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February 17, 2004
Dodgers Hire New GM from A's

The Los Angeles Dodgers, a proud but chronically underachieving franchise, took steps to correct that in the first days of the Frank McCourt era by hiring Oakland A's assistant GM Paul DePodesta:

DePodesta, Beane's top assistant since November 1998, faces a considerable challenge. A 1995 cum laude graduate of Harvard University with a degree in economics, he inherits one of baseball's largest budgets -- Los Angeles' $105 million payroll last year nearly doubled Oakland's -- but also one of the sport's most consistently underachieving teams.

The Dodgers haven't won a postseason game since defeating Oakland in the 1988 World Series, last reached the playoffs in 1996 and finished 15 1/2 games behind the National League West-winning Giants a year ago despite recording the majors' best ERA. Los Angeles also ranked last in the majors in scoring and, despite the best efforts of previous G.M. Dan Evans, has failed to obtain a true hitting threat this off-season.

The Blue, in other words, have spent most of the last couple of decades being very blue, as their high-priced talent have consistently failed to gel on the field. Despite a string of Rookies of the Year in the early 90s, their farm system hasn't produced solid performers and for the most part, their forays into free agency haven't produced much else other than disappointment. Even when the Dodgers spent big money on superstars, they either self-destructed (Darryl Strawberry) or poisoned the atmosphere (Gary Sheffield). The Dodgers have remained mostly competitive during those years, but you don't spend $105 million a year to consistently come in second or third, year in and year out -- or at least Frank McCourt doesn't.

Frank McCourt, whose $430 million purchase of the Dodgers was completed Friday, believes that DePodesta's reputation for innovative thinking will stimulate the franchise.

"We wanted someone who was going to bring new ideas to the organization," McCourt said at the news conference, adding that DePodesta "stood out" from the other candidates, including Evans, Philadelphia assistant G.M. Ruben Amaro Jr. and former agent Dennis Gilbert.

DePodesta, 31, became the third-youngest person to be hired as a major league G.M. Boston elevated Theo Epstein at 28 in 2002, and San Diego hired Randy Smith at 29 in 1993.

The Oakland A's have a reputation for squeezing the most from a tight payroll budget, and have a string of playoff appearances over DePodesta's tenure as assistant GM. Billy Beane, the A's GM, credits DePodesta with "at least half" of the success they've had during the past five seasons. Even if the Dodgers haven't made a big splash in this free-agent market, this may be their best acquisition in years.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 17, 2004 7:51 AM

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