Team president Bob Graziano has been left holding the bag for the Dodgers' wasted season. He is being blamed for the club's problems.
Frustrated fans are seemingly preparing to storm the gates, and their anger is directed at Graziano.
But Fox Group officials aren't holding him responsible for the disaster. Moreover, they're counting on Graziano to right the ship.
Graziano has strong ties to Chase Carey and Peter Chernin--co-chief operating officers of Fox Group's parent company, News Corp. He speaks often with Rupert Murdoch's top lieutenants, and has become immersed in the Fox corporate culture at their request.
The Fox Group has mandated that the Dodgers increase their revenue in order to be self-supporting, and Graziano is the point man in negotiations with Los Angeles city officials to renovate Dodger Stadium for that purpose.
Carey and Chernin have invested a lot in Graziano, and they understand the difficulty of his task.
Graziano inherited an impossible situation, assuming control of the franchise in the first year under the Fox Group. There are some growing pains, creating a tense working environment that has produced a dizzying chain of events.
Moreover, Graziano received bad advice from the former regime's top baseball decision makers. Contrary to what he was told, the team was vastly overrated and has been for many seasons.
Graziano, trained as an accountant, acknowledges that evaluating players isn't among his strengths. He relied on former executive vice president Fred Claire for advice, which could have been better.
The Dodgers began the season with holes throughout the lineup despite a $48-million payroll. That was Claire's responsibility, and his player personnel mistakes led to his firing.
Because of those mistakes, Graziano was forced to make moves in an attempt to salvage the season. He received permission to increase the payroll to nearly $60 million and appointed Tom Lasorda as interim general manager, giving Lasorda free reign to try and change things around.
Lasorda has improved the roster, but the Dodgers still aren't as talented as their payroll would lead one to believe.
They are among the teams competing for the National League wild-card berth, but many players privately acknowledge that the club's shortcomings might be too much to overcome.
Again, this isn't Graziano's department. The Dodgers would be in a better position now if Claire and his advisors had performed better in their roles.
Former owner Peter O'Malley also deserves much of the blame, sitting on his hands while the Dodgers slipped further into mediocrity. O'Malley rewarded Graziano with the team presidency after he brokered the sale of the team, and Graziano won't criticize his mentor.
But the facts tell the story.
To be sure, Graziano has made mistakes as well. But the Fox Group believes he's part of the solution.
As far as the Dodgers are concerned, they'd better be right.
LETS MAKE A DEAL
The Dodgers have requested permission from several teams to interview candidates about the general manager position that Lasorda is intent on vacating in the off-season.
Graziano and Lasorda recently agreed on a list of candidates, which includes Cincinnati General Manager Jim Bowden. Lasorda is expected to become a senior advisor to Graziano, and he hopes to bring back Mike Piazza before he changes jobs.
Lasorda was working on a deal to reacquire Piazza from the New York Mets before the July 31 trading deadline. New York General Manager Steve Phillips rejected a proposal that would have sent Piazza and outfielder Bernard Gilkey to the Dodgers for third baseman Bobby Bonilla and catcher Charles Johnson.
Piazza has confided in friends that he wants to return to the Southland as a free agent, preferably with the Angels. But that won't dissuade Lasorda--a longtime family friend--from trying to sign him.
Graziano will make other front-office changes after the new general manager is in place. But recent events have already shown who the winners and losers are in the this regime.
Vice president Ralph Avila has more power, advising Lasorda throughout the trading period. Avila is splitting time between the Dominican Republic and Los Angeles, and he figures to retain his role among the Graziano's trusted advisors.
Media relations director Derrick Hall is on the rise as well. As one prominent agent said, "If you need to get a hold of Tommy these days, just track down Derrick."
HE HAS STAYING POWER
Juan Marichal faxed his congratulations to Dennis Martinez after Martinez broke his record for the most victories by a Latin pitcher with his 244th last Sunday against the San Francisco Giants, the team Marichal pitched for.
"That was nice, even though I didn't hear his voice," Martinez, 43, said. "He congratulated me for the achievement of overcoming his record, and said he was very pleased with it. It was nice to get something like that."
Martinez, affectionately called "El Presidente," earned the victory with a scoreless inning of relief against the Giants. The Nicaraguan native was also congratulated by the vice president of Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan ambassador.
"I'm amazed that he's still playing, let alone pitching well," Atlanta left-hander Tom Glavine said. "It's a great accomplishment, and it's been a lot of fun to be part of the whole thing."
It was often nerve-racking for Martinez.
"I don't believe I did something that from now until somebody breaks the record will have my name up there," he said.
"That's what you work for. In a way, it's a weight off my shoulders."