03/03/2004 4:22 PM ET
Sarah's Take: Paul DePodesta
By Sarah Morris / Special to Dodgers.com
It has been two weeks since the Dodgers hired Paul DePodesta as general manager. I will chronicle my feelings surrounding this event. Then I will share my e-mail interview with DePodesta.
A sunny Monday afternoon I logged onto my e-mail account. I have all of the Dodgers' news e-mailed directly to me, so when I checked my e-mail, I found out the Dodgers hired Paul DePodesta as their new general manager and dismissed Dan Evans.
What a shock! I had read rumors that Frank McCourt was going to hire the thirty-one year-old Harvard graduate as the new general manager. However, I do not believe rumors about baseball because I think the members of the media sometimes start these rumors to let teams know what they would like to see happen.
Although I was not surprised that McCourt dismissed Evans after he announced Evans was a candidate for his own job, I felt sympathy for Evans. Evans had a difficult time during his tenure as the Dodger general manager. He acquired some good players, but he worked with extremely limited payroll flexibility. This past offseason many people, including myself, grew frustrated with his lack of action to improve the Dodgers' offense. In January, I realized that his hands might be tied due to the impending sale of the franchise. After he was fired, Evans admitted that his hands were tied. He could have avoided much of the criticism if he admitted the problem, but it was not his style.
Many fans and members of the media criticized Evans for being unwilling to trade a promising young prospect for a big-name player. We usually do not see prospects before they reach the Major Leagues. Looking at a page of statistics does not tell the whole story about a player. We do not have access to scouting reports or personality and injury profiles, so we cannot judge a minor leaguer's ability to succeed in the Major Leagues. Evans and most people who are knowledgeable about baseball know the only way to keep the payroll reasonable is to develop playing talent.
Maybe Evans could have kept his job if he had risked the Dodgers' future by trading a prospect. However, he thought the Dodgers' future was more important than his job.
I was glad to see Evans go even though I understood his reasoning. To me, Evans was extremely cautious and patient about acquiring players. Sometimes general managers need to be aggressive to acquire the right player to fill their team shortcoming. It is a fine line.
I was enthusiastic about DePodesta. Yes, he is the second youngest general manager in baseball, but he has worked with the Oakland A's Billy Beane, who is regarded as one of the best general managers in the game today. A Harvard graduate with a degree in economics would understand the business end of baseball. He is young but must be a hard worker to be considered as a general manager. He might have unconventional ideas, but unconventional ideas help the game evolve.
On Tuesday as usual, I went to the Los Angeles Times' Dodgers Web site to see what journalists thought of the new general manager. I do not often agree with their opinions because they often have negative views about the Dodgers. However, I always read the
Los Angeles Times and usually get ideas for editorials, and I find it is a good source of facts.
To my dismay, some writers for the Los Angeles Times were criticizing DePodesta before he had a chance to do anything.
I would not have been surprised with T.J. Simmers' article. He is a sarcastic writer who mainly wants to entertain his audience. I used to get mad at his style, but now I simply read it, laugh or shake my head at it, and forget it.
Bill Plaschke is a totally different writer. He is the chief sports editorial writer for the
Los Angeles Times, and he gets national recognition for his writing. Because he is a friend of mine, I know his philosophy about writing editorials. Plaschke believes the writer should take a stand and not worry whether he or she is right. I do not exactly agree with his ideas, but his philosophy has some merit.
I was disappointed and upset with his article about the Dodgers hiring DePodesta. He expressed prejudice against the young and people who use the computer.
DePodesta is young but probably has new ideas about putting together a baseball team. Older people do not like the young assuming they cannot do their jobs because of their advanced age. We young people do not like people thinking we cannot do our jobs because we are too young. I know experience is the best teacher, but bright and fresh ideas can be beneficial to the field. Come on, Plaschke, you have never eaten a 32-year-old Dodger Dog.
So what if DePodesta likes to use a computer? Nowadays if you do not use a computer, you are behind. Using a computer does not make a person a "computer nerd." I take offense at this phrase.
If DePodesta wants to use a computer to help him evaluate players, he might be able to do a better job than Fred Claire, Kevin Malone, and Dan Evans. The Dodgers need to improve this process to win their first playoff game since 1988.
Plaschke implied that DePodesta would not have chosen Kirk Gibson for the 1988 Dodgers because his statistics were not good enough. If Gibson was the answer to go to the World Series, why did the Dodgers not get at least to the playoffs in 1989 and 1990? No general manager can know the personalities of every player in the
Major and minor leagues.
Many people are criticizing DePodesta for not obtaining a big hitter. Look, he has been the Dodger general manager for two weeks. He needs time to get to know what he has to work with. He needs to evaluate his options. Right now, no team is trading players, and most free agents are signed. By the time that Spring Training is half finished, teams are ready to deal, and DePodesta will be ready to improve the Dodgers. If DePodesta jumped in and started making deals, I would have been leery.
I am supporting Frank McCourt and Paul DePodesta until they prove that I should not.
Now here are the questions:
Question: How do you evaluate talent for the team? Farm system?
Answer: Whenever we evaluate a player, it's as if we're trying to put
together a big puzzle. The puzzle has many pieces that include things like
scouting reports, statistical analysis, injury reports, contractual status, etc.
All of these elements are important pieces that produce a clearer, more defined
Q: How does your economic background help you in baseball?
A: For better or worse, baseball has become big business. My economic background has helped by providing me with a framework for solving problems. I don't use many specific formulas that I learned long ago, but I definitely use the mental approach that economics instilled in me.
Q: From the newspapers, I hear you like to use computers and statistics. Do you have a special program to help you evaluate statistics? What stat tells you the most about a hitter? Pitcher? or a team, except its win-loss record?
A: We have lots of special programs! Actually, we have tried to create new metrics that do a better job of reporting performance. That being said, past results are not a perfect predictor of future performance.
Q: With your Harvard degree you could have chosen any profession. Why baseball?
A: I have a real passion for competing and a real passion for people, and the sports field is an ideal combination of the two. I always thought I would be more successful working in a field that inspired my passion.
Q: Did you play baseball in college or high school?
A: I did play baseball in both high school and college. My college career, however, was short-lived and disappointing. That's why I had to stay involved in the game!
|Paul DePodesta began his job as Dodgers GM just one day before camp opened. (Jon SooHoo/Dodgers)
Sarah Morris is the editor of Dodger
Place. The opinions expressed in this article are solely of the author.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its