Manny Mota Earns His Pay

Manny Mota is behind only venerable Vince Scully and greybeard Tommy Lasorda on the Dodgers payroll. Listed for years as a coach but seldom seen on the field in uniform once the game started, many has probably wondered what in the dickens Manny did to earn his supper.

This past weekend, his contributions were evident. While GM Ned Colletti was in Cleveland interviewing Joel Skinner for manager, owner Frank McCourt decided to step into the Raphael Furcal negotiations and call the free agent, base stealing, switch hitting shortstop and his agent out to LA for dinner. McCourt took Mota along.

Furcal having just about decided to join the Chicago Cubs, changed his mind.

Owner McCourt, roundly the beneficiary of the worst press any Dodgers owner has received since old Walter O'Malley abandoned Brooklyn for warmer climes back in 1957, wowed Furcal and his agent. A first for McCourt. But it was Mota, genuinely revered in the Dominican Republic, who delivered the coup de grace.

It seems McCourt, like Lasorda, does his best work at dinner. If so, we should lock up McCourt and Lasorda in the dining room permanently.

Overpaid or not, the Furcal signing is a giant, …er Dodgers, home run.

Winning baseball teams usually are fundamentally sound up the middle - catcher, shortstop, second base, centerfield. With the tandem of Dionar Navarro and Russell Martin behind the plate, Furcal at short, Cesar Izturis at second, and a healthy J.D. Drew in center, the Dodgers are and will be as good as anybody up the middle.

Why move Izturis? Easy. While both Furcal and Izzy have great range, Furcal has much the better arm -- even before Izzy's surgery on his throwing elbow. Izzy's career will be longer at second.

The lovely thing is that Furcal is only 28, the age most baseball people say players are at their peak. By the time players develop reputations, they are often over 30 and, while their salaries continue peaking, their skill begin to decline. That's why the Furcal signing makes eminently better sense than spending millions on a Brian Giles or a Jim Thome or even a Paul Konerko.

With those guys, you are just hoping they can do what they did before. You know they probably wont do better. With a Furcal, there still can be an upside.

Furcal is fast, can and likes to steal a base -- the first premier leadoff hitter the Dodgers will have had since Lasorda and Abner Doubleday invented the game as a diversion for Civil War soldiers between battles.

Furcal has averaged over 50 extra base hits a year in his six major league seasons, genuine star if not superstar echelons for middle infielders. Furcal's teams have won their division title every year he has been in the big leagues. He is a winner, knows what winning is about.

While Ned Colletti was off working, it is he who gets the major credit for lassoing Furcal (along with the admitted participation of Frank McCourt and Manny Mota).

Even though Rafael Antonino Furcal may not be a full blooded Italian, he has two Italian names (Raphael, the great painter for you dummies, and Tony for just about everybody else). That should at least earn him some points with Lasorda, who loves his paisons to distraction.

McCourt was so energized with the Furcal signing, there were even hints he would increase the player budget. Let's get that in writing before he goes home and faces the formidable influence of Mrs. McCourt.

The tardy selection of Colletti (its already evident the Dodgers shouldn't have wasted so much time on the previous candidates) and the last minute signing of Rafael Furcal are two giant, er Dodgers, events in the march of the Dodgers back from baseball limbo to genuine respectability.

Furcal has had several bad experiences driving automobiles and he needs a driver to keep him out of further trouble. If not Mota, maybe one of dozen or more kids.

Good if not great decisions like the Colletti hiring and the Furcal signing have a way to put bad news and bad press on the backburner.

It is something that surely is noticed in LA.

The Dodgers are suddenly on a hot streak.