Colletti, Little will be back
Frank McCourt characterized the Dodgers’ season as a “disappointment” Sunday but said General Manager Ned Colletti and Manager Grady Little would be back in 2008.
The Dodgers, who owned the best record in the National League in mid-July, ended their season with an 11-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium that left them only two games over .500.
“I feel that we could have been better, I feel that we should have been better and I also feel that we need to do better,” McCourt said. “I think what makes it particularly disappointing is the fact that we had a shot this year. We had the talent to win, we should be playing next week and I feel that in many ways it was a missed opportunity. I hope it’s something people learn from.”
The Dodgers’ 82-80 record doomed them to their second fourth-place finish in three years, but McCourt said the results wouldn’t stop ticket prices from increasing.
“I would expect that ticket prices would go up in the areas we’ve invested in the ballpark,” he said.
Dodger Stadium will undergo a $70-million renovation on the field level to widen the concourses, double the number of restrooms and concession stands and equip every stand to grill Dodger Dogs.
McCourt said “everybody” was to blame for the rift in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, which was made public by Luis Gonzalez’s unhappiness about losing playing time, Jeff Kent’s criticism of the team’s young players, and James Loney and Matt Kemp’s responding to Kent.
McCourt wouldn’t say much about the clubhouse turmoil other than that “I never think it’s a good idea to take private matters and bring them outside.” But he emphasized that he wanted to build an organization with “core values” -- “respect” and “unselfishness” among them -- and that players who didn’t adhere to those values could be shipped out.
Little said what bothered him most about the season was how some players reacted to falling out of playoff contention. The Dodgers stood alone atop the National League West on July 27 at 57-46 but were 25-34 over their final 59 games.
“What’s been the most disappointing to me is that so many people, when things are going good, they’re fine,” the manager said. “But then the very minute things turn a little sour, the real person comes out. That’s what disappointed me the most.”
Said Colletti: “I learned more about people this year than I did last year.”
Colletti refused to say anything about specific players in that regard but made it clear that he expected Kent to be back next season. Kent is contemplating retirement.
Gonzalez has said he would not be back next season.
McCourt, Colletti and Little agreed that the organization should remain committed to building around its young players.
“We put a foundation in place that will serve the organization well for years and years to come,” McCourt said. “We need to stick with the plan and not be impulsive because we’re getting closer.”
Said Colletti: “Young players, in general, when they get to the big leagues, it’s about personal survival. As time goes on, and I’ve seen it amongst our young players, especially in the last month or so they know that they’re talented enough in the big leagues. Now, the focus has started to turn to, ‘How can we win the game?’ That’s a key component, but that takes time.”
Colletti listed the acquisition of a middle-of-the-order bat and pitching depth as the team’s top priorities in the off-season.
Colletti said “two or three” of the young players were close to becoming that middle-of-the-lineup hitter. He called the play of Loney “remarkable,” adding that Kemp “is not too far behind,” that Russell Martin “really developed this past year” and that Andre Ethier “is a solid player in this league.”
Starting pitchers Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Esteban Loaiza and Jason Schmidt are under contract for next season and Chad Billingsley is under the Dodgers’ control, but Colletti said there is no such thing as a surplus of arms.
“Go back to last spring,” he said. “Everybody kept saying we had eight starting pitchers. We needed 10. Eight wasn’t enough.”
And it might not be enough next season.
Schmidt underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in June, and Loaiza, acquired via the waiver wire in late August, sat out most of the season because of a bulging disk in his neck and knee surgery.
McCourt refused to call the signing of Schmidt to a three-year, $47-million contract a mistake.
“Injuries happen,” he said. “It’s part of the game. It’s beyond everybody’s control. If we had been cavalier about it and hadn’t done our due diligence, then it’s our fault. Shame on us. But the medical due diligence was done.”