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Evans More Disappointed Than Bitter

On the day of the Dodger general manager's firing, he acknowledges that his 'hands were tied' during the winter because of the pending sale.

February 17, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

In the end, there was disappointment but no real bitterness for Dan Evans, the Dodger general manager who was fired Monday to make way for Paul DePodesta.

When Frank McCourt announced on Jan. 30, the day after his $430-million purchase of the team was approved, that he would begin a search for a general manager, Evans -- even though McCourt insisted he was a "legitimate candidate" to retain his job -- knew this would be the logical conclusion.

"Frank and Jamie [McCourt] bought the team, and they have the right to make this decision," Evans said. "I don't have to agree with it, but I respect that choice. The most important thing is we needed closure as an organization because this has been such a difficult off-season."

Especially for Evans, who was heavily criticized for failing to acquire an impact hitter to bolster baseball's weakest offense.

Evans acknowledged publicly Monday what he refused to say all winter but what everyone in baseball knew -- that his "hands were tied" because of the pending sale of the Dodgers by News Corp. to McCourt.

"The winter is a bad time of the year to go through the sale of a club, because it's when key personnel and financial decisions have to be made," Evans said. "A GM's job is difficult enough, and when you add to it an ownership change, it definitely affected our situation and put us in a position where we didn't have the maneuverability we would have liked."

Evans said the reason Kevin Brown, a pitcher with a $15-million-year salary, was traded to the New York Yankees was to free up money to acquire offense.

"Everyone [in the organization] knew we would have added a prolific offensive player without giving up one of our elite prospects if not for the ownership situation," Evans said. "I'm not blaming anyone in particular. I'm blaming the circumstances that surrounded the process."

The Dodgers failed to make the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year in 2003. But in three years under Evans, who inherited a roster bloated with difficult-to-move contracts, the team remained in playoff contention despite a fractious clubhouse in 2001, numerous injuries in 2002 and an anemic offense that scored a major league-low 574 runs in 2003.

Both McCourt and DePodesta praised Evans and Dodger scouting director Logan White Monday for improving a farm system that, in three years, has moved from a No. 28 ranking by Baseball America in 2002, to No. 14 in 2003, to fourth this year.

"Long before we entered the picture, Dan Evans has been steering this ship in the right direction," McCourt said. "It was a tough situation he inherited.... I was particularly impressed with the way he was protective of the prospects in the system. I'm sure there was a temptation to do some things that would have taken some pressure off him but weren't in the best interests of the Dodgers in the long term."

Evans, 44, could have made deals for former Pittsburgh slugger Brian Giles last July and Chicago White Sox slugger Magglio Ordonez this winter but refused to pay the steep price in prospects the Pirates and White Sox were demanding.

"I know the last few months have been frustrating for the fans, but they'll end up benefiting from the work our staff did," Evans said.

"The unpopular decisions we made will end up being in the best interests of the Dodgers."

Because of this winter's events, Evans' Dodger tenure will probably be remembered as much for the deal he didn't make as the deals he did make. On balance, Evans seemed to have about a 50% success rate when it came to trades and free-agent acquisitions.

His best decision may have come before 2002 when, on the advice of then-senior vice president Dave Wallace, Evans let free-agent pitcher Chan Ho Park go and used some of that savings to sign right-hander Hideo Nomo.

Nomo has been the Dodgers' most effective and reliable starter the last two seasons, going 16-6 with a 3.39 earned-run average in 2002 and 16-13 with a 3.09 ERA in 2003. Park has been a bust after signing a five-year, $60-million deal with Texas, going 10-11 with a 6.06 ERA in two injury-plagued seasons with the Rangers.

Among Evans' better moves: acquiring reliever Paul Quantrill and shortstop Cesar Izturis from Toronto for pitchers Luke Prokopec and Chad Ricketts; acquiring center fielder Dave Roberts from Cleveland for two minor leaguers; acquiring reliever Guillermo Mota from Montreal for reliever Matt Herges; and signing free-agent pitcher Wilson Alvarez.

Evans' biggest move -- his 2002 trade of controversial outfielder Gary Sheffield to Atlanta for outfielder Brian Jordan and Odalis Perez -- hasn't worked out that well.

Perez had a breakthrough season in 2002, going 15-10 with a 3.00 ERA, but slipped to 12-12 and 4.52 in 2003. Jordan missed most of 2003 because of injury, and the Dodgers did not pick up his option for 2004. Sheffield's outbursts in the media were not missed, but his lethal bat in the cleanup spot has been sorely missed.

Evans had little success with trade-deadline deals -- James Baldwin, Mike Trombley and Terry Mulholland did little to help the Dodgers in 2001; Paul Shuey and Tyler Houston had little impact in 2002; and Jeromy Burnitz, Robin Ventura and Rickey Henderson made little difference to the Dodgers in 2003.

Two other moves that backfired: trading Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek to the Chicago Cubs last winter for Todd Hundley and signing free-agent first baseman Fred McGriff, who hit .249 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs during an injury-plagued 2003.

Still, Evans said: "I was honored to have been the GM of the Dodgers. I wish we could have completed the job."

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