Is it Los Angeles or New Orleans?

The winds of change have stormed through Los Angeles, and a 92-loss season had catastrophic effect on the Dodgers. While Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans affected the bottom end of the social order, the storm effects on the Dodgers have mostly been at the top (courtesy of the MLBPA agreement which holds the players harmless or at least untouchable).

Gone are the GM, the field manager, the pitching coach, the hitting coach, the third base coach, the bench coach -- baseball lifers all who either abandoned ship for sunnier climes or who were pushed out, scapegoats (real or otherwise) for a miserable season. Gone are other various front office personnel, including p.r. types who couldn't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

A new GM will start his job already behind the eight ball, playing catchup with the rest of baseball on his very first day, which is why an old hand like Pat Gillick was originally picked, with Orel Hershiser in a learning role.

But when he turned the offer down, a range of other candidates have surfaced and are being sorted out. Texas Rangers grated the Dodgers permission to speak to John Hart and Boston GM Theo Epstein had also been considered but he told ESNP that he was not interested in the Dodger job.

The manager's pick probably won't take long as it's clearly a choice between Bobby Valentine (who's most willing) or Mike Scioscia (who can probably discern the value of staying with an appreciative owner).

The Dodgers lost their odds on candidate for the new pitching coach when the Braves beat them to the punch for Roger McDowell. And the pitching coach slot may be one of the most important for the new team to fill. This time, maybe someone who wont let Eric Gagne return to the mound until he is really healthy.

Says here the revised coaching staff is a real opportunity for the Dodgers. The old crew, kept on from year to year to year, was stodgy and too settled.

As soon as the "decision making" slots have been filled, then, already behind schedule, they have to assess both the 25- and 40-man rosters, the farm system filled with more talent than the Dodgers can legally keep, prepare for the free agent Rule 5 draft (which yielded D.J. Houlton a year ago), quickly decide on non-tendering Milton Bradley, and as quickly as possible enter the bidding on available free agents in the market. In this latter category, the Dodgers no doubt will be behind the other 27 big league teams facing similar decisions.

Pressured by time constraints, the Dodgers' task is compounded by the many real gaping holes on the current team. There really isn't a single hitter capable of protecting or being protected by Jeff Kent in the lineup. The pitching staff is likely to be further weakened by the loss of Jeff Weaver, with no return other than a compensatory number one pick in next year's draft (not likely to present any real dividends for at least 3 or 4 years).

On the heels of the sudden dismissal of GM Paul DePodesta, both LA Times writers Bill Plaschke and Ross Newhan penned perceptive and insightful columns, Plaschke saying the deed (quickly excising money ball) needed to be done and Newhan nicely portraying the role of 78-year-old Tommy Lasorda.

Lasorda was quoted as saying Orel Hershiser should not really be considered for the actual GM's role because "he's never done it before" -- a petard he might have been hoisted on when he himself got his first big league managing job -- but no matter, Tommy is old enough to have one set of rules for himself and another for everybody else.

One of the gambles to be taken is how much belief to place in the opinions of the minor league staff of which talents to keep and which to make available in trades, who to protect on the 40-man roster and who not to.

As always, when the top shakes, the bottom quivers as well. New bosses always mean more changes, which is job threatening. It has to be tough for minor league director Terry Collins now, so close to the big league managers job in the last regime.

All this being said, there's a really good chance for the Dodgers product that will be placed on the field on opening day 2006 will be a lot different than the team that ended 2005. Even with money to spend, don't look for either Manny Ramirez or Paul Konerko in Dodgers blue. There's a better shot of seeing Nomar Garciaparra if the Dodgers aren't skittish over his frequent J.D. Drew-like injuries.

If there was a single Dodgers player with the stamp of Paul Depodesta on him, it was first baseman Hee Sop Choi. It will be interesting to see what happens to the kid now.

With all of these challenges -- and opportunities -- happening right now, the hope is that once the dust settles the Dodgers baseball excitement can once again be played on the field itself.