Monday, July 07, 2008

This Ned Colletti Interview from Friday is Hysterically Funny

I apologize for the rambling and likely serial failures in grammar and syntax. This needed to flow out of me rapidly, because my standards of patience and calmness have just been worn down by the Dodgers' GM. Here is Diamond Leung's Q & A with Ned Colletti and my comments.

His boss, owner Frank McCourt, sidestepped questions regarding his job status in an interview with The Press-Enterprise, only saying "Injuries cloud everything. It's a waste of time to be pointing fingers."

We all know McCourt would never use a string of injuries as a reason to fire a GM who otherwise was doing good work!

Tony Lama snakeskin boot-wearing Colletti...


...addressed his own thought process as well last week

Kudos to Colletti, this is evidently a daunting task.

Q: Compare your vision for how you saw this team during the winter to what it is now. A: In some ways, it couldn't be more different than what the thought process was at the beginning. I think when you have as many players who have never been able to play for whatever reason as we've asked, it's tough to measure.

One of the many things about the game is that there's a domino effect. When you take a couple of key performers out of the lineup, it changes it. When you have a very important performer playing well under expectations and then get hurt, you have another part of it. That's where we're at.

Who exactly are the Dodgers that have been on the DL this season?
Schmidt - He could not seriously have been in Colletti's vision, could he have? In any event, replacing him has not been much of an issue.
Garciaparra - If he was part of the vision, then it was a poor vision.
Furcal - Yes, why would we expect the player who played through injury (poorly) all through 2007 to miss time to injury? The Dodgers seem to want to get extra credit for Furcal's injury, as if his absurd production prior to injury is not an offsetting factor and as if he were a person of iron.
Pierre - See Garciaparra.
Jones - Obviously I think it is fair for NC to be disappointed in Jones, but the time lost to injury really has not been the issue.
Abreu - It would have been great to have him, but I'm having my doubts that he was a major part of NC's plan.
Hu - Fair enough that they could have expected him to be a decent enough hitter without the eye, but his role is secondary to Furcal (or tertiary to Furcal and Abreu).
Loaiza - Actually, I don't even remember if he was injured.
Kuroda - 15 day stint. Any complaints here are unfounded.
Penny -

So, Furcal, Jones, Schmidt?, Penny, and some okay bench players. What is the domino effect here, outside of shortstop? That Repko started one game and Delwyn Young some? That Stults and Kershaw have been used, contributing a combined 4.00 run average, exactly what we could have expected from Penny/Kuroda? That the Chan Ho Park renaissance has partially occurred in the rotation rather than simply as a lights out reliever (Colletti, like the rest of us, surely had that vision)? That Sweeney was on the roster? The Dodgers just have not had any harmful injuries outside of the SS morass.

Oh no, wait, something is starting to come back. It seems that a projected starter was injured in spring training, I just can't think of wh-


And when he returned, instead of listening to people who suggested that waiting for DeWitt to earn his demotion was a fool's game and that LaRoche should simply be given his shot, they have instead steadfastly chosen to let DeWitt earn a demotion and LaRoche earn some splinters. The injury to Andy LaRoche has had a huge effect on this team, but through sheer luck management was in a position for it not to have been (because of DeWitt's brief success) - and they chose to continue to let the injury drag them down after it was over.

Dodgers SS have, on the whole, hit nearly as well as the league average shortstop. While the defense lately has been awful, it was pretty high earlier in the season. They've gotten something a little under expectations, but not by much. The challenge will obviously be how they handle the position moving forward. At 3B, on the other hand, they have had horrible production when they could have expected production significantly above average from LaRoche. And in large part, this discrepancy is because they have largely chosen to keep DeWitt in the lineup since LaRoche's recovery. LaRoche's injury has had the biggest impact, and yet by chance it did not have to be that way.

We've got to get healthy. We've got to play better. We've certainly got to have better approaches at the plate. We've got some nice batting averages, but it doesn't translate all the time into runs. While the averages are nice -- .280, .290, .300, .310 .315, whatever it is, it doesn't translate. As I told the club at the beginning of the season, the most important statistic is how many games we win. Everything else is superfluous stuff.

And this is coming the next paragraph after de facto praise for Pierre and Garciaparra? Again, the Dodger whose hitting skills beyond batting average most translate into runs is LaRoche, who the Dodgers have blocked with someone whose game is (at this point) just BA in DeWitt. And it's not as if you didn't know going into the season that Martin, Loney, and Kent have games that are mostly dependant on batting average with decent secondary skills (and that, relative to their position, the same is true of Ethier and Kemp). Is the idea that these players, who aside from Kemp and Kent have definitely met any reasonable expectations, are supposed to now change their approach to some nebulous concept of a "better approach"? Beyond that, what kind of argument is this to be making when the team as a whole has a below average batting average? The problem with the Dodgers hitting has been Pierre/Jones, DeWitt, and Hu. No point in blaming DeWitt or Hu's approach (unless this eye business is fiction), and Pierre/Jones are using their established approach.

As much as I hate to cherry pick, the team outside of those four hitters has hit .276/.344/.424, while that group has hit .232/.296/.309. That's the reason the batting average is not translating into runs, and since we can diagnose those four easily, why pick on the others, who are essentially meeting expectations?

Q: These past few weeks with the team not going well, how much self-evaluation have you done for you and your staff? Do you think, "What could we have done better?"

A: I'm critical of myself every single day. You can always do things better. I've been far from perfect. There's no question. What we've tried to do is wait on the development of younger players to the point where they can compete every day at the big league level and figure out how to win a game and support (them) around the edges with veterans that have a history of winning. That's how we've drawn it up. To date, it hasn't turned out that way.

Well there we go. If this is an honest answer, hasn't he just demonstrated his fatal flaw? Instead of surrounding the younger players with the veterans that are most likely to help the team win, he has surrounded them with "veterans that have a history of winning," and this has been an explicit plan. When the negatives associated with each of the players Colletti has brought in (or, as with Kent, extended) have in each case only been manifestations of legitimate concerns at the time of acquisition, shouldn't Colletti see it as a negative that he has chosen to err on the side of proven winners, when that history of victory has not meaningfully carried over? Heck, he arguably even followed this strategy when trading for a Kansas City Royal - Berroa may never have been a good player, but the one good season he had happened to be for a team that, for a brief moment, just knew how to win, which propelled him to winning ROY honors by a narrow margin. OK, I'm not trying to win that argument, I am just venting. The point is, Colletti seems to be announcing that he has openly prioritized players who have shown a correlation with winning in the past and evidently at the expense of acquiring players who will causally contribute more to winning in the future or an equal amount at a lesser price than the proven winners.

Apparently, it is not good enough for Colletti to be critical of himself every day, because, like most of us, he is not especially good at seeing his flaws. NC needs to expose himself to other people's criticisms daily, not to his own.

Q: With Andruw Jones, it's difficult to predict an injury, but at the same time, could you have seen the kind of year he's had coming at all?

A: Not really. He hit 26 (home runs) last year and drove in almost 100. Was there a decline from the year before that? Yeah, there was a decline.

In essence with him being out for however long he's been out and with him being ineffective for however long he's been ineffective, we lacked that presence in the lineup. So the thought process was that we needed that type of player.

There's no question we needed that type of player because we've seen where we're at without that type of player. Now, was it the right player? Well, that can certainly be debated. Who was the better player? You're saying "You shouldn't have gotten Andruw Jones." So then I say to you, "OK, then who should it have been?"

If it shouldn't have been Andruw Jones, you tell me who it should have been. We could have maybe gotten another player for a lot longer term and a lot more money with really less of a track record.

The problem here is not, to me, that he expected Jones to improve on his 2007 numbers, which is quite reasonable (though Rob McMillin seems to disagree). The problem is that he speaks of Jones in terms of presence instead of tangible contribution to winning. He wanted that presence last season, so instead of hoping for the best on Jayson Werth's health and looking forward to having a solid rotation of Werth, Ethier, Kemp, and Pierre, he cut Werth to load up the lineup with lefties with below average positional bats. So a year later, he had to replace Gonzalez with a nominal upgrade, hence Jones. All along, we could have had a pretty good CF platoon of Pierre/Werth, which would not be much worse than Jones, and certainly not worse enough to suggest taking on the $16mm payroll difference between Jones and Pierre. Colletti has sought presence when it has meant only a marginal upgrade in substance. I'm not going to rip on Colletti for ostensibly being wrong about Jones' talent level, but the point is that he set himself up for taking a high-priced risk because he didn't think he could be patient enough with the low-priced risk. And he has made that same mistake with a degree of regularity.

Q: You've always given background into what your thought process was in getting a player, but how frustrating is it that guy after guy after guy for whatever reason -- due to injury, due to underperforming -- just hasn't worked out and to see them one by one fall like dominos?

A: It's excruciatingly frustrating. I can't put into words how frustrating it is. I certainly don't do anything to have it turn out this way. ... I have scouts in the field, amateur scouts, and player development people. Nobody sets out there to have players get hurt, players underachieve.

Honestly, this is getting ridiculous. You don't get to be frustrated with your results when you have frustrated everyone else with your decisions. Who are the guys that have "disappointed" in Colletti's regime?

Young players Colletti did not acquire: Martin, Navarro, Loney, Aybar, Kemp, Ross, Ethier, Billingsley, Broxton, Kuo - absolutely no disappointments outside of Aybar's 2007 problems.
Veterans Colletti did not acquire: Drew, Kent '06, Izturis, Saenz, Ledee, Cruz, Penny, Lowe, Perez, Gagne - no disappointments but Izturis, Gagne, and Perez, and they sure didn't keep the '06 team from the playoffs. Incidentally, those are the three signings DePo made that at the time I saw as poor choices that were made to be pragmatic and appeasing. Hmm...

Young players acquired by Colletti:
Seo, Betemit - Seo was a disappointment, Betemit was not.

Veterans acquired by Colletti:
Pleasant surprises: Saito, Beimel, Anderson, Alomar, Hall, Park
Met reasonable expectations: Sele, Tomko, Hendrickson, Baez, Carter, Hamulack, Garciaparra, Kent '07-'08, Lofton, Martinez, Furcal, Gonzalez, Pierre, Clark/Dessens, Wolf, Wells, Proctor, Seanez, Bennett, Ardoin, Kuroda
Disappointed: Lugo, Mueller, Hillenbrand, Sweeney, Lieberthal, Schmidt, Loaiza, Jones, Berroa

The only players Colletti has acquired who have exceeded expectations have been cheap veterans, and none have been in the rotation or the starting lineup. If Colletti honestly expected much more from anyone in my "Met reasonable expectations" group, then he just doesn't understand the significance of baseball performance statistics. To split it up, Sele, Tomko, Hendrickson, Dessens and Wells were mediocre pitchers a notch above replacement level who came through with lousy contributions a notch above replacement level. Wolf and Kuroda both pitched about as well as could have been expected, with Kuroda adding a brief DL stint and Wolf a long one, but the latter was no surprise. Baez, Seanez, and Proctor were all decent relievers who have pitched decently and no better, but Baez and Proctor were both given roles out of whack with their capabilities. Carter and Hamulack were replacement level pitchers who were ditched before their numbers could stabilize at RL. Martinez, Ardoin and Bennett have been what they've always been, and Clark didn't get much chance. That leaves Colletti's string of veteran position players who he'd be happy to say have been unfortunate disappointments but who have been exactly as one would have expected. Kent's 07-08 has given us good hitting and fielding lousy enough to call into question whether his extension was decent enough value-wise. Furcal had a season a bit above expectations, a season below expectations because of playing through injuries, a partial season well above expectations, and then a season-ending injury. All told, he's given 2.5 seasons of playing time with hitting slightly above his projection. No cause to claim disappointment on his three year deal at all. Lofton and Gonzalez were both below average players at below average money for free agents, and hit and fielded exactly to their projections. The only thing different about Pierre since he's been signed is that Dodger Stadium has predictably kept his doubles and triples down and he finally has missed time to injury, and it's not as if that's been a negative for the Dodgers. Finally, Garciaparra has been an average hitter over 1019 PA (in other words, at 2/3 playing time) at ages 32-34 after being a +2 win hitter over 1315 PA (again, 2/3 playing time) at ages 29-31. If he's a disappointment, getcha head checked.

So, the actual disappointments? First, role players acquired via trade who have never been good enough to be average major league regulars and who are many years removed from their greatest successes: Hillenbrand, Sweeney, Berroa. Sure, they collapsed, but they did so over little playing time and with an aura of karmic fulfillment. Lieberthal could have been a decent bench player and hit poorly, but he had extremely limited playing time. Lugo and Loaiza were arguably average players taken on to increase payroll late in the season, and neither did much damage. That leaves Schmidt, Mueller, and Jones. Is that who Diamond was asking about? Let's see, each were arguably late bloomers (Jones, in reality, was not, but his expectations were always high and his 2005 was interpreted by many as his finally living up to promise) who at one point became legitimate stars, each was over 30 and being signed to a short-term deal after not having had a big season (and, for Mueller and Schmidt, not having had a big season in the previous two seasons), and each was signed to a short-term deal that could get Colletti the same plaudits that he earned with the Furcal deal. Colletti got praise in each case (okay, ignore Mueller on this point if it's not applicable) for limiting his financial risk to a short term, but the only way you can get that kind of praise is if you're getting players with acknowledged risks that aren't good enough to get an albatross-length contract . And in each case, he has piled on the cash. When your strategy is to acknowledge the risk in your aggressive moves which explicitly carry high risk with a moderately high return that is balanced out by a guaranteed high cost, why are you bemoaning their failure? The failure is clearly in the strategy, and that it has worked out even worse than could have been expected is not really something to dwell on. Forget about the players, I'd rather hear about whether you intend to continue the strategy that has thus far failed, and hear about why you think it can fail or succeed in the next offseason.

So if Ned is frustrated, TS, you are frustrated because your moves have had the impact that many of us had expected (which is why we experienced that frustration at the time of the moves rather than upon seeing their results).

Q: How does it affect you emotionally? Every day there's a public opinion poll placed out there with fan reactions.

A: That's how it works. It's professional sports. There's good performances and bad performances. And every day in baseball, there's performances that are judged by cheers or boos. That's the nature of the game.

One of the faults in my personality is I don't ever want to let anybody down. I don't want to let anybody down, and in the profession I've chosen, people's opinions are based upon people who I have really no control over on how to think, prioritize or live their lives. And that's frustrating because I know what I do day in, day out, every single day I've been here, and, frankly, every hour I've been a part of this organization.

I know what I'm about, and I know what goes into it, and I know what the thought process is. But we're in the business of predicting human behavior, human health, human reaction. And you know what? At the end of the day, the only thing anybody's got any control over is what they do and their own effort.

There you go. What I - and many of his other detractors - have been criticizing all along is that he seems to use absolutely the wrong tools to predict human behavior, health, and reaction. If his expectations have not been met, then it is utterly confounding that he could think it is because his players have let him down. And if it's the scouts or the staff that has let him down, then obviously he's still accountable to some extent beyond their failings, but beyond that it's his fault for not being capable at measuring and projecting player value. The people on the sidelines have been able to do that, and he has not. Maybe it is the fault of the scouts, but that's something you need to understand going in: your scouts will miss on players sometimes, as will the stats alone. That's why you want to use the stats to get a good projection and then use the scouts to verify your projections and break ties. When you overwhelmingly go after players with unremarkable projections, you don't get to blame the scouts for being high on all of them. You will always have scouts who are high on players with poor projections, because a scout is just a sample. Even if you expand the sample to a lot of scouts, you still need to account for the actual value of the player instead of using NC's apparent thought process of "Player is good, I want to put him on the team, hence, work hard to sign him to a contract." My criticism of Colletti has always hinged on his not seeming to know how valuable players are and what that means in terms of what talent to exchange . He's relied on subjective assessments with a hermeneutic that is ever optimistic about veterans. Simply put, he does not seem qualified to be entrusted with executive authority over how to construct a roster, acquire talent, and determine how much to pay players. It may be generous to call him a Peter Principle hiring since I haven't seen the evidence that he ever should have been a front office executive to start with. Which is not to say that he does not have many of the skills of a successful GM. It's just that he does not have the combination of skills that will lend itself to success.

And when I lose sleep, I don't lose sleep because I cheated the game, because I cheated the effort or I was delinquent in my solutions. I lose sleep because I want it to be as good as it can be. And I take pride in being here. And I take pride in the people that support this organization. I'm honored to be here, and I'm honored that this franchise has the fans it has, that they're as passionate as they are and they're as upset as they are. I wouldn't want them not upset.

But at the end of the day, I can't control what people do. I can't control anything that they do. And you know what? Show me who can control everybody else.

'I am proud of all the hard-working, great people around me. It is unfortunate that they let me down so regularly. Perhaps we should try some role reversal where I make the mistakes, and then you will see what it is like to wear my shoes, having to deal with the failure of others.' I really don't like hammering on Colletti like this, but how can I not when he is essentially making the argument that he is not accountable for the advice he has acted upon when it has been clear to third party observers why the advice (if it ever existed) was faulty?

"Show me who can control everybody else"? In this context, he has to be talking about being disappointed with the scouting (and front office analysis) he's gotten, right? Otherwise, he is talking about the manager he bought with a giant wad or the players, and I think the players' "disappointment" has been sufficiently dispelled. So, why don't you just learn the lesson that you have good amateur scouting and development under Logan White, let it do its thing, and rely on quantitative analysis at the major league level? It seems that such an approach would have paid dividends. So doesn't this all in the end come back to you having too much faith in scouting reports on veterans that have been belied by those veterans' statistical records? (Or, perhaps more likely, misinterpreting the significance of those scouting reports?)

The point is, if you choose to surround yourself with qualitative/subjective assessments and find them disappointing, then you should offer $200K to Tangotiger to be your right hand man. You don't get to say that their suggestions haven't worked out, when what we are talking about are veterans living up to quantitatively-derived expectations but not your interpretation of the scouting reports you've gotten. The best organizations in baseball are thriving because they have made efforts to use scouting and stats to cross-validate and cross-critique; Colletti is stuck on blaming his scouts. Well, if everyone else knows quantitatively how to value players, then the ones that you think are worth the extra money that others aren't willing to pay figure to be the ones that your scouts are high on, and that is likely to be because they are a bit mistaken. It's not a reason to ditch the scouts, it's a reason to buttress them with a quantitative analytic framework. Instead, Colletti just vaguely criticizes the scouts in public.

Q: What, if anything, would you change if you could?

A: Looking back on the last two seasons, I've learned a lot. One of the things that I would, in hindsight, would tried to have done differently is I would have tried to have been more patient. The world is impatient by nature. It's one of the toughest traits for anybody to learn from infancy on.

OK, I'm with him so far...

When I came in here, I really wanted to get the organization to be as good as it could be as fast as it could be. It's certainly the right way to approach it, but I also should have been a little more cognizant of being patient with it. I'm not going to give you a bunch of examples because I really don't have a bunch of examples. I have one example that sticks out in my mind that is easy for me to tell you.

And what did Colletti do to improve the organization? His strategy was to fill up the major league roster; he doesn't seem to have done anything to improve the organization itself. It's becoming clear that by "patience" he means using reasonable sample sizes, which is a fine thing to improve upon but is something that any decent GM hire would not have had a problem with. Instead, he created that problem.

A year ago in August, we were hanging in there. We had yet to play as well as I thought we were capable of playing. I was trying to keep the air in the balloon and trying to keep the team going in the right direction and give it some support because when you do make a move, sometimes it can help those guys know that you're trying to help them out.

OK, no disagreement that you would want to do something to show support for your players. It seems to me, though, that morale isn't something that you should throw money at; bringing in an extensive veteran stopgap might boost morale, but not in the same way that bringing in a good player will. Plus, as their kind of boss, you would think a GM would come up with some other ways to boost morale. That morale was low may have had to do with the GM, you know, having a record of kind of bad mouthing his players and blaming others for his failures, and another GM might be in a position where their exceptional people skills (Colletti's supposed strength, right? If that's not it, I don't know what it is supposed to be.) could address the problem rather than the team's payroll.

I had at least one of our scouts tell me that Esteban Loaiza was healthy and would help. I had somebody else tell me that they had a pretty good feel that he was going to get claimed by somebody ahead of us in the standings in the league and after us in the process. Knowing that you never have enough pitching, we did it. That is an example of me being impatient. I should have been more patient and just let it play itself out and see where we were going be.

But as we try to make it as good as we can as soon as we can, sometimes you'll have that mistake. I think I'm accountable for it, but I've never done nothing here on my own. I've never just gone out and everybody said, "Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it," and I go do it. I trust scouts. I trust people who watch the game and understand it.

I mean, what is there to say here? "I had at least one of our scouts..." ONE!!! Honestly, ONE!?!?!? If you are willing to base an $8mm+ decision on just the scouting (and not, you know, a quantitative assessment of how good he could be, how good he's most likely to be, how bad he can be, and where else the dollars could go to), how in the hell can you say something like "at least one"? Were there eight advanced scouts in agreement that

Your employees will make mistakes, which you yourself have admitted that you make. Instead of working on a framework to vet this work, you seem to have "impatiently" chosen among your ad hoc advice for whatever would salve your then-current beliefs about what was wrong with the major league team. Which leaves you defending sinking more money than your entire staff makes combined (probably, I obviously don't have the data) into a player whose contribution would clearly be marginal at best. Or, as your 1+ scout(s) put it, "would help."

Plus, the reason why you "never have enough pitching" is often because teams focus on their major league pitchers. Billy Beane believes in flipping his good pitchers for more pitchers, so that he typically has "enough pitching" at the expense of holding onto established greatness. Pitchers have a high injury risk, so if the aim is to have enough, you would want to spend on a lot of inexpensive pitchers who have yet to reach the majors and weed them out in the minors. Colletti has instead focused on dumping money into established arms that carry the same risk as young arms but a price tag much higher. Yours truly suggested that Colletti trade Garciaparra for some prospects in 2006. That team would have made the playoffs just as well with Loney at first, and yet Colletti stuck with his "all-star" instead of stealing a few prospects from a more naive club. When has Colletti added non-veteran pitching to the organization? He swapped it in the Seo/Hamulack/Sanchez/Schmoll trade but otherwise has not acquired any. The way to fight against the "never have enough pitching" phenomenon is to take advantage of GM's who are looking for a quick veteran fix, not to be one.

Q: Given how you've encountered unpredictability when it comes to acquiring players through free agency, how might you change going into the future?

A: I think with each passing year we want to spend less on free agency. I can't tell you how much we're going to depend on it and how much we're not going to depend on it, but the plan is to depend less and less on it. Sometimes you have to fill a hole that way. But in '06 we had many holes to fill, in '07 we had somewhat as many holes to fill, and in '08 we went into it thinking we had fewer holes to fill. Hopefully next year, we'll feel the same way. It's a precarious route to go.

See, he's saying something accurate (you don't want to depend on free agency) but accompanying it with an outlook that essentially demands depending on free agency. If you see your roster as full of holes, you will constantly be enmeshed in free agency. Free agency is for making upgrades, not filling holes. That's not to say that you don't sometimes have basically no one at a position. It's just that you need to view the free agent in terms of their contribution relative to the awful replacement, not relative to nothing (a hole). Willy Aybar becomes a hole instead of someone who was not far behind Mueller. Choi, evidently, must have been seen as a hole by Colletti instead of a player who was not less sufficient than Garciaparra figured to be. Certainly, the Dodgers needed another outfielder and shortstop because of injuries to Izturis and Werth, but the point is that Colletti chose to see the roster he inherited as one full of holes rather than as one with some strengths, some weaknesses, and a great deal of payroll to work with. So he signed a bunch of mediocre free agents to fill holes instead of leveraging the payroll to get a couple major upgrades. At the end of the day, Colletti has not added a single elite talent to the roster, and he has spent tons in free agency.

But coupled with that -- and this is important -- is if you're of a mind to build from within, to give young players the opportunity to play, to mature, to make mistakes, to learn from their mistakes and to get better ... if that's the path that you hitch your wagon to, which we have, the only other way you're going to be able to fill that hole is to disband some of that group. And that's where we always think twice and say, "You know what? Let's be patient."

I guess this argument is correct, but the Dodgers' problems under Colletti have been the lack of value from the veterans. They are the holes to be filled, and Colletti hasn't once (apparently) seriously tried to get value for a veteran he had on hand. Those are the ones to trade, and those are the ones who have resembled "holes". Or, I guess DeWitt is hole-y, but is considered to holy to fully replace with LaRoche.

Let's be patient with the younger players and grow through it and make sure our manager is keen into coaching and heeding into the instructions because it's going to take time. It's going to take a player forgetting how many outs there are, a player not having sunglasses on on a sunny day, a player not being able to hang on to the slider, a player not being able to hit the ball to the right side if it calls for that. That takes some time to develop.

OK, these things take time. The problem is that you seem to be evaluating your players with a list of attributes and two checkboxes. Waiting for your players to be a "Yes" for each of the little things will indeed take time. But finding young players who contribute to your team's success is an entirely different proposition. The young players have been contributing to the Dodgers' success throughout Colletti's tenure, and viewed in the context of the full sample and their respective opportunities, I don't see any that have disappointed. Having a high payroll is about getting good young players to be average at their positions and using the payroll to get some elite players. Colletti is criticizing his young players for not being elite while spending heavily on average or below veterans. And the reason is that NC seems unwilling to evaluate players in terms of the causal contribution to winning and instead insists on using benchmarks that have sporadic relevance to overall player quality.

There's no question. You have to be patient. You have to see results. You have to see improvement. That's a subjective measure because some people never want to have the patience. Some people have more patience. Some people would like to see steady improvement and don't want to see it from Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday. Improvement, improvement, improvement, improvement. That doesn't always happen that way. There might be April to June, I see improvement. May to September, I see improvement. We're dealing with human beings. There's nothing mechanical about it. There's nothing programmed about it. It's all real life.

Yes, and if you insist on evaluating players by looking for improvement, AND you have acknowledged that your scouts have let you down by being a little off on players... I mean, why not just evaluate the players on how good they've been, rather than in terms of checklist improvements? It feels like Matt Kemp keeps getting told he needs to do something else, and the Dodgers aren't investing much in just improving those elements of his performance that if unleashed would make him an outstanding player (total speculation on my part). You want the checklist, also, but in the end the decisions need to be about the bottom line. Yes, all the things in the checklist contribute to the bottom line, and the contents of the checklist tell us a good deal about how we can expect the bottom line to improve over time, but the eventual point is to assess player value in the context of their contribution to winning, rather than to assess players in terms of binaries (Are you a winner - Y/N?).

And come on, there is so much variability in baseball that looking for trends in a player's performance over a couple of years is essentially pointless. Take how they're doing as a sample of their performance, which fluctuates over time for non-predictable reasons. That will get you a lot further than betting on the trend. You're not making money in Vegas by betting on every streak to continue; baseball players are a different animal, but that does not mean that the evidence supports betting on the ones on a good streak.

Young players need to improve to be stars, but if they're already pretty good, focus on replacing the lousy players without futures. Of course, in signing Jones a year after Pierre, it's certainly arguable that Colletti already has figured this part out.

As far as free agency goes, the more we can stay out of that arena, the better we may be. But at the same time, we have to measure that with how patient are we going to be. How much advancement do we see the players making? It's a tough juggle.

No, it's not a juggle. You don't need some particular sort of balance in the roster. Work on getting a good roster out there using the proper tools of assessment and valuation. The young players need to improve for you to continue seeing them as valuable assets in the future, not to prove they are deserving of a roster spot (although some, like DeWitt, obviously do need to improve before being worth a roster spot). Use your players improvement or lack thereof to update your projection, not to determine whether or not the player is worth keeping.

Q: How difficult is it for you in a win-now business in a win-now job to be patient?

This is going to be good.

A: You can't just snap your fingers and be winning. You can't just wish it. And you can't just have it happen because you want it. That doesn't work. With 30 teams in Major League Baseball trying to win, everybody is trying to do the same thing. We have to figure out the best way of doing it. We have to find out certainly the quickest way of doing it. And we also have to think about the smartest way of doing it.

Great! Now in the paragraphs to follow, he will certainly lay out this "smartest way of doing it" (as I type this, I sincerely have not looked at the paragraphs that follow). Let's see it.

If I wanted to be selfish about it, yeah, I could have two big-name players here right now. But I'd have six or seven of the young players that we really have a lot of faith in, they're gone. And in a few years, one or two of those big league players we acquired could be gone. So suddenly you're sitting there with what?

Uh, sure. But let me ask - how come you haven't acquired veterans that could be traded for a big-name player? Or that could be traded for prospects who could be flipped for a big-name player? You've squeezed out the payroll, so you haven't been in a position to just take on more salary instead of giving up more prospects. You haven't converted any veterans into prospects, even as your tenure has been full of debates that a younger player should supplant a veteran in the lineup. Yes, the answer to all these questions could fairly be simply that none of your veterans have been good enough, but then...

The direction we're taking is the right direction. I believe it's the right direction, but it takes patience in a world that's not patient and a society that's not patient. So we always have to measure that.

I don't know what he means by measure here.

But I will always do what I feel is best for the organization ahead of what might be selfish and best for me. I don't worry about that stuff. I don't have any control over that stuff.

I'm honestly willing to believe him on this point. It's just that if this is true, it makes clear that he has been making moves out of incompetence rather than selfishness.

I have control over one thing -- what I do. I really don't have control over you (the media), the players, the manager, the coaches. No matter how much anybody wants to control or make things happen, wish things would happen, hope things can happen, demand things have happen, it doesn't work. It doesn't work.

This last paragraph, in which Colletti tries to steal the title of that Ian Curtis biopic for his own tale, is pretty damning. I mean, the GM has no control in an absolute sense over the people that work for him, but the GM has a good deal of control over whether they work for him and how they work for him. Colletti is essentially saying that his success is entirely dependent on others, which strictly speaking is certainly true. But it's of no consequence since ultimately it is your job to get the most out of them. And if your idea of getting the most out of scouts is asking at least one of them whether Loaiza could be helpful in an abstract sense, then it's obviously on you when they fail. The GM needs to develop processes and hermeneutics, and Colletti, unable to do these things, resorts to blaming the excesses of his staff. Your job, sir, is to harness your staff's strengths while mitigating the impact of their weaknesses, and you seem to abrogate that responsibility. This Q&A is chock full of damning evidence that Colletti has failed in his basic tasks, and offers only rudimentary reasons to believe that he will improve.


At 8:39 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Good stuff, Tom. And I still think the Jones signing was a mistake in the making.

At 12:19 PM, Blogger kingbb99 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger kingbb99 said...

Nice words. While Colletti is clearly outclassed, outwitted and out-thunk in every negotiation, the blame should still reside at the top. Frank McCourt has proven time and time again that he has no appreciation for the history of this organization, and he has no plan for its future. This is FOX redux.


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