The Dodgers hired the right man in Paul DePodesta.
Paul DePodesta learned his craft with the A's as Billy Beane's right-hand man.
Given that Dan Evans, who put the organization back on its feet, was going to fall in any regime change, what Frank McCourt needed was someone with energy and the creative willingness to think outside the box. DePodesta is very smart, he comes from the Cleveland-Oakland training grounds -- which he compares to "a Harvard education," something he already had -- and can match McCourt's energy.
As McCourt seeks to overhaul the business and revenues side of the business, he wanted a general manager who can sift through the baseball side and make difficult decisions in building a team that can be competitive every year, a process Evans had begun by reconstructing the farm system. Instead of relying on free agents and retreads, they want to develop a productive farm system that can be complemented by trades and free agents.
The problem is there's little wiggle room for 2004. As DePodesta, Jim Tracy and the staff discussed this week in Vero Beach, the pitching is not as deep with Kevin Brown and Paul Quantrill gone, and for a team that scored the fewest runs in the majors -- fewer even than the Tigers -- the solution isn't one trade. They need increased offense at short, second, center, one corner position (either outfield or first, depending on where Shawn Green isn't playing) as well as a bona fide six months from Adrian Beltre.
In the short run, the good news is that this doesn't appear to be a vintage season in the NL West. Over the long haul, if McCourt brings down the payroll while he builds the revenue streams, the good news is that there is no other team in the division that will likely be over $80 million in the next couple of seasons.
Incidentally, consider that Oakland has sent DePodesta to the Dodgers and J.P. Ricciardi to Toronto. Out of the Cleveland organization has come Dan O'Dowd, Mark Shapiro, DePodesta and John Hart and some day soon may see Josh Byrnes, John Farrell, Chris Antonetti and Mike Hazen in GM chairs.
Could this whole Yankee-Red Sox war cool off until Curt Schilling pitches the first game of their series in April?
There are few better human beings in the game than John Henry, and while he may be right that the Alex Rodriguez deal points out how unfair the system may be, the fact is for the Red Sox to cry about it sounds whiney considering they have the second highest payroll in the game and are more than 20 percent higher than the third team. For Larry Lucchino to vent his frustrations on Bud Selig trying to get the commissioner to void the trade by invoking the best interests of baseball raised this question: if it's not in the best interest of the game to go to the highest payroll, why is it in "the best interest" for him to go to the second highest payroll?
Welcome to New York: A-Rod surrounded by smiles and Yankee legends.
The Red Sox had their shot at Rodriguez, never thinking that if they walked away Aaron Boone would suffer his unfortunate injury and that Alex could then be available to the one other team for whom he'd waive his no-trade provision. At the time, they were too focused on trading Manny Ramirez -- instead of using Trot Nixon and a young pitcher to work a way to get the Rangers to pay $67 million -- as well as Tom Hicks and the union instead of focusing on what Rodriguez might mean to their franchise. Hicks took a shot at the Red Sox at the trade press conference when he said, "Alex asked us to revisit the Boston deal, but after what we went through for 90 days dealing with them, we didn't want to deal with them again." He then went on a praise the Yankees' ability to make business decisions, another clear blast at Boston's ownership.
That said, they are still a very good team in 2004. "With Schilling and (Keith) Foulke, they scare me," says Yankees manager Joe Torre. "When it comes to October, it's all about pitching, and they have it. The two years (2001, 2003) we lost in the Series, it was because of the pitching we faced."
But this is crazy.
"I was coming down in the elevator in our hotel in Boston last season," says Torre, "and this man asks me if I'm Joe Torre. He then said not to take it personally, but given the choice of the Red Sox beating the Yankees or capturing Osama Bid Laden, he'd take beating the Yankees."
The Cubs now have the starting pitching depth to win the pennant, and the power arms to win a World Series.
Greg Maddux could be the difference for the Cubs.
Greg Maddux provides an ideal complement to Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Matt Clement, and he provides them a professor. Since they have Juan Cruz and Angel Guzman, it may be that come July if they need a positional player, they can deal either Clement, Cruz or Guzman to get him.
What a wondrous thing it would be to never again hear of that silly medieval notion of a curse.
It will be fascinating to see how much of the Roger Clemens-Andy Pettitte influence rubs off on Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller.
Teammates and friends say Oswalt and Miller have never subscribed to the Clemens Boot Camp regimen. Remember how much credit Schilling gave Clemens for turning his career around? The same could happen to two of the best young pitchers in the National League, which in the long run could make them a lot of money.
It's amazing how many former Astros root for them for one reason. "Anyone who ever played with Jeff Bagwell," says former 'Stro (and current Yankee) Jim Mann, "wants him to get a ring."
For all the speculation about Joe Torre getting fired or bored come June, he arrived in Tampa in tremendous spirits.
"This is the best I've felt physically and mentally in eight to 10 years," said Torre. "I have as much enthusiasm this spring as I can remember." He's ever opened the door to managing past this season.
And George Steinbrenner even said, "the one thing I know is that Joe Torre is the right man to manage this team. He handles situations, he handles men."
Now when they lose four out of seven some week in April, Steinbrenner may feel differently, but Torre thinks because the Yankee star players are so adept politically and have been through so much pressure, that they will handle it.
"I think that that will make it a lot easier for the rest of us," says reliever Paul Quantrill. "I get all the benefits of being a Yankee, with very little of the pressure."
"We always deal with pressure here," says Torre. "We got to the seventh game of the 2001 World Series and lost when Mariano Rivera gave up three broken bat hits and the first day of spring training the next season I was asked, 'do you expect to do better this season?' "
The most significant pitching signing this winter was Toronto getting Roy Halladay on a four-year contract.
The toughest thing to find in building a World Series team is the alpha dog at the front of the rotation. Blue Jays' GM Ricciardi has three or four potential No. 2-3 starters in Triple-A and No. 3-4-5 starters in Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista and Pat Hentgen. And with what one GM calls "the best group of positional prospects of any team," the Blue Jays have a chance to make the playoffs a couple of times in the next four years and a chance to one year go all the way, even in the same division as the Yankees.
The most important negotiation is going to be Eric Chavez.
Oakland cannot lose its last remaining star. With Rich Harden and Joe Blanton coming, they might be better able to survive the loss of Tim Hudson after 2005 than Chavez, who one of these days is going to have an MVP season.
Now that Albert Pujols is signed, can the Cardinals retain Edgar Renteria, who may be one of the five most underappreciated players in the game?
With Nomar Garciaparra, Renteria and Orlando Cabrera on the market this winter, it could be a shortstop bonanza. Miguel Tejada, 27, got six years for $72 million. Think about the potential values off their 2003 numbers: