DePodesta plucked from A's front office

Updated: February 17, 2004, 12:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LOS ANGELES -- New Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt settled on a general manager -- and just in time for the start of spring training.

McCourt's first move since the close of his $430 million purchase of the Dodgers from News Corp. was the hiring of Paul DePodesta, considered one of baseball's top young executives, on Monday.

Pitchers and catchers report Wednesday to the Dodgers' spring training headquarters in Vero Beach, Fla.

"My mission is to be on a relentless quest for baseball knowledge," DePodesta said at a news conference. "I know that will lead us in a positive direction. What I'm committed to is finding a way to win. I've been given a mandate by Frank and also the resources to be as aggressive as we possibly can."

At 31, DePodesta is the third-youngest to be hired as a big-league GM. Theo Epstein was hired by the Boston Red Sox at age 28 in 2002, and Randy Smith was 29 when the San Diego Padres hired him in 1993.

DePodesta, an assistant to Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane since 1998, succeeds Dan Evans, who had one year remaining on a three-year contract.

"We needed to make a change, we needed a fresh start," McCourt said. "In the end, I found this to be a clear choice if not an easy one. During the search, there was one person that stood out.

"A lot of capable people had a high level of interest in this job. Money was no factor at all. We wanted to find the best possible person. We found that man in Paul."

DePodesta graduated cum laude from Harvard in 1995 with a degree in economics. He played baseball and football for the Crimson.

"I don't have all the answers, I know that," said DePodesta, who signed a five-year contract. "I don't think that there's any one way of doing things. When we were in Oakland, we did what we felt we had to do to win. I think probably my best attribute is being able to have an open mind."

Oakland reached the playoffs the last four seasons, but failed to win a postseason series. DePodesta worked for the Cleveland Indians for three years before joining the A's.

DePodesta said the Dodgers have about twice the resources the A's do.

McCourt repeated what the Dodgers announced Friday upon closure of the sale -- that Jim Tracy would be their manager. However, Bob Graziano is reportedly out as team president, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday, citing multiple baseball sources.

The Dodgers' president since 1998, Graziano did not attend Monday's news conference, prompting questions about his future with the club. McCourt responded by saying that "Graziano is president of the organization" but "could not say why" Graziano was not at the news conference.

Graziano, contacted at his home by The Times, declined comment. McCourt could not be reached for additional comment.

Graziano was to earn $500,000 this year, and sources told the newspaper a contract settlement has yet to be worked out. He was fired by News Corp. after the 1999 season, but was rehired when Bob Daly took over day-to-day operations of the team before the start of the 2000 season.

Tracy has one year remaining on his contract.

"I'm flattered at the fact that they are going to give me the opportunity," Tracy said. "I apologize for nothing that we've done in my three years. We've won 40 more than we've lost."

The Dodgers haven't made the playoffs since 1996 and haven't won a postseason game since 1988.

No announcement was made concerning the future of Kim Ng, the Dodgers' assistant GM.

McCourt said Jan. 30 -- the day after baseball owners unanimously approved the sale -- that 44-year-old Evans would be merely a candidate for his own job.

The Dodgers' GM since Oct. 3, 2001, Evans interviewed along with other candidates, including Philadelphia Phillies assistant GM Ruben Amaro.

"I think more than anything else I'm glad that there's closure," Evans, 44, told The Associated Press. "We were on the right track for long-term success. I think Dodgers fans will be the real winner. That's obviously the most disappointing part."

"Frank and Jamie McCourt have the right to make this decision. I definitely don't agree with it. I loved working here. I was completely committed to the Dodgers and my staff. It's a shame we didn't get the opportunity to complete our job here. That's not my call."

Evans said his "hands were tied" during the ownership transition, keeping him from making any significant deals.

Evans, who had one year remaining on a three-year contract, said he was uncertain about his future.

"I'm not sure yet. But that's OK," he said. "I haven't been looking for another job because I had another job until this morning."

The Dodgers had the best pitching staff and worst offense in baseball last season. They were 85-77 and finished second in the NL West, 15 games behind the San Francisco Giants.

"I'm anxious to get down to Vero Beach and see these guys firsthand," DePodesta said. "I plan on being aggressive, for sure. I think there's a solid foundation in place."

Said McCourt: "He's going to finish this press conference and roll up his sleeves and go right to work. We've got a lot to do in a short period of time."

DePodesta had been expected to take over as GM of the A's in November 2002, when Beane agreed to become GM of the Red Sox.

However, Beane changed his mind and stayed in Oakland.

DePodesta also was offered the Toronto GM job a couple years ago, but turned it down. The Blue Jays then hired J.P. Ricciardi, who worked with DePodesta under Beane in Oakland.

DePodesta becomes the ninth GM since the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958 but their sixth in six years. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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