Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Blogger Night Q&A with Ned Colletti

"Mr. Rawitch! Set phasers to stun! And throw me a chicken wrap!"

Ned Colletti was very kind to sit with a room of bloggers again at last night's Blogger Night, and we all listened intently as he waxed philosophical on a wealth of issues from the crowd. I didn't have my notepad in front of me, but here's what my blackberry and I seem to recall as his thoughts (I do not recall any disclaimer about the conversation being off the record, but I don't think I have written any negative comments Colletti may have made):

  • He appreciates the professional approach and leadership of Jerry Sands.
  • When asked about John Ely and how he found him, Colletti shared a story of going all the way back to the beginning in discussing options with Juan Pierre (following the end of the 2009 season), which was a neat approach to answering the question. Colletti's relationship with Ely's college coach at Miami helped him have confidence on Ely as part of the deal. Colletti had great things to say about Ely; he likes how he competes and "how his thought process adapts mid-game." Colletti also gave Ely a lot of credit for his start at Wrigley Field, especially being a native Chicago boy and having the hometown pressure.
  • Xavier Paul has a lot of potential and though this call-up hinges a little bit on Manny Ramirez' status, Colletti is positive. He did lament the difficulties at bringing players up so quickly, and how challenging it is to try to refine and advance their development at the major league level.
  • Colletti was pretty tight-lipped about Matt Kemp, except to say that he liked how Kemp's positive results the last couple of games. He quickly parried the question by remarking--in general, not (necessarily) toward Kemp in particular--how difficult this game is, and how the HOFers that he has seen (like Ryne Sandberg) have had to keep working at it diligently even when they're at the top of their game, and how particularly difficult that is to do in baseball.
  • Garret Anderson, according to Colletti, still has a lot of value to the club and "can be a threat." I assume Colletti was talking about a threat for the Dodgers and not to the Dodgers, but he didn't get into detail. This comment in particular evoked much reflection later in the evening among the bloggers, most of whom could not believe what they just heard.
  • We're still committed to sign Zach Lee, and he said it was a challenge to have one's first pick in the draft so low in the order.
  • Over the next three weeks Colletti believes he will be "adding to the volume" of discussions. He has had more conversations this year rather than last, focusing a little bit on six to seven clubs that he thinks might be dealing. He did say that he scouts everyone, even someone like Cliff Lee, looking for things "that you can't see in a box score or on television, especially with veteran guys." Colletti described a great story (with names redacted) of a veteran player in a lopsided game who left in the eighth inning, and Colletti's scout detected a potential injury that would have otherwise been lost in the box score had he not been there to see it. If that story is indeed true, that's a pretty good catch.
  • Our depth at shortstop is challenged, with Chin-Lung Hu out with surgery and Ivan De Jesus Jr. still being evaluated at both second base and shortstop.
  • Like Orel and I over here at SoSG, Colletti has people on his team to read the press for him. (So, when Colletti says he doesn't read the blogs, that's only partially true, I suppose.)
  • The biggest surprise for Colletti this year has been Ely (who unfortunately struggled that very evening moments later). The biggest disappointment has been the slow start, especially our record against the American League (the latter of which I might argue is only a disappointment if one had the absurd expectations that we'd be any better this year vs. the AL than our prior years of putrid performances).
  • Colletti remarked that relief pitching is so volatile, it's hard to find quality relievers on the fly at the trade deadline. George Sherrill was brought up by one of the bloggers as someone who has been up (last year) and down (this year), but Colletti reminded us that Flat Breezy has huge heart having come from the AL East. But he couldn't explain the high beta.
  • If it were up to Colletti, Rafael Furcal and Hong-Chih Kuo would have made this year's All-Star Game.
  • He expects James MacDonald to get back into the swing of things, and has not ruled out J-Mac being a starter. It is natural for MacDonald at this stage to be working on his pitch consistency; Colletti likened this to Eric Gagne and his journey.
  • Colletti thinks the time off for Ramon Troncoso will help him work out the kinks in some of his pitches.
  • He talked about how the Vicente Padilla deal went down and again, like some of the other deals Colletti had mentioned, it involved personal one-on-one discussions to get over the final humps, in this case regarding Padilla's reputation prior to joining the Dodgers. Colletti appreciates how Padilla has been "a model citizen" for the team.
  • He's pulling for Scott Elbert.
  • He knows Russell Martin is really trying hard in a very difficult position, and knows it will pay off.
  • He appreciates Blake DeWitt and how he's also trying hard in what is also a difficult position. He also talked about DeWitt being a great guy to be on the team for his character.

Colletti also had some interesting philosophical words about balancing patience and impatience, and the difficulties in doing so in such an important position. Clauses like "you can't microwave experience" were juxtaposed against thoughts of "a quick turnaround from 71-91" [the Dodgers' record when he joined the team]. He also had some great stories about where he was for the Kirk Gibson WS HR (in the Oakland dugout, trying to help out the Scully/Garagiola broadcasting team as a young PR executive), and where he was for the Mookie Wilson / Bill Buckner play (right along the first base side, remembering the ominous air of silence after the ball was hit).

It made me realize how difficult it must be to approach a game like this, full of emotion and fanaticism and volatility, with a clear, calm, and collected mind. Colletti admitted that even in his Dodger tenure, he's made good and bad calls. But I have to think that having someone with Colletti's depth of baseball experience, having seen these ups and downs along the many stops in his career, is an advantage for the Dodgers--if he can review and assess the past analytically and objectively (which it sounds like he can). It has to be a tough job to do and a humbling job on which to later reflect.

At every Blogger Night, Colletti has been receptive to questions, appreciative of different perspectives, polite and cordial, and open to opinionated discussions yet assured in his stances. His visits are a real highlight, and I give him a lot of credit for coming by and spending more and more time with us each year.

Eric Stephen also has a recap on TBLA, as does Robert Timm over at Dodger Dugout. Dodgerfan.net has a slightly different angle, remarking about the Dodgers and new media.

By the way, the Dodger bloggers in attendance last night devoured the tureen of Dodger Dogs. But not ONE CHICKEN WRAP was touched, as far as I saw. Interesting.

8 comments:

Dusty Baker said...

Thanks for the thorough recap, Sax! Very insightful. Thanks for taking the time to jot all that down and recap it for us. I feel like I was there.

Mr. Customer said...

The expression on Ned's face is like that of a dog about to be forced to take a walk when it's raining.

Steve Sax said...

@DB: Thanks. I was really impressed with Ned's candor and I hope I didn't blog out of turn here.

Dusty Baker said...

Did I ever mention my father-in-law's brush with Colletti?

Greg Zakwin said...

BADD CALLS:

Carlos Santana for Casey Blake
Josh Bell for George Sherrill
Signing Pierre
Signing Schmidt
Signing Jones

GOOD CALLS:
Trading Pierre and getting cash relief and Ely/Link
Ethier

hmmmmmmmmm.....

Steve Sax said...

Ramirez was a good pickup.

Dusty Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dusty Baker said...

I don't think there's ever been a GM who hasn't made some mistakes. You can't wheel and deal year in and year out without making some. So I think one has to look at a GM's success from a higher altitude - what is his overall success? How has the direction of the team moved? Would we have made the same move we're now criticizing (theoretically speaking)? And, perhaps most importantly, how many of a GM's decisions have been based on his decisions alone (e.g., were those decisions influenced or dictated by the ownership)?

Lots of folks act like a GM is god in charge of everything at the ball club, is Bill Gates, and has a crystal ball. Unrealistic.

On balance, I think Colletti has done the job that has sent us to the post season virtually annually, and has kept our core youth together that has now blossomed into a premier (and All Star caliber) squad.

These days,wanting it all is simply unrealistic (e.g., talented youth who come for cheap, marquee players, five-man Cy Young winning rotation, minor league system bulging with future stars, etc.).