DePodesta’s Job Might Not Be Safe Either
The Diamondbacks, Phillies and Devil Rays don’t have general managers, the Nationals remain in limbo, and there is enough foot dragging to suggest several organizations and candidates are awaiting resolution in the Yankee and Red Sox front offices.
Which leads us to ... the Dodgers.
A high-ranking American League East official said many believe the Dodger job might also open up, though owner Frank McCourt has insisted Paul DePodesta is safe and, indeed, DePodesta currently is conducting his own search for a manager.
The theory coursing through baseball circles is McCourt will have final say on the manager, then make a decision on his general manager, perhaps making a change if what he perceives as a more attractive candidate -- Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, Mark Newman, Jim Bowden, Kevin Towers -- is still available.
Dodger insiders believe DePodesta has another year to satisfy the McCourts, which seems rational enough, given the injuries that undermined the past season. But little in the McCourt occupancy of the Dodgers suggests rationality, particularly in the realm of the public relations department, where employee turnover has reached a Steinbrenner-like pace and attracted the attention of the highest offices in baseball. People in the commissioner’s office are starting to ask questions.
Dodger employees and prospective employees, according to sources, have been directed by the McCourts and their lieutenants to “think of the McCourts as the brand and the Dodgers as the product.” Most owners think of their franchises as the brand and the baseball as the product, and endeavor to keep themselves out of it.
But, as we have learned, this is not all about the baseball. While waiting on DePodesta’s developing leadership skills, and upgrading the ballpark, and obsessively fretting over their image, the McCourts have created the perception that the Dodgers to them are little more than a real estate venture, and the rest of us are just in the way.
As baseball gathers at its 101st World Series, there is a striking dissimilarity between the teams that are here and the team in Los Angeles that is not.
Astro General Manager Tim Purpura lost Carlos Beltran and Jeff Kent from last year’s National League runner-up, rode a philosophy of pitching and defense, and advanced to the World Series. The White Sox worked the same ideals, assembled baseball players who pitched and defended, won baseball games, and in the process altered the image of an owner vilified in this city for decades.
The new Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of Chicago’s first World Series team since 1959, stood Friday amid a circle of reporters. Thick black sunglasses deflected the glare of a bright sun, and an appreciation 25 years coming, which didn’t much impress Reinsdorf.
“As soon as this is over,” he said, “I’m going back to my regular act.”
The answer for the Dodgers is not in the public relations offices. It is not in the tone of a newspaper article. It is not in the color of a loge-level seat.
It is in the standings, in the baseball, in the leadership.
Bats and Pieces
Seeking to replace general manager Joe Garagiola Jr., who took a job with Major League Baseball, the Diamondbacks have spoken to Bob Gebhard, Josh Byrnes, David Wilder, Bowden and Towers.
Newman, Yankee senior vice president for baseball operations, also is on the Diamondbacks’ list, but they have not yet requested contact permission from Steinbrenner. That process has been difficult in the past. Steinbrenner at least once denied the Orioles access to Newman, and once demanded compensation from the Mariners for permission to interview him.
Gebhard was a special assistant to Garagiola, Byrnes is the Red Sox’s assistant general manager, and Wilder is farm director for the White Sox.
The Red Sox will field all offers for Manny Ramirez this winter but do not believe they will find a fit and will not be disappointed if Ramirez is standing in left field for them come next opening day.
The reality is, Epstein, assuming he re-signs, will have trouble finding a trade partner with both the financial wherewithal and the willingness to part with major league-ready, impact players, criteria that killed the trading-deadline discussions with the Mets.
Ramirez has $57 million coming over the next three seasons, with $20-million options for 2009 and 2010, and has the authority to veto any trade.
Paul Konerko’s father, Hank, told the Arizona Republic that his son will become a free agent and is not likely to do the White Sox any favors in negotiations.
"[The White Sox] had a whole year to talk to him,” Hank Konerko told the paper. “Right now, the ball’s in Paul’s corner.
“He absolutely loves Chicago, the people on the team, the people who run it, the fans. He really would love to stay in Chicago. But, having said that, the hometown discount is gone. He is going to listen to everyone and narrow it down.”
Angel and Dodger officials believe Konerko will remain with the White Sox, but they are expected to contact Konerko’s agent, Craig Landis, when the free-agent period begins.
Oriole Manager Sam Perlozzo once served as Leo Mazzone’s best man, and Mazzone this week returned the favor.
Together, they have a lot of work to do with a pitching staff that ranked 10th in the American League in ERA and, more alarmingly, next-to-last in walks allowed, sure disaster when playing half their games at Camden Yards.
The Orioles doubled Mazzone’s salary and sent him out to mold a staff that, as configured, lacks a true No. 1. They are expected to pursue free agents A.J. Burnett, Jarrod Washburn, Paul Byrd and Kevin Millwood, among others, but probably will lose free-agent closer B.J. Ryan to the Yankees or Red Sox. The closest thing to an ace on that list is Millwood, only 9-11 this season but revered in Cleveland for his pitching and his talent for leading a staff.
Self-preservation, the outfield defense mechanism, runs thick in the AL West. Mariner Manager Mike Hargrove, on his right fielder’s tendency for staying upright, in the Seattle Times: “Ichiro [Suzuki] has the same thought as Garret Anderson. They can dive for balls or run into walls and could miss a bunch of games as a result. Do you want them for 160 games or so, or maybe only 120 games? You look at it that way and, odd as you may think it is at first, it makes sense.”
Doug Eddings, the plate umpire who made the bounced-third-strike call in Game 2 of the ALCS, marking the beginning of the end for the Angels, has a lot of new friends in Chicago.
Uno Chicago Grill has offered to feed the umpire for free, according to a press release, “for as long as the White Sox keep winning.” That’s a steak a week through December. The restaurant is calling the deal the “Dropped Third Steak Dinner.”
Both league championship series were marred by uneven umpiring, and Major League Baseball is risking the same irregularities in the World Series. The six umpires working this Series have presided over a total of five World Series, and only one since 1999, despite a combined 105 years of major league service time.
Only Joe West, Saturday night’s plate umpire, Derryl Cousins and Angel Hernandez have previously drawn a World Series assignment.
Straight from Steve Vanderpool’s keyboard at STATS LLC:
Sometime in the next week, baseball will have its sixth champion in six seasons.
The game hasn’t had this kind of variety since the 1990 Reds were the last of nine winners.
The NBA hasn’t had as many as six consecutive different winners since the ‘70s, and the NFL hasn’t had that kind of parity since Super Bowls II through VII.
Also, the last four franchises to make their inaugural World Series appearance -- the 2002 Angels, 2001 Diamondbacks, 1997 Marlins and 1992 Blue Jays -- won the series. The Astros are making their series debut.
Finally, since World War II, only two World Series teams have had a better combined regular-season ERA from its top three starters than the Astros.
Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte (2.43) trail only 1968 St. Louis Cardinals Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton and Nelson Briles (2.20) and 1972 Oakland A’s Catfish Hunter, Ken Holtzman and Blue Moon Odom (2.32).