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GMs Weigh In on DePodesta

Baseball executives say his Dodger tenure was too short to evaluate his effectiveness in top job.

October 31, 2005|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

Can a general manager be expected to build a winning team in less than two years?

Paul DePodesta did.

And didn't.

The Dodgers won a division title in his first season and flopped in his second. In between there was a tumultuous off-season marked by drastic roster changes. Then came a rash of injuries.

The final casualty was DePodesta, fired Saturday by team owner Frank McCourt, who had long pledged lasting support for his general manager. Or at least one more season.

"It's very surprising to everybody within the industry," said Jim Duquette, who was recently hired by the Baltimore Orioles as vice president of baseball operations.

"A lot of people scratched their heads that after two years Paul would be out."

Baseball executives contacted Sunday were in agreement that DePodesta's tenure was too short to evaluate his effectiveness as a GM.

"Paul is a capable, bright and talented guy," said Mark Shapiro, general manager of the Cleveland Indians. "It's hard for me to believe that given enough time in the right environment, he wouldn't be extremely successful."

Perhaps only McCourt and DePodesta know the precise time frame they agreed upon for delivering a consistent winner. Only four times in L.A. Dodger history has the team gone to the playoffs in two consecutive seasons.

Although Cleveland hasn't reached the playoffs in Shapiro's four seasons, he has become a front-office success story, transforming the Indians into a playoff contender despite his payroll shrinking from $90 million to $35 million.

DePodesta broke into baseball with the Indians in 1996 and got to know Shapiro, who was the team's director of minor league operations.

"Every market is different as far as the expectations go and when the won-loss record is an accurate reflection of the GM's ability," Shapiro said. "It goes back to what was clearly conveyed from the owner to the GM in a private room with the doors closed."

DePodesta, who will be paid more than $2 million for the last three years of his contract, has time to sort through his options. His wife, Karen, is pregnant with their second child and he is in no hurry to get back to work. Already he has received three offers to join front-office staffs, although none as general manager.

Tampa Bay is considering hiring a general manager or an advisor to work alongside 28-year-old baseball operations executive Andrew Friedman, and the names of DePodesta and another former Dodger GM, Dan Evans, have come up.

Oakland GM Billy Beane probably would welcome DePodesta back as an assistant. They worked together five seasons, and the Athletics made the playoffs four times.

Most baseball executives believe that DePodesta eventually will get another opportunity to prove his ability to build a team. For now he is lying low, steadfastly refusing to knock McCourt or the decision to fire him.

"It was an honor and a privilege to do the job," he said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity."

Duquette said he could relate to DePodesta's plight because he was replaced by the New York Mets in 2004 after 15 months as GM. He's hoping for a longer leash with Baltimore.

"Typically, the first year is for evaluating the operation," he said.

"Year 2 is often a transition year, and Year 3 is the make-or-break year for many GMs.

"From Paul's standpoint, I think it is a little unfair to pull the plug on a process that he was just in the process of building."

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