Dodgers' Strange Managerial Search

The Dodger's search for a new manager has taken a number of unusual twists and according to General Manager Paul DePodesta, perhaps a dozen or more candidates are still waiting in the wings. The latest candidate, Atlanta's Terry Pendleton, declined an offer to interview, saying he didn't want to leave his native Georgia. Yet he did interview for the Tampa Bay job. Well, that is closer to Atlanta.

So the Dodgers had a manager with a full year left on his contract leave the club to manage Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh?) and a candidate who would rather interview for the Tampa Bay (Tampa Bay?) job than for the Dodger position, once the premier post in the National League.

Which brings one to ask, why would anyone want to take he rudder of a ship that is careening wildly across the National League West without a sail, a compass or a map?

The club dumped Jim Tracy who had been as successful as anyone could possibly be, considering the conditions he had to work under. He apparently would not used the players he was ordered to use (Hee-Seop Choi, Antonio Perez) because of their obvious weaknesses -- Choi didn't hit and Perez could not catch the ball.

Of course, a general manager should be able to build an organization that feels comfortable to him, but the Dodgers have changed GMs as easily as Brittany Spears changes husbands, with the resulting "this is my people" changing right along with them.

So tell me, why would you want to manage a club in such disarray, knowing when (not if) things went south, you would be hung out to dry like Tracy was?

So our five basic candidates are 55-year-old Bobby Valentine, championed by Tom Lasorda in a campaign that has lasted for more than a few years; unknown qualities like Giants bench Ron Wotus and minor leaguer Torey Lovullo; and former major league rejects Terry Collins and Jerry Royster,

Pendleton's rapid retreat from the pending interview does not seem too important since it seemed as if he was the obligatory African-American candidate insisted upon by the owner's main man Bud Selig.

If you are really looking for a Black manager, you would give Davey Lopes a call but he's still waiting by the phone.

Dodger fans are salivating in anticipation of Kirk Gibson or perhaps Orel Hershiser -- very darkhorses at best -- taking over the stumbling team. But you can not comprehend either of those strong-minded men signing on to be only a guy in the dugout who plays the lineup sent down from the front office.

Don't mistake what was just said: Both Gibby and Bulldog would be superb in the skippers seat. But, as any good manager must be, each is his own man and would be hard-put to be merely a liaison to the executive suite.

And of course, there is the problem of the team itself.

To improve, the club must spend some money on free agents, an action that the general manager and/or the owner seems loath to do, despite their protestations, or make a trade for the needed parts.

Who in the world would want what the club might consider trade bait?

Jeff Kent is a solid commodity. Cesar Izturis is another. Both Brad Penny and Derek Lowe could be moved. Dioner Navarro may be a star in the making. But this is the foundation, however thin, that the club must build upon.

The other choice is to deal some of the outstanding kids in the organization. You know the names, Guzman, Billingsley, Loney, etc. But unless the Dodgers are committed to spending money like the Yankees have done, a very unlikely scenario, you have to build from the farm system up.

So this team, this organization, one that went an ugly 71-91 last season, is not only in turmoil, it's in trouble, and will take some really creative work to get it out of the mess it finds itself in.

Hiring a marquee manager won't sell tickets. Neither will continued stirring front office personnel, like firing the publicity director.

They drew a remarkable 3.6 million into Dodger Stadium last year but that was on the momentum of a N.L. West title that was produced somewhat like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

Attendance is mostly predicated on the performance of the team the previous season, many baseball people say. If that is the case, it might be a lonesome summer in Chavez Ravine.