (particular) statistics you want me to look at? I said, 'No, we can do that in the office. Your job is to add texture to those numbers.' "

An example of others convincing DePodesta to change his mind, he recalled, came almost exactly a year ago, when the Dodgers faced a decision between retaining utlitymen Jolbert Cabrera or Jose Hernandez. DePodesta was leaning toward Cabrera.

"Jolbert Cabrera was a guy who had been here, played many positions, was a known commodity," DePodesta said. "The major league staff said at the end of the day, 'We all like Jolbert – he's done some things for this club – but we think Jose might be a better fit for the way we're gonna use him.' "

Often during the season, according to DePodesta, a decision will need to be made and he will narrow down the Dodgers' options to two or three, asking the staff to express which direction comforts them the most.

On the other hand …

"If I feel really strongly that it has to be this one guy, then that's my responsibility," DePodesta said.

Wish Unfulfillment
Of course, not every dream DePodesta and the Dodgers have will come true. Asked what his biggest disappointment from the 2004-05 offseason was, DePodesta didn't hesitate to say it was the loss of third baseman Adrian Beltre as a free agent.

"It's Adrian," DePodesta said. "There's no doubt. There were a lot of guys we pursued and would have loved to have had, but when it's one of your own who had a breakout year, in the prime of his career – that's an easy answer."

While DePodesta regretted the outcome, he said that there was nothing the Dodgers could have done differently to keep Beltre. Though this could not be confirmed with Beltre's agent, Scott Boras, DePodesta said that it's "very unusual in a free-agent situation to have the ability" to meet directly with the player. Everything had to go through Boras - not that DePodesta was blaming Boras in any way.

"I certainly had a lot of contact with Scott," said DePodesta, who was also interested in other Boras clients including Hernandez, Derek Lowe and Alex Cora. "Three to four face-to-face meetings, lots of phone calls. … Scott was on my speed dial throughout the winter. There certainly wasn't a lack of communication there."

Conversely, there was one meeting with DePodesta, Boras and Beltre in the same room.

"Even in that meeting with Adrian, it was forbidden to talk about financials or contract," DePodesta said. "We could just talk about the team."

The bidding on Beltre between teams was not a back-and-forth, can-you-top-this contest, according to DePodesta, but more of a blind auction. DePodesta told Boras to contact him when he was ready for their offer, and so he did. And ultimately, the Beltre camp liked Seattle's offer better.

Some thought DePodesta's offer was generous; others might argue that DePodesta should have found a way, despite all the obstacles, to make the Beltre signing happen. Whether he could have or not, what was immediately clear was that the Dodger winter was headed for rewrite.

When the offseason began, according to DePodesta, the Dodgers had the goal of improving the pitching staff, retaining Beltre, adding another piece or two like Jeff Kent, and also perhaps retaining Steve Finley. As time passed, the Dodgers lost out on Beltre while seeing the cost of starting pitching soar, forcing the front office to call an audible.

DePodesta said that while outfielder J.D. Drew was always a consideration for the Dodgers, there was never a chance they would sign both Beltre and Drew. Once Beltre turned north to ponder the philosophical question, "How does Puget Sound?" the Dodgers looked east and went directly after Atlanta free agent Drew.

"Our biggest fear was being left standing without a chair when the music stopped," DePodesta said.

Hi Lily, Hi Lily, High Lowe
Later, in a move that made members of the pro- and anti-DePodesta camps partners in perplexity, DePodesta signed the 31-year-old Lowe, coming off an outstanding postseason but a mediocre regular season, to a four-year, $36-million contract.

DePodesta recognizes the gamble of signing any player, especially a pitcher, to an extended deal, but said that "you're gonna lose a lot of players" if you have a hard-and-fast rule against it. Essentially, though each yearly Dodger payroll year has its own salary limit, DePodesta looks at a contract for its cumulative cost and value.

"Lowe, knock on wood, he's never spent a day on the disabled list in his major league career, and that meant a lot to us," DePodesta said. "You feel better giving him four years at 31 years old with his health history than giving a guy in his mid-30s (with prior injuries) a three-year deal.

"If it means having a great guy for three years, and you end up having to pay the price in the fourth year, sometimes that may be worth it. That being said, I think we want to be as smart about it as we possibly can."

Some flexibility can come acquiring from low-cost veterans, which raises this interesting question: What makes DePodesta draw the line on a player at, say, $500,000 instead of $525,000? DePodesta said that $25,000 is "real money," that goes back into the payroll rather than "disappearing somewhere in the organization," but added that his response depended on the situation.

"There are some times you may be able to realize that they're asking just to ask," DePodesta noted. "And then it's a little bit easier to draw the line in the sand. That being said, if you have a guy like Scott Erickson or like Kelly Wunsch and you're saying to yourself, he's at 525 or 550 and we're at 500 on a minor-league contract – if that guy makes our team and ends up contributing, it's a great deal at 500 or 550. Let's not be penny-wise and pound-foolish; let's make sure we get the player."

Certainly, contrary to popular belief, not everyone on the 2005 Dodgers is new. In fact, about two-thirds of the roster was with the team when it reached the playoffs last October. This includes relief ace Eric Gagne and shortstop Cesar Izturis, who were signed to multiyear deals in what DePodesta called his most satisfying part of the offseason (other than "getting it over with," he joked).

"I felt through the first 11 months (as general manager), all the way up to signing Derek Lowe, it was a frenetic pace," DePodesta said. "We were trying to evaluate, trying to rebuild and trying to win, all at the same time.

"As soon as we signed Gagne and Izturis, it was the first time I felt we were moving forward," he added. "There's always going to be some change. Every team goes through change every year. (But) the abnormal change is over."

DePodesta said that he now hopes to strike a balance between aggressiveness and patience.

"If it's a very marginal improvement that greatly upsets the current setup and stability of the club, you sort of have to weigh that against the decision you're trying to make," he said.

The Dodgers' most recent acquisition, catcher Jason Phillips, might be an example of this. DePodesta had been interested in Phillips since August, but was "perfectly prepared" to go with a combination of Paul Bako, Dave Ross and Dioner Navarro at catcher.

Things changed when Phillips became available at the right price.

"I thought he was a good fit for what we're looking for," DePodesta said. "He's shown some offense, he's a threat near the bottom of the lineup, and yet a guy that isn't necessarily going to block a (Russell) Martin or a Navarro when they're banging down the door. … As much as I think it's going to help this team right now – he will help us – I think more importantly he will allow us to take Dioner Navarro and Martin and finish their development."

Finishing School
DePodesta is no different from many other general managers in how slowly he creaks open the door to the majors for young propsects. In addition to making sure no one is rushed out of the warmth of the incubator before he's viable, DePodesta is conscious that a player's peak value typically comes after he reaches the age of 27. So he thinks twice before creating a situation where, as happened with Beltre, a player can become a free agent before reaching that summit.

And yes, if you're wondering about the latest Baby Blue - 20-year-old, 6-foot-6 tallstop Joel Guzman - so is DePodesta.

"I just want to be prudent the way we handle the situation," DePodesta said. "He's had less than half a season in double-A. I think this guy long-term has a chance to be an impact player. When you have a guy like that, there certainly is a temptation to get him here right away. Probably the best thing for us is to wait until he is absolutely ready. Who's to say when that will be? Maybe it's this year; maybe it's 2007. He'll dictate (when his time is)."

But make no mistake, DePodesta added: "If we feel like Guzman's going to help us win right now if we bring him up, then we will."

The Dodgers' fortunes do rest to some extent on some of their promising minor league prospects fulfilling their potential. But for many, prospecting seems as haphazard an endeavor in Chavez Ravine today as it was during Gold Rush days. Asked if it were a crapshoot, if having 10 good prospects meant that three might succeed without knowing which three it would be, DePodesta said it was more sophisticated than that, but not a whole lot more.

"We're trying to predict the performance of human beings in special situations," he said. "We're never going to be right about that. We're going to try to build a decision-making process where we're right more often than we're wrong. We know we're not going to be right all the time.

"We probably have a bit more insight at who has a better chance than others. We're certainly not expecting [all] of them to make it."

Still, DePodesta is pleased with the Dodgers organizational depth, and how many players seemed major-league ready or close to it during Spring Training 2005.

"We have some tough decisions even though some guys are going to start the season on the disabled list," DePodesta said, "Not just 25 guys – I think we feel good about 35 guys."

And so, with Opening Day around the weekend corner, it begins again for DePodesta. Another year of camping out in Tracy's office, a latter-day Jerry West feeling the weight of the team's future on his shoulders. And maybe, just maybe, another year closer to breaking free of the Moneyball label that has made even his most innocuous moves the subject of fervent debate.

"I was small enough in the book that it hasn't affected me at all," DePodesta said. "But people who, for whatever reason, were offended by the book or what it posits, definitely would like to see the people in the book fail – that became pretty clear through the course of last year. It hasn't necessarily changed my day-to-day.

"It did end up creating almost some factions within the game, whereas my contention all along is these things aren't black and white, they are gray. To me, it's about trying to find a way of marrying all this different information."

Comments (81)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-03-31 22:32:18
1.   Jerry
Phenomenal. Great stuff, Jon, great stuff.
2005-03-31 22:43:36
2.   Bob Timmermann
So, Jon was just hiding out on us all this time!

Great article and interview.

2005-03-31 22:52:00
3.   Linkmeister
Nicely done!
2005-03-31 22:54:58
4.   Jim Hitchcock
Wow. Know the guy at last. And he comes across in a very good light. Damn, Jon, you threw open the gates...well done.
2005-03-31 22:56:19
5.   Bob Timmermann
Indeed!
2005-03-31 23:04:07
6.   Jerry
Loved every bit of it. Hope this opens some doors for you, Jon. I know we're starving for stuff like this.

The one part that kind of bugged me: "Our biggest fear was being left standing without a chair when the music stopped." I don't think this fear should drive offeason signings, especially big & risky ones like Drew and Lowe. If you have this mindset going into negotiations, I'd think you would have less leverage and you would lose some ability to objectively weigh the positives and negatives involved. Would love to hear DePo's thoughts about the Drew signing.

2005-03-31 23:09:37
7.   dan reines
Nice work, Jon. Tell me: did the name Plaschke ever come up? How about "computer boy"?

And, from a purely logistic standpoint, did you have to feed your questions in on punch cards, or how did that work?

(Kidding. Paul, if you're reading this, there are a whole lot of us who like where you're going. Keep it up.)

2005-03-31 23:13:35
8.   Jerry
I told Steve that to keep up with Jon we need to snag an interview with Plaschke. We may need a 4-year old to help translate.
2005-03-31 23:19:42
9.   Steve
Awesome. Just awesome.

Now get Jamie McCourt to give you a call, and you'll have the entire Times staff scooped.

2005-03-31 23:24:40
10.   Bob Timmermann
And soon Jon will have Howard Fox's season tickets delivered.
2005-04-01 00:14:05
11.   fawnkyj
Wow!
This is a great informative unbiased article, something that has been missing in LA media. I hope you have many more, with Depodesta & other Dodgers.
How was your experience with him?
2005-04-01 00:20:28
12.   Adam M
The best part is you let him speak for himself - there weren't even any "Q:"s to spin it this way or that. The more of these DePo does, the more people will understand and like him.

Awesome.

2005-04-01 00:27:58
13.   Tommy Naccarato
Jon,
Totally impressed you got the interview. But I have to ask: Did you ask him why he refused to call Beltre and let him know if he was really interested or not? (Beltre's claims)

I'm not impressed by Depodesta or his boss one bit at all. In fact, count this as one life-long Dodger fan that hates them both for what they have done to the fans.

I know I'll get pretty slammed for saying all of this, but its just a comment on my complete disgust what is going on with our team. Or at least what used to be our team.

Its going to be a long, long season. VERY LONG.--Mark my words!

Still, congrats on getting the respect you deserve, your a great writer. A much better one then Frank McCourt is an owner, as well as Paul Depodesta is a GM.

I'll go back into hiding now.....

2005-04-01 00:28:14
14.   Jim Hitchcock
In the clubhouse:

TJ Simers: Hey, who's the new guy?

Bill Plaschke: Yeah, how the hell did he get in here?

Paul DePodesta: Give me some space, guys. He's with me...

2005-04-01 00:42:14
15.   KAYVMON
To understand the limits of so-called objectivity is something most academics are either unwilling or unable to do, so if Depo believes what he says, he might be far more enlightened than his Harvard classmates. That said, evidence, in the form of wins and losses, are the only thing that can verify his strategy of management. Either way, its nice to know that our organization is somewhat innovative and our processes are thoughtful in nature.

Once again, great job Jon. This season needs to start for my sake, as well as the sake of academia.

2005-04-01 00:59:15
16.   Screwgie
Great article.

A few months back, after a particularly bad Plaschke article, I wrote a letter to the LA Times deriding their baseball coverage as juvenile at best, vindictive at worst. I recommended your blog and The Fourth Outfielder as alternative sites that were not only free, but superior; making the LA Times for me obsolete as a news and editorial source for Dodgers.

I've noticed a few days back they quoted Tom at the Fourth Outfilelder. I hope the LA Times takes notice of this site as well.

You deserve a larger platform, Jon.

2005-04-01 01:02:28
17.   T Money
Okay, so here's the plan...

We find Bill Plaschke, slip him a Mickey Finn, and then put him on the proverbial slow boat to China. Then we fit Jon with the Bill Plaschke costume I've been working on for the last few months, send him to L.A. Times newsroom, and let him publish thoughtful, beautifully written articles like this one, under the Plaschke byline.

Who's with me?

2005-04-01 01:09:25
18.   Jim Hitchcock
First he'd have to bypass the paragraph length
governor on Plaschke's computer...
2005-04-01 01:13:05
19.   LAT
Jon,

Nice piece. I enjoyed it very much.

For me the jury is still out on Depo. There are creditability issues here. I don't know who is telling the truth in the Beltre saga but nearly every departed player says they waited to hear from management. Heck, Beltre says he even bought a house in Arcadia waiting for the phone to ring. Maybe it was Bora's doing, but if you really want Beltre you just call and tell him. (Perhaps I am naive). Likewise, Depo's handling of Cora was shameful. He did not even have the decency to tell Cora that he was being released. He made Kim Ng do it. In addition, it is difficult to believe him when he says of Moneyball, "I was small enough in the book that it hasn't affected me at all." Is he kidding? When I read the book, (before he was the Dodger GM) I thought of him as Dr. Frankenstein's Igor. He was Pat's Vanna. He is the brains behind the madman Beane.

Having said all this who cares about any of it if the Dodgers win the division.

P.S. Bob T., have mercy on my grammar.

2005-04-01 01:16:11
20.   LAT
Screwgie, the problem with your plan is that as soon as Jon wrote his first sentence the jig would be up.
2005-04-01 01:17:11
21.   LAT
Screwgie, one last thing: What did China do so wrong to deserve Plashke?
2005-04-01 01:51:23
22.   Tom Meagher
Excellent work, Jon. Was especially pleased by this line:

"Our professional scouts have asked me, are there (particular) statistics you want me to look at? I said, 'No, we can do that in the office. Your job is to add texture to those numbers.'"

Obviously, the holy grail to someone like me would be a discussion of what data they collect and how they use it, as well as stuff like whether/how they calculate the value of marginal wins, and algorithms for projecting minor league talent. But that's not happening any time soon.

Re #16:
The LAT article that referenced me was by Bill Shaikin; he e-mailed me. I know he keeps up with Jon - some time this offseason, he wrote a nice, long email that was published at Dodger Thoughts. The LAT Dodgers coverage is not nearly as monolithic as it may seem.

2005-04-01 03:15:10
23.   cindylu
I loved this. I haven't been reading much on the Dodgers lately, but it's nice to get back into the swing of things with a great and informative interview.
2005-04-01 04:48:43
24.   DXMachina
Excellent piece, Jon. I still don't buy his excuse for losing Beltre. If Adrian was that important to his plans, then he should've found a way to get the deal done. Blaming it all on Bora's really doesn't impress me much. (Not that I have any great love for Boras, either.)
2005-04-01 05:27:26
25.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
I'll just repeat everyone else's congratulations on this journalistic coup, which I think really vindicates this site as the premiere site for reporting on the Dodgers that goes beyond the straight, hard news on injuries and roster moves you get in "Notes" articles. Whether or not we agree with a word DePo said, I think we can all still say that it was an achievement to get the interview in the first place, never mind its fine presentation.

WWSH

2005-04-01 05:57:59
26.   Alex Belth
Jon,
Outstanding job. You are the man!
2005-04-01 06:22:20
27.   Jon Weisman
Hi everyone -

Thanks for the nice compliments and interesting reactions.

DX, just to be clear, DePodesta made it clear he was not "blaming" Boras for Beltre going elsewhere. If that isn't clear in the article, I apologize - maybe I should make an edit.

2005-04-01 06:39:39
28.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
BTW, I have no idea why my comment suddenly jumped to no. 107. On my screen at least, the previous comment is numbered 24.

WWSH

2005-04-01 06:56:02
29.   Daniel
Great stuff Jon! I love that it wasn't in just a Q & A format.

I was ready to spend an hour reading over 100 comments. When I finished in less than 10, I thought, "My reading speed has really improved!" Then I noticed the numbering is off.

I can see how Boras may have taken control of the Beltre situation. He tells DePo that everything has to go through him, then he tells Beltre not to worry, everything will be taken care of for you. Beltre likely wanted to speak directly with the Dodgers, but just didn't demand that of Boras. After negotiations are over, he thinks it's the Dodgers that didn't want to speak with him.

In our Latin culture, we normally aren't very outspoken around authority figures, especially if English isn't our native language. He may have mentioned it to Boras, but again, may not have demanded it. If there was another less "high powered" agent involved, maybe things would have been different.

2005-04-01 07:14:32
30.   Rich Lederer
Congrats to Jon for getting the interview. And kudos to Paul for granting it. Thank you both for sharing. Well done.
2005-04-01 07:30:22
31.   Daniel
I just thought of something...This isn't an April Fool's joke, is it? No, it has to be just a coincidence. I hate those things! They make me doubt everything on this day.
2005-04-01 08:13:59
32.   Colorado Blue
Beautiful job Jon... I notice when others rant-and-rave about Plaschke or Timers it seems that it is because they are being so subjective and implant too much of themselves in their articles (I don't read either guy). I was struck how low-profile you were with the interview... it was almost as if you just let DePo express his feelings without having to ask a whole lot. Great work!
2005-04-01 08:28:53
33.   Ken Arneson
Sorry about screwing up the numbering on the comments. I'm fixing it now...
2005-04-01 08:31:19
34.   Bob Timmermann
Definitely not an April Fool's Joke as you will notice that Jon posted late at night on March 31.
2005-04-01 08:34:11
35.   everett
WePodesta, awesome. a great read.

If DePodesta is reading this... "Hi" ... "I'm excited about baseball again, thanks."

--ev

2005-04-01 08:36:08
36.   Jeromy
This article is exactly why I check your blog every morning when I come into work. Kudos. Your interview and article was outstanding. I really think you have de-mystified the man in a way that I feel I can understand his decisions better and respect him more.
2005-04-01 08:39:01
37.   Vic
Fan-freaking-tastic story. Excellent job, Jon.
2005-04-01 08:45:27
38.   Suffering Bruin
To Jon: The interview is your Magnus Opus. Marvelous reading. Simply marvelous. Thank you.

To Paul D., if you're reading: You have far, far more supporters than you might otherwise think.

To the Plaschkers: It's over. Your time is done. This is our time. You have been granted the largest possible forum for creativity and analysis and have abused the privilege for far too long. Welcome to ignominy, boys. Hope it was worth it.

2005-04-01 08:46:22
39.   Chris H
Great work. I think this answers a lot of questions about the offseason. Is there any chance of periodic followups with Depo throughout the season? Although, I'm sure he's got a few other important things going.
2005-04-01 08:52:29
40.   alex 7
True insight on # 31 Daniel. I also assume Beltre didn't demand much one-on-one contact, and as stated in the interview, the one time they did sit down together, Boras didn't allow direct dialogue on numbers between the Dodgers and Beltre.

As Depo stated, he made a "blind bid" on Beltre, one that certainly seems fair, and Boras either said no thanks, or demanded more. Beltre simply took a little more money. He could have stayed here if he'd accepted a very fair offer.

Either way, I agree you don't go for broke and go outside your set restraints on a player if it will weaken your overall team by taking up too much money. I know there is no salary cap in baseball, but Depo is still working with a salary budget.

2005-04-01 08:55:45
41.   gvette
Congratulations Jon on a terrific interview!!!

How difficult was it for you, as someone outside of the print media,to get access to DePodesta? Also, did he have any familiarity with your site? Inquiring minds want to know.

OT, since the Dodgers were willing to fix most of Plaschke's "Eight things that stink about Dodger Stadium",would the Times be willing to act on a list of "Eight things that stink about the Times"? I know who would be no. 1 on my list.

2005-04-01 08:56:35
42.   alex 7
whoops, meant # 29. But funny in # 31 Daniel =)
2005-04-01 09:04:09
43.   Chris H
This speculation with Beltre is pretty silly. If Beltre's main concern was coming back to the Dodgers he would not have had Scott Boras as his agent. Boras is the guy you hire if you want the maximum number of dollars. That is the way he does business. If money is not your main concern you hire someone else.
2005-04-01 09:08:52
44.   wkk
Jon, thank you. Thank you for getting me excited about baseball and the Dodgers again. I used to be one of those ranting about the go ol' days of how baseball used to be - pre-steroids, pre Plaschke, and pre-Fox ownership. This forum, with articles and commenters like these, have me excited about the Dodger future. The bottom line is I feel there is a direction, and it is interesting to see it take shape. DePo led us to a playoff win! Beltre is a sunk cost. Whether DePo really wanted to sign him or not, who knows. I'm sure it was a learning experience for DePo that will be valuable in the future, when he has to deal with the next breakout Dodger!
2005-04-01 09:31:12
45.   molokai
Jon, just liked to add my thanks for the interview. That interview corroborates my faith in Depo.
2005-04-01 09:31:25
46.   Jonny6
Nice work, Jon. An excellent article on the man who, regardless of our opinions about him, is directing the future of Dodger Blue.

Here's a few DePodesta related thoughts from one of the less sabermetrically minded denizens of this site. Despite the fact that I will never meet any of the members of the team, I still enjoy "knowing" a bit more about them - a background story here, a hardship overcome there - goes a long way in allowing you to identify with a particular player and the team as a whole. Even though you focus strictly on baseball matters, your article accomplishes the same thing for DePodesta, putting a bit more of a human face on the computer generated facade.

My single biggest complaint regarding the entire DePodesta situation is the rush by many to anoint him as the latest baseball genius prior to his providing any true measure of success (I realize that there are also many who want to burn him at the stake in his first year on the job). I would guess that most of the posters on this site are college graduates, many from well recognized universities (although perhaps not as esteemed as Harvard), but that doesn't qualify us to run a professional team. Simply possessing a degree and understanding statistics does not equate to success in the multi-faceted struggle of Major League Baseball. Even if you have faith in the statistical analyses that DePodesta is using to assist in his decision making, you have to acknowledge that there are many other issues in determining the success of a GM, such as negotiating skills and maintaining relations between management and the players. It is these latter items, where I think DePodesta may struggle.

I am not saying that he won't be successful, I am simply saying that the jury is still out.

2005-04-01 09:36:54
47.   corey
Outstanding! What a pleasant surprise to find this on the site. Jon, your article further establishes Dodger Thoughts as the best baseball blog on the net. I'm glad to see the GM acknowledge it by granting an interview! Thanks, Jon!!
2005-04-01 09:43:09
48.   Colorado Blue
A little off-topic, but I found it fascinating that the second link listed for a google I did on "Stanley Pappas Cigar" was the following:

http://www.all-baseball.com/dodgerthoughts/archives/013523.html

D-T has fully arrived by proof of its invasivness in every facet of my life... and the fact that Jon got an interview with DePo. I love this place!

2005-04-01 09:59:42
49.   chumsferd
Re #46

I think part of the strong support for Depo is that he has faced such harsh criticism from the local media since day 1. Especially with a strong voice like the LA Times seemingly having an agenda against the new management and owners, the opposing viewpoint has to be heard as well.

Also, I think Depodesta has to get at least some of the credit for what happened in Oakland. Beane has gone on record saying the the best move he ever made was hiring Paul Depodesta, and I think that says a lot.

Finally, in almost any other city, new management would be praised for delivering the first playoff victory in 16 years. In LA he is vilified. It almost makes no sense to me.

But yes, the jury IS still out. Hopefully things work out for us.

2005-04-01 10:08:03
50.   Berkeley Doug
Thanks for the wonderful interview Jon. I have my tickets to next Wednesday's and Thursday's games in SF and can't wait to see how the new team will perform on the field. Hopefully we will have another series like the time the Dodgers christened the new Pac Bell Park with a three game sweep.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-04-01 10:24:53
51.   Alex Ciepley
Wonderful job, Jon
2005-04-01 10:26:14
52.   Dodgerkid
All right folks, I'll admit it. I am Paul DePodesta. Jon and I met at the stadium a couple nights back, I showed him around the place. Jon is a great interviewer and I felt completely at ease with him. I highly recommend him as a replacement for either Bill Plaschke or T.J. Simers. And get ready Dodger fans, because this year we are going to blow away the division.
2005-04-01 10:48:48
53.   fernandomania
That's funny, Dodgerkid, but I would really love to hear Paul DePodesta say that he thinks the Dodgers are going to blow away the division. I think that, but it sure seems like every non-dodgerthoughts or non-baseballprimer reading fan in the world thinks we're a 3rd place team at best this year. It is going to feel sweeter than ever when we take the division this year, and I'm (mostly) confident that we will. I'd love to know what DePo's confidence level is right now. I'd also like to know what happened with Joey Amalfitano.

That said, this is a fantastic article and thanks Jon for all the work you do to make this site legitimately the best place to intelligently discuss Dodger baseball and thanks to Paul D for recognizing that.

And another shout out to Paul DePodesta: Thanks for all the work you've done with the Dodgers. You take a lot of attacks from a lot of ignorant jackasses with press passes (I'm looking at you, Plaschke), and yet you still stand strong in your convictions and make the moves you believe in. That takes courage and I, for one, admire that. Good luck this year, we (true Dodger fans) are all rooting for you.

2005-04-01 11:01:32
54.   popup
Let me add my voice to the chorus of praise. Excellent article Jon. I hope the quality of the Dodgers play this year is equal to the quality of the writing on this site.
2005-04-01 11:10:15
55.   reedster
Jon:

In the last week, I have been angered by Plaschke's continual attack on the Dodgers and the negativity towards Depodesta this spring.

All Depodesta has done in his short tenure thus far is give us the first Division Championship since 1995 and the first playoff win in 16 years.

Kudos to you for this interview. I nominate that the L.A. Times send Plashke on his ass (or to an O.C. paper) and hire you.

2005-04-01 11:19:27
56.   Jon Weisman
Per my comment in #27, I've made an edit in the story to make sure it's clear, in case it wasn't already, that DePodesta was not trying to make Boras the villain in the Beltre situation.
2005-04-01 11:21:30
57.   Brent T
Great interview, Jon. Well done.

If I may be your editor for a moment: From the 2nd paragraph, the loss wouldn't have dropped them into a tie, but leave them 1-game up with one to play. Remember all of the discussion of a one-game playoff?

Echoing Fernandomania, I tend to agree that the Dodgers are being underestimated. But, any 1-2-3 order involving Dodgers-Padres-Giants wouldn't surprise me.

2005-04-01 11:23:46
58.   Jon Weisman
You're right, Brent. Nuts. Okay - another fix coming - thanks.
2005-04-01 11:27:47
59.   bigcpa
Geez I wait until 11:15AM to check DT and I'm the last one to the dance. Great work Jon. I love how you led into the interview with 10/2/04- a date that is our generation's 10/3/51. 19 out of 20 writers would have mentioned the word Moneyball four times in the opening paragraph. Imagine focusing on the thrill of victory for once. Here here!!!!!

Like others in the room I'm curious how you conducted the interview (phone, email, face to face). Also was he familiar with the site at all and realize such a forum exists for people who understand him (or at least try to understand him)? I recall Billy Beane telling Blez that DePo doesn't have the kind of fanboy support yet etc.

2005-04-01 11:45:13
60.   Jon Weisman
To briefly answer some of the how'd-it-happen questions:

I made the request early this year, shortly after that L.A. Press Club sports coverage seminar I participated in. The Dodgers said "yes" fairly quickly, but it took a while for it to come through. Which is as much my fault as anyone's - I didn't really hound the Dodgers at all to speed things up.

The interview was conducted early in the morning by phone, DePodesta generously offering his time on Grapefruit League getaway day, my 2 1/2-year-old daughter generously allowing me to miss some pre-work playtime.

I asked DePodesta if he was aware of the site and he said he was "made aware" of it last year. It felt awkward going further to ask if he actually read it.

2005-04-01 11:55:48
61.   Sam DC
Along w/Bigcpa, I'm a little startled to be this late to the game, but I'll join the chorus of Hosannas (or at least Huzzahs). What a great read. I was a little disappointed that there's nothing in here that'll bring back the banner ads for the Ayn Rand Dating Club, but so it goes.
2005-04-01 11:56:36
62.   Doug N
Writing that I found exemplary:
"As the shadows spread their fingers across the field during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium"

"It takes more than one person to wrassle a stereotype to the ground"

"But for many, prospecting seems as haphazard an endeavor in Chavez Ravine today as it was during Gold Rush days"

This is no simple sycophancy, either. Does anybody wonder why so many sportswriters are so bad? It's becuase the sports world is an arena of cliche, and the business of writing sports is saturated with hurried language. Sports writing worth paying for is generally top notch because it takes a special talent to marry the land of leisure with artful verbage. That being said, I'm happy to be sending $20 to Dodger Thoughts (far under-paying for the last year of content & community) and hope that everyone else will, too.

Oh yeh, DePo seems pretty cool, too.

2005-04-01 12:27:01
63.   Todd
Great job Jon. Still not sure what to think about Beltre's departure, but if Hee Seop hits 20 jacks and gets 80 RBIs, I think the Dodgers will win the division. Anyway, this site tops Crapke every time out. So glad I figured out how to get an RSS feed again at MyYahoo from the new site.

Geez, and to think you were holding out on us with that great story. It feels like Xmas Eve now, wishing I could go to sleep and Tues. night would come round a bit quicker. Dodgers have risen in priority now that the Kobes, err, Lakers, suck.

2005-04-01 12:29:47
64.   derrelthomas
First-timer here so watch your toes. Just wanted to echo the praises of the choir here, great work Jon!

Have one question, do you have a sense of how makes up the "staff" that depo assembles to make decisions? I'm something of a Depo junkee and I was just wondering who the war-room invitees are. Any guesses?

2005-04-01 12:32:40
65.   Bob Timmermann
I think the Dodgers war room for big personnel descisions resembles the lodge where the Stonecutters met on "The Simpsons".
2005-04-01 12:49:31
66.   Colorado Blue
Bob, that makes me envision an analogy where
McCourt = Monty Burns and DePo = Smithers (shiver-and-cringe).
Throw in a nuclear powerplant and the whole Choi experiment now makes sense...
eeexxxx-cellent!
2005-04-01 13:21:35
67.   Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh
>>I asked DePodesta if he was aware of the site and he said he was "made aware" of it last year. It felt awkward going further to ask if he actually read it. <<

This is why Jon will never replace Plaschke and Simers at the Times. He lacks the necessary egotism and is far too well mannered. =)

I wouldn't be surprised if DePodesta did read this blog. He generally tries to not gin up more controvery, but it's clear he knows how many people are rooting for him to fail. And I'm sure he knows where to find fans who are a bit more balanced in their views. I know Dan Evans used to take a look at the old Dodgers.com message board every so often.

WWSH

2005-04-01 13:22:51
68.   JMK
Good job Jon! Thanks.

If Depo's telling the truth and I would think he is, why would Boras only accept one blind offer for Beltre? If Beltre really wanted to stay wouldn't it have been in his client's best interest to say to the Dodgers,"The Mariners are offering us this, you need to get to this figure in order for Beltre to stay." Could it possibly be because Boras knew if Beltre went to Seattle he could get more money for Drew from the Dodgers?

2005-04-01 13:43:06
69.   Jim Hitchcock
Thought it was pretty bizarre that the three of them only had one face to face meeting, in which they were not allowed to talk about finacials. One would guess that that was a stipulation by Boras...but why?

It would seem to me that blind bidding would work against the interests of the recipient, by allowing no sweetening ofthe pot...once again, why would Boras use this tactic?

2005-04-01 13:44:07
70.   Jim Hitchcock
oops, financials...and contracts.
2005-04-01 14:23:46
71.   bigcpa
I think Boras wanted to avoid Beltre getting emotionally drawn to the Dodgers fearing the dreaded hometown discount might play in. As the middle man he could present Beltre the cold numbers and spin things his way.

As for the single blind offer- I'm calling BS on DePo there. Imagine he admits Boras said 5/65 would get it done and DePo walked away. That gives the McCourt bashers a lot more ammo than the current "blindside" theory that Boras/Beltre walked away from our offer without countering.

I still think DePo knew about the 5/65 offer and his 6/60 offer was designed to be rejected. Chavez was a perfect comp (signed 6/66 at 26yrs old in 3/04) and he wasn't even a FA at the time. Beltre's market was 13 per and DePo didn't want to pay it.

I still blame Bobby Bonilla for all of this. If he didn't play 3b for us like a matador we wouldn't have started Beltre's service clock until 99/00. Argh!

2005-04-01 14:25:47
72.   Suffering Bruin
Jim, JMK in the post above you had it right, according to McCourt. I asked some pointed questions during one of McCourt's conference calls about the Beltre signing and he strongly implied that Boras had Beltre sign with Seattle which in turn drove up Drew's price. McCourt did not fault Boras for this.

Then again, it was McCourt who said on the conference call that the plan all along was to sign both Beltre and Drew. Jon's article says the exact opposite.

What's missing, and what we might never have (especially from the Times) is a play-by-play of the Beltre signing. Jon's article comes the closest to providing that but it would be interesting to hear Boras' take. Or did he already give it and I just didn't see it? Anybody know?

2005-04-01 14:31:38
73.   Jon Weisman
Yes, the lack of quotes from Boras and Beltre in this article is its obvious weakness. I was too eager to use what I had.
2005-04-01 15:52:32
74.   Steve
Two things:

1) SB -- excellent point about the difference between what McCourt told you on the phone call and what DePodesta told Jon. Clearly curious.

2) That the Dodgers would not talk to Beltre directly has always been a non-issue. By hiring an agent, one assumes that the agent is to deal with the business (and to an extent, legal) affairs of the client. This protects both the client, and in a roundabout way, the organizations the client is dealing with. By hiring an agent, the client receives the business and legal acumen of the agent, and the ceding of control over negotiations ensures that the organization knows 1) who it is dealing with and 2) doesn't receive mixed messages if it communicates with both. It also ensures that the agent does his job -- if Beltre is capable of cutting his own deal, he has no need of Scott Boras. So this would not be an example of Boras "controlling" a negotiation; it is simply the ethically proper way to undergo business negotiations when agents/representatives are involved. That Plaschke made it an issue doesn't make it so.

2005-04-01 17:20:35
75.   DXMachina
"DX, just to be clear, DePodesta made it clear he was not "blaming" Boras for Beltre going elsewhere. If that isn't clear in the article, I apologize - maybe I should make an edit. "

Thanks for clarifying, Jon. I probably leapt a bit in my conclusion. In my defense, It was awfully early this morning when I typed that.

2005-04-01 19:30:19
76.   ecblue
Great interview Jon. Thanks!
2005-04-02 08:16:43
77.   bulldog55
"You feel better giving him four years at 31 years old with his health history than giving a guy in his mid-30s (with prior injuries) a three-year deal."

Obviously not the same philosophy that gave the Dreifort Contract to J.D. Drew.

2005-04-02 19:12:06
78.   CT Bum
I know this is really late (geez...I miss reading DT for a couple days and I miss the posting of the blog's life...so far!) but my "props" (as the kids say) Jon for a great article and interview.
2005-04-02 20:23:12
79.   Strike4
Depo's felt like a fan once in his career? Impossible to believe. Why does he want to project such an ice-man image? Even if he's playing the "I'm a businessman" act, he should be able to easily admit and identify with his customers, the fans. Still seems to have significant issues with image control and thus fidelity of words.

Likely no coincidence that Depo's ordered out to make nice with the hometown blog just as the Dodger PR crew is being decapitated. We're an obvious receptive audience who's had their feelings hurt for a year by Depo making no effort to mingle with the fans. Can just hear McCourt, "Get out there and make them think they like us!"

I've never read a word about the Depo/Tracy relationship. Is Tracy a Howe-equivalent waiting for the latest brainstorm to pop out of the laptop, or on the heels of this article, is he a valued source of "gray" information?

2005-04-03 14:07:52
80.   Blue Thrue and Thrue
What's wrong with DePo thinking that Beltre hadn't proven he's worth a huge deal? I and many others have been frustrated with Beltre for years, and I'm not convinced that he's turned the corner. Seattle gambled a LOT of money that he has. If he relapses, this deal could handcuff them for years.

I give DePo a lot of credit for not succumbing to emotions and overpaying a homegrown player after a season that could be a fluke.

Great job, Jon. You haven't been on my daily reading list for long, sadly, but you've just nailed a spot.

2005-04-04 09:34:18
81.   ElysianPark62
Re: the Beltre negotiations (if they can even be called that), someone is clearly lying and/or miscommunicating. Beltre said he sat around his local home, even canceling his usual trip to the Dominican Republic, to hear from the team. They didn't call.

On the other hand, DePodesta stated in this interview that he told Boras to call when they were ready for his offer. So, is that a lie, or did Boras not tell Beltre about the supposed agreement? Beltre clearly expected more communication, but whose fault was that?

Boras also disallowed the discussion of figures when Beltre was present and seemed to discourage direct contact with his client.

I don't think anyone involved is telling the whole truth, including Beltre. In one interview, he said he wanted to play for the Dodgers, Angels, or Mariners. In a few other interviews, he claimed to never want to leave the Dodgers. In fact, he "never even thought about it."

What gives here?

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