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Colletti will try to lead Dodgers out of doldrums

LOS ANGELES -- Frank McCourt knew soon into his lengthy
conversation with Ned Colletti that he wanted to hire him as the
Dodgers' general manager.

"There was chemistry immediately, and I thought that was a
very, very good sign because chemistry is a big piece of building a
baseball team," the Dodgers owner said. "This guy is a born
leader. He's a baseball guy. We talked and, as a matter of fact, I
think I got the whole life story. I mean literally. And it's a
great story."

The 50-year-old Colletti, who spent the past nine years as
assistant GM for the San Francisco Giants, brings along 24 years of
experience as a baseball executive.

"Our strategy will be improve immediately, via trade or free
agency, but not be too shortsighted to forget who's on the
horizon," Los Angeles' new GM said Wednesday at a Dodger Stadium
news conference. "There's a foundation here, but there are needs
to be filled."

Asked if the Dodgers would be capable of fielding a
division-championship team if opening day were today, he smiled and
simply said, "No."

Then he added, "But ask me that on Opening Day."

He replaced Paul DePodesta, fired after the Dodgers went 71-91
last season. Coming on the heels of their NL West title in 2004,
this year's record was the team's worst since 1992 and
second-poorest since they moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in
1958.

The Dodgers haven't advanced beyond the first round of the
playoffs since they were World Series champions in 1988.

Colletti's baseball philosophy would seem markedly in contrast
with that of DePodesta, who was 31 when he was hired by new Dodgers
owner McCourt before the 2004 season. While DePodesta relied
heavily on players' statistics, Colletti said he considers
intangibles such as character may be even more important than
numbers.

"He loves and respects the game, he honestly respects people,"
McCourt said. "These values, these character attributes really,
really jumped off the page for me. The talent, the experience is
clearly there, but I also wanted to emphasize the chemistry, the
character, the values."

Colletti reeled off a long list -- Oscar speech-style, he joked --
of people he wanted to thank for helping him along the way.
Included were current or former managers Jim Fry, Lee Elia, Don
Zimmer, Dusty Baker and Felipe Alou. He also said he owed a great
deal of gratitude to Giants GM Brian Sabean, his boss the past nine
years.

Sabean said Colletti's getting a GM job was long overdue, and
"Hopefully, it won't ruin a friendship. Obviously, he's in hated
Dodger Blue now. It is an interesting twist of fate."

The new Los Angeles GM's first task will be to help the Dodgers
hire a manager. Jim Tracy and the team parted company last month,
and Tracy became the Pittsburgh Pirates' manager. Los Angeles is
the only team in the majors without a manager.

Colletti said the new manager should be a "great leader" who
is a well-rounded and can communicate with him, and with the
spectrum of players from 22-year-olds to 38-year-olds. He said
managerial experience was preferred, but not absolutely necessary.

Getting to know the Dodgers' staff and acclimating himself with
the club also is high on the to-do list of Colletti, who was given
a four-year contract.

Saying he's very familiar with the Dodgers from the outside, he
added, "It's like getting married. You can date somebody for
years, but until you marry them, you don't really know who you
have."

Asked if he could provide a brief summary of his life story that
McCourt had alluded to, Colletti explained how he grew up poor in
Chicago, where he, his parents and his brother first lived in a
remodeled garage, then finally moved to a small house that was
constantly rattled by passing trains or planes taking off and
landing at nearby O'Hare International Airport.

After delivering the abbreviated version of his life story,
Colletti smiled and said, "That's 50 years in three minutes."

His background obviously played a big part in molding his
philosophy.

"I take nothing for granted. I know the value of finances, I
know the value of people. I've had to be street-smart since I was a
little kid," Colletti said. "I've had to know who's right, who's
wrong, who's pulling my leg, who's lying to me, who's got
integrity, who I can trust.

"I've had to live that way my entire life. Because of that,
I've been able to separate the good from the bad, the true from the
false, the winners from the losers, the champions from the
also-rans."

Colletti and Dodgers assistant GM Kim Ng were believed the two
main candidates for the job. There have been no women GMs in the
major leagues.