By Aaron Blevins, 10/11/2012
Front office looks back on players who shaped the season
While the Major League Baseball postseason is underway, Los Angeles Dodgers fans may be feeling a little blue — but not the Dodger blue that is celebrated each year by one of the most storied franchises in the league.
The club was bounced from the playoffs after a 3-4 loss to the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 2. This development contrasted sharply with the excitement created by the team’s acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino this summer.
In a solemn press conference on Oct. 4, Dodgers executives addressed that fleeting anticipation, the offseason and the 2013 campaign.
“You can never predict what’s going to happen. As I look back at this season, I almost see three seasons in one,” general manager Ned Colletti said.
He said the Dodgers got off to a great start, and “for six, seven weeks, we were the best team in baseball.” However, the disabled list got crowded soon after, as Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis and others were injured. Then, the blockbuster trades were announced, and optimism leapt out of Dodger Stadium.
“In a year, I think we’ve learned a lot; we’ve accomplished a lot,” Colletti said. “We were certainly better this season than we were at the end of last season.”
He said it would have helped to have the current roster intact for Spring Training and the beginning of the season, so that players could begin the process of getting to know one another. Yet, a lack of cohesiveness is inherent in late season trades, but the Dodgers were not going to bypass a good opportunity, Colletti said.
“We gambled,” he added. “We gambled, and we knew that this team was going to be better in 2013 than it would have otherwise been.”
Colletti said he doesn’t believe the team underachieved. When players are injured, they can’t simply return to the roster and playing field as if nothing happened. That played a large role in the team’s struggles, Colletti said.
“That’s not how it works,” he said. “It’s an even longer period of time.”
When asked if Kemp should have returned from a shoulder injury — only to have surgery at the end of the season — Colletti said that’s how sports go sometimes.
“He’s so competitive, he didn’t want to go out,” he said. “He wanted to continue to play. He knows that he has a leadership role with this club, and he wasn’t about to sit down and say, ‘That’s it. I’m done for the year.’”
With all of the new acquisitions, the Dodgers have some decisions to make, and manager Don Mattingly addressed that process during the press conference. He said the Dodgers had begun meeting as of Oct. 4.
“Every year, somebody changes something,” Mattingly said. “So, it’s very seldom that you see it stay totally status quo. It’s something that we’re talking about. …We’re still going through meetings on everybody.”
While some players stood out in the 2012 season, “everybody has to continue to get better and have to keep proving themselves,” Mattingly said. “There’s no gift in the long-term for anyone.”
Not only did the Dodgers see a lot of injuries and new faces, it seems like the distant past when the team was without involved ownership. Guggenheim Partners bought the team for $2 billion in March, and Mattingly noticed the difference in leadership styles.
“When I first came out here in 2008, you don’t realize what’s going on up above you and have no idea that there’s anything underlying, kind of an undertow going on with the ownership,” he said. “You go back to business, trying to do your job and win a championship.”
Then, a soap opera began in the form of divorce proceedings and bankruptcy hearings.
“So, at that point, it’s … almost like there’s no true leadership out of your ownership group for about a year and a half, two years there,” Mattingly said. “Sure, there were things going on that they were leading, but there was a lot of personal things that it seemed like people were dealing with, and baseball wasn’t on that first page. And then, when Mark [Walter] and the Guggenheim group came in, you have total leadership of their vision for where they want the organization to go, and starting to give you their beliefs. …It’s just a change. …You’re getting direct contact with the leadership.”
Team president Stan Kasten discussed the renovations of Dodger Stadium, offering little specific information but saying that more details would be announced by the end of the month.
“We are actually almost ready to finalize, but we need to get to work,” he said. “Our plan is to do things for fans in the nature of [offering] more bars and restaurants and maybe some kid areas, history areas, things like that.”
Kasten said the clubhouses for both the Dodgers and the visiting teams need to be improved.
“We’ve got an ambitious program, and it’s going to take every day of the offseason,” he said. “But we plan to get it done.”
Kasten said the renovations will be done with the history of Dodger Stadium in mind.
“We’re not doing major renovations to the ballpark itself,” he added. “We’re trying to take those things that we love most about Dodger Stadium and just add to it.”