It took an almost record toll of on and off field injuries and a full six month season for the Dodgers to slip dangerously close to last place.
Yet, in less than 60 days, the once vaulted franchise has hemorrhaged way, way past the on field slide making the shape of the team worse than anytime since the great Depression in the 1930's.
If you count on your fingers, you don't have that many digits to add up the Dodgers offseason miscues. Be in a warm place, because you'll have to take off your socks and shoes and start counting on your toes to tally the flock of errors.
For the weary, let's just tick off the first ten bellyflops. In no particular order:
#1) The Dodgers essentially fired their field manager first and then the general manager shortly thereafter. This order was backwards and if done in proper order, Jim Tracy might still be the manager.
#2) The disarray caused and immediate exodus of almost the entire coaching staff (it seems only rookie coach Jon Debus and aged Manny Mota are still willing to be rehired). This has caused a serious lack of continuity and knowledge of players strengths and weaknesses.
#3) The team seriously mishandled and prolonged the search for a new general manager, allowing teams like Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and others to zoom past the Dodgers in the real world of inside baseball. The constant rejection slips the Dodgers accumulated show no signs of diminishing soon -- who wants to be any part of such an organization on or off the field?
#4) In the process, the Dodgers delayed the eventual return of one of the real talents in baseball and one of the best of the still breathing ex Dodgers greats -- the cerebral (meaning very smart) Orel Hershiser. Not now, Hershiser essentially said, call me when there's another owner.
#5) The decision to spend $20 million on new seats rather than new players. Players fill seats not the other way around.
#6) Simultaneously cut the major league payroll to a mid-sized market $75 million, assuring that perhaps 15 of the 25 players on the big league payroll will be big leaguers and the remaining 10 no better and maybe worse than the team fielded in 2005.
#7) Reduced spending on the minor leagues, starting and perhaps most importantly the cutbacks in the Dominican Republic, that fertile field of big league players the Dodgers used to have a monopoly on. The scouting was easiest of all there, the players came aflocking to the Dodgers not the other way around. No more.
#8) Raised ticket prices as if the Dodgers fans didn't know any more about baseball than the current owners.
#9) Exhibited a complete lack of any knowledge that when the on field season stops, the off field season begins IMMEDIATELY. The lost 60 days (and still counting) is when most teams improve. During this time, the Dodgers have gone in the opposite direction. Everybody (but the McCourts it seems) learned TEMPUS FUGIT or "time flies" in freshman Latin, but they must have had the flu that day or were out ogling parking lots.
#10)Created unparalleled suspicion, disrespect and raised eyebrows throughout the baseball and professional sports world about the real worth of the Dodgers -- in the media, in the commissioner's office, in the minds of potential free agents, in potential trading partners.
If the 91 on field losses were second worst in over half a century, the off-season miscues have been even worse. You have to go back to before the Larry MacPhail era to come close to a match. MacPhail took over the Dodgers in the late 1930s, immediately hired announcer Red Barber, won the 1941 National League Championship and the rest was history -- until now. They say Rome wasn't build in a day, but it seems that it hasn't taken much more time than that to destroy the Dodgers.
Maybe new GM Ned Colletti figures it can't get much worse and anything from here on has to look good.
And he darned well might be right.
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