Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Turmoil in La-La Land, and Why the Giants Should Care

Make no mistake, the Dodgers’ idiotic firing of Paul DePodesta last week is going to have a huge impact on the Giants. When I heard this news, I was overjoyed, because DePo was a dangerous man. He may have pissed off the traditionalists in Southern California with his brazen disregard
for qualitative analysis, and he may have been the most likely GM to receive an atomic wedgie from a passing jock, but he was certainly a major threat to the NL West.
DePo: Stat-obsessed dweeb or baseball genius? The Dodgers thought the former.

When DePo was named the top man in the Dodger front office before last season, I became very afraid for my beloved Giants. As those who read Moneyball already know, DePodesta served for years as Billy Beane’s assistant GM/computer nerd, helping Beane turn the low budget A’s into a World Series contender. When he came to L.A. it should have sent off red alert claxons throughout the rest of the division. Depo was a guy who understood how to competently ration out payroll, where to look for cheap talent, and how to fill holes with that cheap talent. He was a guy who knew how to find good ballplayers for virtually nothing, a guy who would rather eat a live porcupine than toss $5 million at Neifi Perez. Now at the head of a huge payroll and in a bustling market with TV revenue coming in through every orifice, it looked like the possibilities were endless.

Sure enough, DePodesta’s moves helped the Dodgers win the NL West in his first year at the helm. He acquired Milton Bradley for virtually nothing, claimed Jose Lima off the scrap heap and sent him packing after his one good year, traded for Steve Finley (who practically won them the division), assembled an eclectic but very good bullpen, and cobbled together one of the better benches in the league, anchored by compost pile gems Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz. His controversial trade of Paul LoDuca and Guillermo Mota was chum to be torn to shreds by the knee-jerk press, but it freed up chunks of valuable payroll that could be spent elsewhere on younger and more valuable parts. Even after losing 91 games in 2005, Depodesta had this team set up nicely for the future, with a great farm system and a talented core of players. His goal: compete now with the guys he’s got, wait until the hideous contracts of bygone eras have passed (Darren Dreifort, anyone?) and then become a Yankee-like power with all the talent that’s been stocked in the farm system and the endless payroll available to him.

The press, though, would have none of it. Never mind that last year the Dodgers lost a ridiculous amount of games to their best players due to injury; it was apparently all DePodesta’s fault. Never mind that he signed Jeff Kent, dumped Shawn Green’s salary, and re-signed their best pitcher from 2004, while continuing to stock the system with young talent. He had to go, said the morons on the L.A. talk shows and in the newspapers. Sure, he made some dumb moves, like giving Derek Lowe $8 million over four years, or signing J.D. Drew, a great player who is almost never healthy, to too much money, but the good outweighs the bad by a wide margin. None of the positive moves DePo made were particularly evident in 2005, because the entire team was pretty much a MASH unit all year. By August they were pretty much throwing out Jeff Kent and a AAA lineup. But any observer who actually cared to look deeper into what the Dodgers were doing would find a tasty future awaited this team. Fortunately for us, Dodger ownership suffered from near-sightedness, and couldn’t see the big picture.

Now DePo’s gone and it’s great news for the Giants. I just can’t stress this enough. Imagine if Billy Beane was given an enormous payroll and you’d get an idea of the kind of carnage DePodesta would have wrought upon the NL West in the years to come. He’s that good. Instead, the Dodgers are going to appease Tommy LaSorda, who reportedly hated DePo, and will probably sign some doofus who has no idea what he's (or she's) doing. The same doofus who will probably shell out an arm and a leg for A.J. Burnett and soon find that they should have kept that arm and that leg because Burnett’s have just fallen off. The Giants need to thank the Dodger front office for being too stupid to see DePodesta’s plan, and then caving in to the masses when they screamed their equally brainless opinions.

Well, I just wrote a long essay pretty much defending the Dodgers, and I suddenly feel a strong need for a bath or a Cat Scan or something. However, I think it’s much less a defense than simply a voicing of the incredible relief I feel that this man is out of the division. Seriously, he scares the hell out of me. Sometimes when I lie in bed at night, I hear tree limbs squeaking on the window and fear that it might be the evil DePo come to get me and screw the Giants over. Sometimes my closet door is propped open at night, and out from the darkness come the satanic red eyes of DePo!

Okay, this is getting sort of creepy, but you get the point. I have a feeling the Giants just dodged (no pun intended) a huge bullet with the Depodesta firing. God bless the Dodgers for having no bloody clue what they’re doing.

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