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Owner's Vision Plan Comes With Blue-Colored Glasses

February 23, 2006|TIM BROWN | Times Staff Writer

A: No, not unusual. Not when you're trying to achieve what we're trying to achieve, and dealing with a fairly mature enterprise. We're sort of changing the vector a little bit. When I say "mature," what I mean is things have been done a certain way for a period of time. There's no question the rpm level was increased maybe a little bit. We've set out the goals that I repeat over and over again, about championship baseball, our fan experience and our relationship with the community. Again, with all due respect to the tradition and the history, which is like no other franchise as far as I'm concerned, I do feel that we can and should be doing more and achieving greater heights. In that process, there's going to be some natural turnover. If you were to look at any enterprise where things are moving in a little different direction and there's new ownership, new goals being set out, it's totally natural. Probably the biggest change was the one I made this off-season, with the general manager. I hired a general manager when I first arrived here, Paul [DePodesta], and felt that change needed to be made. We brought in Ned Colletti, and I hope you agree it's proven to be a good decision. Changes create anxiety. It's not until you have the new person in place, or the new team in place, that people step back and see that the change was good.

Q: That five- or six-week period at the end of the regular season -- Jim Tracy is fired, manager search, DePodesta is fired, general manager search, manager search -- even for someone who talks about the evolution of bringing in people who understand your vision and rpm level, was that trying?

A: It was intense, that's for sure. But it's in those moments in an organization that real progress can be made. And I think we made real progress in the last couple of months, and particularly in that period you referred to. I think we have great baseball people in place now that, most importantly, will all be working in concert. Everybody on the baseball side will be working together, pulling in the same direction, with one goal in mind. And that's a world championship.

Q: To get to that place, it was a two-year process. What specifically have you learned, without an owner's manual, that will serve you going forward?

A: When you have the privilege of buying a team, intellectually you know that you love the game. I was a big fan, and intellectually you know the fans love the team, and you know how much you want to win. It's not until you actually own the team and you're fully immersed that it all truly manifests itself. You need to be 100% committed, as I am, to our goal of winning, and our goals of giving our fans the best experience and doing the most we can in the community. You realize it's 24/7. You don't just know of the fans' passion, you feel it. You don't just know of your love or passion for the game, you need to be patient. You need to live it. This is all done, of course, within a fishbowl, so there's a public aspect to it that's different. It takes some time adjusting to it, particularly when you've lived a relatively private life. So, it's a process. It's a learning process, a growing process and an adjusting process. But I feel now, in large measure because of the challenges of the past season, that I've owned the team for 10 years. That's a good thing. I can't tell you how excited I am about what the future holds and how excited I am to get the season started.

Q: At any point after the difficult moments have you looked back and thought you were as much a part of the problem as the solution?

A: First of all, let me just state up front, you learn. You have to learn. And you have to learn quickly. I've made my share of mistakes during the first couple of years. But I think it's important that I take responsibility, like I ask everybody else here to, and hold myself accountable. I want everybody here to be accountable. None of us are perfect. It's how you deal with those mistakes that is telling. For purposes of illustration, the decision I made to hire Paul as the general manager, deciding that wasn't the right direction, and hiring Ned. What I've learned is that the number of decisions that the owner should be making are really relatively few, but that those decisions are critical to the success of the enterprise. I think that having a general manager who I'm on the same wavelength with, who in turn gets a staff in place, manager included, that are on the same wavelength as well, so that we're all resonating together. You know the expression, "One heartbeat"? That's what we're aspiring to. I think things are on a much better track now because of that.

Q: Do you feel the encroachment of the Angels? How might their emergence affect the Dodgers short- and long term?

A: All we have to do is focus on our goals and our objectives and deliver. The Dodgers are unique. They're unique in all sports. They're singular in baseball, as far as what they stand for. They're Los Angeles' team. All we have to do is focus on restoring the glory of this great franchise and that should be our sole motivation. That should occupy all of our time. And I'm not going to allow anybody here to be distracted by things that I view as distractions.

Q: Your involvement in the NFL. Where does that stand?

A: Same place that it's stood from the get-go. I made it clear to everyone from elected officials to community leaders to opinion leaders and the NFL itself that we support football in L.A., we support it in the Coliseum and that the Dodger Stadium site is not an option so long as the Coliseum is viable.

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