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A restless boss

Bill Plaschke

Dodgers' McCourt has grown tired of waiting for results from his general manager and young players. Trade deadline could get interesting.

July 11, 2008|Bill Plaschke

He's happy.

But he's not that happy.

He loves Joe Torre.

But he hates that some of his prized kids don't pay attention to him.

He thinks it would be unfair to discuss Ned Colletti.

But I'm guessing that discussion wouldn't be very pretty.

With the All-Star break beckoning, with his team bearing down on both first place and abject mediocrity, Frank McCourt phoned the other night to offer his midseason view of the Dodgers.

It's typically rosy, yet, for the first time, there are some thorns of disillusionment.

He's weary of talking only about championships. He's weary of spending money for injuries. He's weary of testing his fans' patience.

From Colletti to those kids, he is not only asking for accountability, he is demanding it.

Soon, there could be big changes without it.

He didn't say it, but he didn't have to.

"I think, yes, we are on the right track," McCourt said. "But we are also a work in progress."

A few minutes later, he said it again.

"We need to reestablish a culture of winning . . . and that takes the right people, the right personnel, the right approach, and we are gaining on that," he said. "But on the other hand, we still have a ways to go."

So the owner clearly believes something is missing.

I asked if he thought this winning culture is being fostered by Torre.

"Joe Torre embodies everything I just said," he said. "He has kept us focused. He has been a true leader."

That leaves Colletti and any underachieving players as candidates for his disappointment.

Both seem to fill that role.

McCourt would not discuss Colletti's future, saying, "I think it would be unfair to point fingers, it doesn't do anybody any good."

But after two years of bad luck and bad decisions, Colletti's shaky tenure was clearly rattled again this week with a story that spoke of either chaos or subterfuge.

In a report in the Daily News, sources told veteran scribe Tony Jackson that McCourt had killed a proposed deal for Cleveland Indians pitcher CC Sabathia because of money concerns.

McCourt was initially angry because, after funding baseball's seventh-highest payroll at about $118 million, how could he be accused of pinching pennies?

"That I would kill a good deal for money is ridiculous," he said.

But the bigger issue is, who would have given that information to Jackson in the first place?

If it came from within the organization, which is likely, then either somebody is trying to embarrass Colletti or embarrass McCourt.

Either way, it reeks of front-office chaos. And as everyone learned during the Paul DePodesta era, McCourt will not stand for front-office chaos.

"It is my job to put my employees in a position where they can succeed," McCourt said simply. "It is their job to do that same thing for the Dodgers."

When asked if Colletti's job was safe, McCourt said, "At this stage of the game, everything is clouded by injuries."

But that cloud could be lifted by the July 31 trading deadline, which is probably Colletti's last chance to make a good impression.

Which brings us to the trade bait that is the Dodgers youngsters.

Last season, McCourt agreed with many Dodgers fans that the kids were inspiring and untouchable.

Now, he's not so sure.

"There is a certain type of player that will thrive and excel here," McCourt said. "There is another type that won't last here."

McCourt said that playing the Dodgers kids on an everyday basis has been a good lesson not only for the kids, but for him.

"Giving them a lot of playing time, now we've seen them a little closer, we've seen their approach," he said, pausing. "And we've all learned a lot."

Without naming names, he said he has learned that some kids are ready to be winners, and some are not.

"You have to be patient, but, on the other hand, young players have to be receptive and respectful, eager to learn and listen," he said. "How many years of experience do we have with our coaches in that clubhouse? Don't you think maybe these guys could learn something from them?"

If the Dodgers are still hanging around first place in a couple of weeks, don't be surprised if one or more of those kids is included in a trading-deadline deal for a veteran bat.

Don't be surprised if Torre and that coaching staff have great input in that transaction.

And don't be surprised about anything that happens to Colletti.

McCourt didn't say it, but he didn't have to.

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Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Plaschke, go to latimes.com/plaschke.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Work in progress

The statistics this season for some of the Dodgers' young regulars (through Wednesday):

*--* Blake DeWitt Age Pos. Avg. RBI HR 22 3B 264 34 5 Andre Ethier Age Pos. Avg. RBI HR 26 OF 282 39 10 *--*

*--* Matt Kemp Age Pos. Avg. RBI HR 23 OF 281 47 8 *--*

*--* James Loney Age Pos. Avg. RBI HR 24 1B 302 48 7 Russell Martin Age Pos. Avg. RBI HR 25 C 298 42 9 *--*

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