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In defense of the mustache

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Ok, long-form is needed for a moment as twitter’s 140 character limitations make debating with idiots impossible.  This will be a more detailed reasoning why I defend Ned Colletti – and his mustache – but primarily Ned.

Before we officially begin, let me make it very clear (and I will use uppercase letters, something I try to refrain from using in large quantities, to make my point): FRANK McCOURT CAN BE BLAMED FOR PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR BELOVED LOS ANGELES DODGERS SINCE THE MOMENT HIS SLIMY ASS SLITHERED INTO TOWN.  EVERYTHING!  Capiche?  I cannot make this point any more clear.  If you disagree with this basic fundamental truth, please do not read this, and if you follow on twitter, unfollow.  Because if I find out you don’t believe this truth, and you bark at me about something that is easily traced back to this truth, I will block your ass.  We live in a time where blocking your ass is quite easy, and I will do so with much happiness and blue wrath.  

IN DODGER BASEBALL TERMS, FRANK McCOURT IS THE DEVIL.  HE IS WHAT PAUL GIAMATTI WAS SCREAMING ABOUT AT THE END OF ‘PRIVATE PARTS’.  HE WAS THE WORST OWNER THE DODGERS COULD HAVE EVER GOTTEN, AND EVEN IF HITLER RISES FROM THE DEAD AND WANTS TO BUY A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM, HE IS THE WORST OWNER WE COULD EVER GET.  WHILE THERE ARE ACCOMPLICES AND SOME COMPLEXITIES TO FRANK McCOURT’S REIGN OF TERROR AT CHAVEZ RAVINE – BUD SELIG PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN WHAT TRANSPIRED FROM 2004 TILL TODAY – IT WAS THE UNETHICAL OWNERSHIP OF McCOURT THAT IS TO BLAME FOR ALL – I REPEAT ALL – OF OUR WOES PAST AND PRESENT.

Again, I cannot make this more clear… if you disagree with this even a little, do not read this post.  Do not follow me on twitter.  While the world is interesting due to diverse opinions, this part of my life is very dear to me and I have paid more than close attention to everything blue for decades upon decades.  I will not waver in the truth I know, and if you want to get into a flame war, you’re blocked – that’s it.  If you discuss your points eloquently and politely, I will hear you out.  I will disagree regardless if you in any way, shape or form defend, or seem to defend, our previous owner.  It is non-negotiable.  

Having said that, if you still want to read, enjoy.  If you agree with my assessment, while this sounds egotistical, it is not meant to be – you are enlightened.  It means that like me, you are a Dodgers fan and your blood runs blue like Tommy Lasorda’s does.  It means you have paid close attention along the way in this sickening drama.  It means you can connect the dots as well now, as you did when you were a young child, and your mind was clear, free from the “talking points” idiots, Sabergeeks, Fox News junkies, and the like gobble up like M&Ms.  Again, if even that offends you, you’re not my audience, begone wretched illogical one.  FRANK McCOURT IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH DODGER TEAMS PAST AND PRESENT – 2004 till today.

I will begin my defense of Ned by saying I am an old school baseball fan.  I believe in chemistry, I believe in defense, I believe in hard slides, I believe in stolen bases, I believe in situational hitting, sacrificing at times, bunting at times.  The nonsense of Moneyball makes me ill.  It worked fine when one team, Oakland, tried that approach.  When the secret was out and others played that game, it wasn’t so wonderful.  Ask the Toronto Blue Jays – they wasted draft picks and years on such foolishness.  The great Billy Beane – lo and behold – has made mistakes.  Some of his Moneyball heroes never evolved and are now baseball trivia questions and jokes for nerds.  Hell, while Brad Pitt might have played Beane in the movie (generous casting to say the least… if they do a Dodger Therapy movie, Jon Hamm can play me), this is the same GM who traded Ned Colletti Andre Ethier for a guy with serious mental issues (Milton Bradley).  If the bashers of Ned want to start anywhere, start with that.

My main point about Ned as GM is this.  He has very rarely been given the opportunity to do anything, at least anything in a way properly supported by ownership.  If you want to say, Ned worked under the same hardships Beane had to endure in Oakland – albeit a slightly different scale due to what was almost annually the largest attendance in Major League Baseball.  Ned had to bargain shop pretty much the whole McCourt era, so when “fans” (they’re not fans of the team I love, and I don’t think fans of anything but being instigators and parroting the talking points they’ve heard around the Internet) criticize Ned, it makes me ill.  Not because I love this Ewok-y, Ed Asner-like tough guy who cleans up nice for the Academy Awards (although I do a bit, I admit), I feel ill because supposed fans who should share similar interests and beliefs as I do are just so myopic and ignorant.

I don’t want to go over every single move Ned made – we all know the deals people snivel about, and conveniently leave out or write off the ones that work out well as “lucky”, or that they “fell in his lap.”  Sorry, that’s a chickenshit way to look at it.  If you want to criticize deals you think were bad, you need to accept and praise the deals that are good.  Up until Stan Kasten rode into town in a limo paid for by an insurance company’s clients, Ned was the guy.  He was there to accept blame or praise for all of the moves the Dodgers made.  I would only say though that his tenure as Dodgers GM has been what educators would call an “incomplete.”  How can you gauge what Ned could do based on what he was doing while living off financial fumes from an owner who spent more on mansions and daily hair cuts (Frank, you hair looks like shit, you were robbed) than ballplayers?

Ned had to find talent, almost exclusively, through bargain bin shopping.  99 Cent Store, dumpster diving, call it whatever you want.  Did Ned spend money at times?  Of course he did.  Was it always wisely spent?  No.  But I’ll go back to two things – first, McCourt is to blame for making Ned always try to squint his eyes and find a way to fit a round peg into a square hole, working with crazy limitations most GMs just don’t have to, and second, look around Major League Baseball – look good.  What GM could we have hired that could have done better than Ned, fairly consistently fielding a competitive ball club with minimal dollars spent, deferred contracts to deal with, star players not wanting to come to this sick house syndrome in LA, etc.?  What GM?  Name that GM.

I will say this – look at the marquee GMs around baseball, probably some of those would be on your list of GMs who field winners and could have done better than Ned.  Not really.  Cashman in NY has the luxury of deep pockets and can eat bad contracts at will.  If he signs A-Rod to a massive extension after already showing signs of wear, not a big problem – let the YES Network pay for it.  The Yankees have had all sorts of bloated contracts over the years, and very infrequently has Cashman proven to me that he isn’t just getting by due to throwing money around.  Cashman for all intents and purposes is Ed McMahon showing up at the door with an oversize novelty check.  It’s easy to be a GM if your owners are literally printing money.

Theo?  The great Theo Epstein?  We got our own Theo, McCourt hired that inexperienced rube DePodesta, who blew up a competitive Dan Evans team out of spite and built one of the worst Dodgers teams ever assembled, remember? Antonio Perez?  Grabowski?  Hee Seop Choi?  Jason Phillips?  Uggh, what a freaking eyesore.  His big money guys were questionable too, either overpaid or no consideration to their chemistry, how they played together, how they represented the uniform and city.  JD Drew, Milton Bradley, Jeff Kent (good player, surly as hell, alienated people and made young players feel unwelcome), Brad Penny, etc.  Just a disgusting team, especially considering what we had, which was disposed of like garbage by Mr. Harvard.

Theo, for all his Moneyball, just acted like Cashman.  His era, while winning a couple championships – not to be dismissed – was one where the little underdog Red Sox became everything they hated about the Evil Empire.  Not really Moneyball if you are given endless checks to write.  I mean, criticize Ned for his deals like you do, but what about Lackey, Dice-K, JD Drew, Crawford, etc.?  Those are bigger money deals than the deals Ned is crucified for.  Ned makes some mistakes, but not on that grand a scale.

The genius of Brian Sabean?  He definitely managed to compile a rag-tag team of parts and win a World Series in improbable fashion, but even THAT can be blamed on Frank McCourt.  If McCourt didn’t fritter away a team that was pushing back to back years for a World Series, with endless kids in the farm behind them, the Giants NEVER would have won that World Series.  That was OUR World Series, the Dodgers, and if you call yourself a Dodgers fan and disagree, I feel sorry for you and your family.  You need help, and lots of it.

Sabean signed Zito to a trillion dollars.  Zito alone is worse than anything Ned’s ever done.  What about Aaron Rowand?  Armando Benitez? Trading Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser for an ineffective AJ Pierzynski?  Sabean’s made some mistakes himself, every GM has!

Jim Hendry in Chicago?  Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, Kosuke Fukudome.  Tony Reagins in Anaheim?  He traded Mike Napoli who ended up leading the division rival Rangers to the World Series and took on Vernon Wells bloated contract.  He also acquired Scott Kazmir, blew money on Fernando Rodney, and couldn’t sign most of the big names the Angels chased (I blame St. Arte for this, much like I blame McCourt, though Arte is clearly not in McCourt’s league when it comes to slippery doings).

The point is anywhere you look, every GM has their wins and their losses.  I am only saying Ned’s losses only seem magnified because the owner didn’t allow Ned to spend.  Ned spent on long shots and maybes when the Los Angeles Dodgers should be every bit as respectable as teams like the Yankees and Red Sox.  Automatically Ned was usually out of the running for top-tier help, reduced to looking at the second tier, or third, or fourth.  Players knew better than to come here for deferred money written on rubber checks.  I still maintain that given the situation, Ned has done a wonderful job keeping the players focused and competitive.  

Ned deserves credit for the following:

Trading Milton Bradley to Oakland for young phenom Andre Ethier

Acquiring Manny Ramirez for Andy LaRoche

Entrusting veteran minor leaguer AJ Ellis to be our starting catcher when we had no money to pay a proven one

Surrounding young manager Don Mattingly with as wonderful a coaching staff as I can remember – including bringing back Davey Lopes, who HATED the Dodgers

Always finding cheap veteran plugs to fill out the roster when money was tight – Tony Gwynn, Jr., Jerry Hairston, Jr., Matt Treanor, Mark Loretta, Jamey Carroll, Ronnie Belliard, Aaron Miles, Brad Ausmus, Doug Mientkiewicz, Mark Sweeney, Marlon Anderson, Adam Kennedy, Scott Podsednik, Greg Maddux, etc.

Japanese imports Hiroki Kuroda and Takashi Saito

Reclamation projects that cost little and have paid off – Chris Capuano, Mark Ellis, Rod Barajas, Juan Pierre, Bobby Abreu, etc.

Solid veterans like Ted Lilly, Casey Blake, Juan Pierre, etc.

Even when he has dealt kids, most of those deals have not been too bad – I’m still waiting for Joel Guzman to make it, Josh Bell, Lucas May, Andrew Lambo, and others

People will point to James McDonald’s success this season, which has been great, but McDonald had chances here and appeared to be regressing at the time of that deal in 2010.  He didn’t look like much last year for Pittsburgh either.  In all honesty, I never liked Dotel and while the moves Ned was making around that time had me enthusiastic, that last minute McDonald for Dotel thing didn’t make me very happy.  Not so much that we traded McDonald, who didn’t have a spot here anyway and seemed to need a change of scenery, but it just seemed unnecessary, and Dotel sucked while in LA.  

The most criticized moves of Ned’s have been Jason Schmidt, Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, and Juan Uribe, I believe.  Here is my take on all of these…

I remember very distinctly listening to baseball experts at the time of the Schmidt signing saying the Dodgers got the jewel of the FA market.  The reason was that we acquired an ace, made the rival Giants weaker, and locked Schmidt up for just 3 seasons.  I don’t know about you, but signing pitchers to long-term deals strikes me as bad practice, and it’s a concern if we even get to sniff Cole Hamels this winter.  Kevin Brown anyone?  Most of the time long-term deals to pitchers doesn’t work out.  Zito.  Zambrano.  Burnett.  Lackey.  The list goes on and on.  3 years was a good deal – however, and it’s a big however, Schmidt got hurt.

I guess fans think Ned should have known Schmidt was hurt, therefore is an idiot for signing him in the first place.  They conveniently forget that Schmidt was 11-9 with a 3.59 era in 180 innings the season before for the Giants, but most of all – WE HAD THE GIANTS TRAINER AS OUR TRAINER.  Stan Conte signed off on Schmidt, saying he was healthy.  Who would know more about the health of a player than the trainer who worked with him right before the signing?  The rest is history, it didn’t work out, at all, but again, it was just 3 years.  This is where you should reread some of the bad signings top GMs around the league made, the ones I listed above.

Juan Pierre?  People made Juan Pierre their whipping boy because he doesn’t have a strong arm.  Hell, I love Juan Pierre, and so does Matt Kemp, who recently said on twitter that Pierre was his all-time favorite teammate.  Pierre had a weak arm in Florida, and he had a weak arm in Colorado.  The Dodgers got exactly what they paid for.  If you care so much about centerfielders with weak arms, you probably hated Brett Butler too, and you likely hated Johnny Damon (albeit he mostly played in left, where Pierre plays now for Philadelphia, and is batting over .300 with his familiar speed).

My take on Pierre is he’s a hard worker, a gamer, grinds it out, plays with a love of the game, stole a ton of bases while in Dodger blue, has a World Series ring to his credit, saved our ass a few times when Manny went down with injuries and PED issues, and sat on the bench when asked to.  People criticize his contract, too long, too much money, etc.  Well, perhaps it was 2 years too long, but you need to recall, when Ned inherited the Dodgers the outfield was a shambles.  The kids were on the farm, a year, two, three, who can say, off.  The outfield just watched Scott Boras opt JD Drew off to Boston for a big payday, and Ned was left with Ethier, who he just acquired, who had no big league experience, and that was it.  Anchoring an outfield spot with a proven performer who always hit close to .300 and stole a ton of bases was a good move.  Ned filled the other outfield corner with a cheap, aged Luis Gonzalez.  That season, 2007, Pierre hit .293 with 64 steals and scored 96 runs.

I have always liked Pierre, and I see him still doing his job in Philadelphia, a team decimated by injuries.  He shows up, he works hard, his teammates love him, he’s selfless, then he goes home.  He stays healthy, he’s a solid major league player.  If Ned didn’t have ANY outfielders at the time – save for Ethier, who hadn’t played above AA for Oakland and very easily could have busted or needed more seasoning – I doubt he would have figured a veteran bridge till Matt Kemp and other kids were ready was necessary.  I defend the Pierre signing to this day.  Would I have preferred 3-4 years rather than 5?  Sure, why not.  But it wasn’t a bad signing in my book.

Andruw Jones, a fat, disinterested sloth who somehow used to win Gold Gloves and crush homers in the pre-Mitchell Report era, I’m not such a fan of.  Here Ned made a mistake by listening to Boras, who had already burned us with the Drew to Boston business.  We had no power hitter, and there was nothing out there to get.  Jones HAD done it before, and we were desperate.  Boras, being a shark, but also a good agent, took advantage of our weakness and saddled us with a complete blob that crashed and burned.  To Ned’s credit, perhaps due to concern keeping players on the books long-term due to his charlatan of an owner, or maybe just wanting to keep his options open with fast turnarounds, was at least smart enough to sign Jones short-term, 2 years, worth $18M per.  Horrible results, but for only 2 years.  A contract the Yankees or Boston could eat, even Texas, Anaheim, Philadelphia, etc., but the cash-strapped McMansion owned Dodgers, no.

I guess that leaves also tubby Juan Uribe.  Let me start by saying Uribe sucks.  I never liked him when he was in Chicago, and of course I didn’t like him when he was overachieving in San Francisco.  Here Ned had very little money to spend, had to replace Manny Ramirez’ center of the order bat with something that resembled power, and unfortunately signed Uribe.  Yes, he stinks, he should be released, he shouldn’t even be in the big leagues anymore, etc.  I agree with all of that.  BUT… given the limited resources available (dwindling every year too), Uribe offered the following enticements: he just came off a productive season in San Francisco and helped the Giants win (our!) championship.  He played all over the infield with an above average glove.  Given the sad state of our infield, and lack of power hitting, Uribe must have seemed appealing as he could (in theory) hit 20 homers, drive in 75-80 runs, and play short, third, second, wherever we needed.  Ned’s recent years have been reduced to playing mix and match, which is why he likes versatile options like Hairston, Jr., Gwynn, Jr., Kennedy, Miles, Carroll, Rivera, etc.  

Since we can’t afford the actual players we would like to have, mix and matching allows Mattingly to try different things, and have protection should someone really suck, or get hurt.  As you know from the successful portion of this season, our somewhat thin bench still managed to play well enough to not only keep us in the hunt, but for a long time atop all of Major League Baseball.  People will criticize Mattingly for batting Kennedy 5th, or playing this kid or that has-been, but what choice does he have?  Frank McCourt would not sniff the players available in this past winter’s bountiful FA crop.  No Pujols.  No fat Fielder.  No Willingham.  No Aramis Ramirez.  No nothing.

Obviously if we could have signed even Willingham and Ramirez, things this year, things today, would be greatly different.  Imagine those two plus Kemp and Ethier?  But McCourt wanted the books attractive for the sale, so he could eek out every billion.  Forget that any owner in the sweepstakes would have been fine with an increased payroll if they were getting a virtual World Series shoo-in.  All of this, and for years, can be traced back to Frank McCourt.  Anyone who defends him in any possible way is either a relative of his, a Dodgers hater, or just insane.  

To blame the guy who didn’t have the wherewithal to make the deals a GM would love to make, and to criticize every move without considering reasons why deals were made, and heaven forbid, just understanding GMs make bad deals.  They make a bad trade, they make a bad signing, it happens.  The goal is to make more good moves than bad.  Nowadays we have an owner acting like the GM.  Kasten stands in front of microphones and talks about what the team will do.  In the past, the GM did that.  The owner made an occasional speech and stood back.  Kasten is the GM.  Magic jumping on the opportunity to congratulate Kasten on the Puig signing.  Umm, wouldn’t that be Ned’s doing?  Or even Logan White and Ned?  Kasten’s money, sure, but the owner should be expected to spend some money – especially in a large market, and especially when the team just cost in excess of $2B.

I suspect Ned’s function now is perhaps as Kasten’s partner, his assistant, or just his shield.  If something goes right, like the excitement around Puig (who could still bust, and then I suspect it will be spun that Ned was responsible), or maybe acquiring Dempster or Hamels, Kasten did it!  Throw a ticker tape parade.  If anything goes wrong, Ned did it.  Ned did, after all, “get lucky” with acquiring Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier for Andy LaRoche and Milton Bradley, right?  He must have gotten lucky this year with the two Ellis’ too.  Hairston, Jr. was luck.  Kuroda and Saito were luck.  Lots of luck, but oh, those bad moves he made!  Idiot!

Meantime, I think of the many, many millions wasted on players like Zito, Soriano, Rowand, Lackey, A-Rod, Zambrano, Dice-K, Vernon Wells, Burnett, Posada, Crawford, Sheets, etc. and I chuckle.  Nope, only Ned is stupid.  Only Ned signs players to “big money”.  Personally, I’ll take 2-3 years of our deals compared to 6-10 of other GMs mistakes.  

I think it’s fashionable to bash Ned.  The brainwashed masses need to somehow link this guy to all the team’s woes. I guess it makes sense for the casual fan, or for the uninformed fan.  After all, the GM brings in players, right?  The owner is generous.  He wears custom suits, has daily haircuts and manicures, and speaks so politely with his Bostonian lisp.  He must be a good guy.  I mean, forget that business with the Dream Foundation, and forget MLB’s claim he pilfered around $200M to fund the purchase of more lucrative LA real estate.  It has to be the guy who could use a little product in his hair and a more stylish outfit.  He’s to blame for the Dodgers not acquiring necessary pieces during and after back-to-back NLCS appearances.  He’s the guy who didn’t add Pujols.  He didn’t add Fielder (although McCourt floated the rumor that we tried, haha).  He didn’t add Willingham.  He didn’t add Aramis Ramirez.  Ned MUST be an idiot!  I mean, this owner is loaded, he wants a winner in Los Angeles, he said as much at his first press conference where he referred to he and his wife as “The Brand.”  He couldn’t possibly be behind any of this.  It’s routine to defer contracts, right?  Pay for guys no longer wearing the uniform?  It’s ok to bounce checks to Vin Scully, not pay security guards, stadium employees.  Ho ho ho

Seriously, if this truth upsets you, feel free to disagree in a humble, normal manner.  If you want to unfollow me on twitter, please do.  This is based on my lifetime of following baseball, and the Dodgers.  I have witnessed the glory, and the decades since of horror.  I have seen Major League Baseball put us in the hands of a deadbeat owner in order to appease – and get rich from – Fox.  I have seen the rise of the Sabermetrics mindset, arrogantly assuming that baseball intelligence, chemistry, skills that have mattered for over 100 years are a joke.  I have witnessed “fans” become guardians of rich owners’ wallets, and experience Stockholm Syndrome, concerned over these fat cats’ personal wealth to the point they are worried about payroll.  Newsflash – fans of a big market team should NOT be concerned with payroll.  We pay our money parking (uggh), paying for tickets, food, drinks, souvenirs, etc.  We are OWED a winning team, complete with representative players for our hard-earned dollars.  IF by chance a deal does not work out the way we hoped – and quite often deals do not – we should not be concerned with the “poor owner”.  We should expect ownership to eat the contract, move it, and find a strong replacement at that position.  THAT is the fundamental difference between what happens in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, etc., and what has happened here in Los Angeles.

We are crippled emotionally when a player fails.  We need to blame someone, so we blame the GM.  Blame the owner who funded the team’s purchase on money borrowed from the seller, and who kept taking money out of the team even while increasing prices across the board, pinching fans, getting some fans injured, put into comas.  Blame that guy.  Blame the guy with the personal stylist whose hair looks like a rat’s nest.  That’s who I blame – for every bit of it.  The expectation should be higher.  Hitting the beach ball and filling the park for the next bobble head should not be all that we should expect from our “fan experience.”  We should expect the best possible team we can afford.  In Los Angeles, we should expect a team representative of the country’s second largest market.  We should expect to be aggressive in signing top players.  We should be active in international signings.  We should not skimp on our draft picks, choosing unknowns who cost less to sign than known players.  And we should have the common sense not to chew our arms off and bicker with one another when the answer is as plain as the botox on the man’s face.  

I don’t blame Ned.  I blame Frank McCourt.  If you don’t, we have nothing more here to say.  You’re entitled to your opinion, but I think it is lacking an informed viewpoint on the subject, and perhaps a little brainwashing.

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