November 1, 2005
Frank McCourt has apparently listened to a lot of advisors in nearly two years as the Dodger owner. But he should have listened to perhaps the wisest of all baseball gurus … Yogi Berra.
Yogi once said … : “You can observe a lot just by watching.”
When McCourt closed the deal and took control of the team, that’s what he should have done … just watch … for about a year.
The 2003 Dodgers were winners but hadn’t made the playoffs … their seventh straight year without a playoff appearance. But general manager Dan Evans, who’d run the team for two seasons, was nearly finished clearing away some contract deadwood, and was assembling a team that might contend.
In December 2003, he dealt sore-armed and sore-headed pitcher Kevin Brown … and actually got some talent in return (Jeff Weaver, Yhency Brazoban). He brought in outfielder Juan Encarnacion, and it only cost him a low-level minor league prospect to do it.
Evans added Olmedo Saenz and Jose Hernandez to a versatile bench that already included Jolbert Cabrera and Robin Ventura. He grabbed a hard-throwing righthander named Duaner Sanchez after Pittsburgh cut him loose. Evans took a flyer on pitcher Jose Lima. Maybe he could still pitch … and if he couldn’t, it wouldn't cost much to cut him loose.
The rest of team – Green, Lo Duca, Gagne, Beltre, Roberts, Cora, Izturis, Nomo, Ishii, Dreifort, Mota and some others – stayed in place. And for the most part, so did a crop of highly prized minor leaguers that would be the core of the Dodgers in 2007 and beyond.
That’s what Dan Evans put together heading into the 2004 season … a good but not great team, but one with a chance to win … with fewer payroll problems than the Dodgers had seen in years … and with a strong minor league system intact. And Evans had done it with front office spending hemmed in by money constraints as the team changed hands from Fox to Frank McCourt.
All McCourt had to do was take over the team … let Evans continue polishing the Dodgers for the arrival of those kids in the minors ... and do nothing. Just observe a lot by just watching.
McCourt quickly dismissed Evans … brought in Paul DePodesta … and as the team Evans largely assembled sailed into first place, DePodesta began taking it apart. Still, the Dodgers won the NL West title, and then came 2005 ... and you know the rest.
Now we’re back where we started … but with fans angry, players surly, McCourt sullied. Any of the candidates GM’s mentioned for the Dodger GM job – Pat Gillick, Gerry Hunsicker, Jim Bowden – will do a fine job of fixing the big league roster in a hurry … and, thank goodness, that crop of hot-shot minor leaguers is STILL intact ... even enhanced a little (not EVERYTHING DePodesta did turned sour).
Now all Frank McCourt has to do is hire one of the three GM candidates mentioned above, then do what Yogi says ... : Sit back and observe a lot just by watching. If McCourt can do that this time, we will all like what we see.