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DePodesta not afraid to shake things up in L.A.

by Tracy Ringolsby
August 12, 2004

DENVER—Give Dodgers rookie general manager Paul DePodesta credit for being willing to take a chance.

His team had shown it was as good as there is in the National League West, and won 20 of its first 26 games in July. The players talked about the good feeling in their clubhouse. The opposition talked about the ill feeling of heading into the seventh inning against the Dodgers trailing, knowing the Los Angeles bullpen was virtually unbeatable.

Next thing anybody knew, DePodesta orchestrated the biggest roster overhaul of a first-place team at the trade deadline that anybody can remember, though he didn't get the biggest piece of the puzzle of all—Diamondbacks lefthander Randy Johnson.

DePodesta's roster juggling was designed to create a team better suited to win once it gets to the playoffs. Johnson was the vital piece. He is the proven, dominant starter the Dodgers lost when DePodesta's predecessor, Dan Evans, was forced to trade Kevin Brown to the Yankees during the offseason because of payroll constraints.

While the initial whispers were that Johnson refused to accept a deal to the Dodgers, the word now is that Johnson had no problems with returning to Southern California, where he grew up and went to college. But DePodesta didn't want to give up the Dodgers' latest pitching phenom, righthander Edwin Jackson.

Jackson is a prospect. Johnson is the real deal.

The Dodgers have a chance to win right now. They don't know what opportunity will be there five years down the road, and based on the success ratio teams have turning phenoms into legit stars, they don't know if Jackson will be around in five years.

That doesn't mean the Dodgers still won't win the NL West.

It's not the same impact as adding Johnson, but they did make the rotation better by acquiring righthander Brad Penny from the Marlins. Their infield defense is better with the addition of Hee Seop Choi to play first base instead of Shawn Green. And with the acquisition of Steve Finley from Arizona to play center with Milton Bradley in left and Green now in right, the outfield defense improved dramatically.

But there was a cost. Righthander Guillermo Mota, as dominating as any set-up man in baseball, was part of the package to Florida along with catcher Paul Lo Duca, who teammates considered the team's emotional heart and soul. And the Dodgers basically gave Tom Martin, a solid lefthanded set-up man, to the Braves.

The Dodgers got better, but not as good as they would like to be.

Colangelo Cashed Out

Jerry Colangelo said he was willing to sacrifice most anything to win a World Series, and he brought one to Arizona in 2001, the fourth year the franchise existed. The price wound up being his involvement with the Diamondbacks.

Colangelo spent money to buy the title, and then found the Diamondbacks roughly $300 million in debt: $170 million for deferred salaries, $120 million for ballpark debt and another $10 million in loans.

Colangelo went looking for investors so the team could avoid facing bankruptcy proceedings, and sold his financial interest in the team in March. With Arizona at the bottom of the NL West, the new owners forced out Colangelo as head of the franchise and replaced him with agent Jeff Moorad.

Baseball's Basic Agreement does provide that any deferred money must be funded within a year of the season in which it was deferred, but it's one of those rules that has never been actually enforced.

Moorad's hiring was a bit of a surprise, but it's not unprecedented.

Jerry Kapstein, one of the original super agents, gave up his contract business to be president of the Padres when he was married to the daughter of the late Ray Kroc. Current Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. was an agent briefly. And Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker's multi-faceted baseball career did include a stint as an agent.

Beantown Mudslingers

One thing about the folks in Boston: They maintain the Red Sox players are the greatest—until they want to get rid of them. Then the trash talking starts.

Ask Pedro Martinez, who has been criticized all season, in advance of the possibility of him leaving this fall as a free agent.

And ask Nomar Garciaparra, who has been called every negative thing a player can be called since he was dealt to the Cubs. Owner John Henry and president Larry Lucchino even got involved in the public Garciaparra spat.

Tracy Ringolsby is the national baseball writer for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. You can contact him by sending e-mail to tracyringolsby@baseballamerica.com.

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