Dodgers dismiss DePodesta as GM

Dodgers dismiss DePodesta as GM

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers Saturday abruptly shifted from a manager search to a general manager search after dismissing Paul DePodesta less than two years into his five-year contract.

Owner Frank McCourt delivered the news to DePodesta in the morning and held an afternoon press conference at Dodger Stadium, where he said he made the change because "fans deserve a winner and they're going to get it."

"The Dodgers are at a crossroads," McCourt said. "This is a very important time. I'm mindful of this historic franchise and it's tradition of greatness. I'll be satisfied with nothing less.

"I have high expectations and one of those is winning. This organization is committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve those expectations. Clearly, we did not fulfill those expectations this past season."

McCourt said the manager search had been suspended and the general manager search was underway. He said the next Dodger general manager -- and seventh in the last eight years -- would need to be a leader, a communicator and experienced enough to do the job. He said having previously served as a general manager was not necessarily a pre-requisite.

"Leadership is a very important characteristic, no question," McCourt said. "He has to have a keen eye for baseball talent, has to be a good communicator and have the experience to do the job of a GM and be able to work toward a common goal."

McCourt said he could not pinpoint one reason why he dismissed DePodesta or why it came four weeks after philosophical differences between DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy led to Tracy's departure, adding that he stands by the Tracy decision.

"It (dismissing DePodesta) was not an impulsive process and it's no single thing, it's just something that happens over time," he said. "It's something I've been struggling with for some time. I thought long and hard and late yesterday came to the decision with finality.

"We all lived through last season. It was agonizing. I, too, was embarrassed. This is all about pulling in the same direction. Clearly, that's not something that occurred."

DePodesta, a Harvard graduate, was an assistant general manager of the Oakland A's and protégé of Oakland executive Billy Beane when McCourt hired him at the age of 31 to replace Dan Evans as general manager after McCourt bought the Dodgers from Fox Corp. before the 2004 season.

DePodesta inherited a team that went on to win the National League West in his first season, but he made major changes in that club as the season unfolded, including the acquisition of outfielder Milton Bradley and the controversial deal that sent team leader Paul Lo Duca to the Marlins

The roster underwent further radical revamping last offseason, when DePodesta traded away Shawn Green, let Adrian Beltre leave via free agency, re-signed Odalis Perez and acquired free agents Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe. The Dodgers, decimated by injuries, went on to finish fourth with a 71-91 record, the club's second-worst mark since it moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

Reached Saturday night, DePodesta said he was proud of many of the club's accomplishments over the past two years and was convinced, coming out of the past week's organization meetings, that the baseball operation had "positive momentum."

He said he had not considered what to do next, but that his passion for the game remains, along with a desire for "the ultimate prize."

In a statement released by the club, DePodesta said:

"I truly believe this franchise is poised to begin the next great era of Dodger baseball. I have a tremendous amount of affection for the players, staff and front office. I wish everyone the best of luck. Most importantly, I want to thank the fans for their unparalleled support of the team."

McCourt was asked if the dismissal meant that DePodesta's hiring was a mistake.

"Expectations weren't met," he said. "I've learned a tremendous amount over the last couple of years."

Among the club officials attending Saturday's press conference was Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda, who has returned to a position of prominence in the organization as special advisor to McCourt.

It has been speculated that Lasorda's influence could lead to the hiring of Pat Gillick as general manager and Bobby Valentine as manager. Gillick interviewed for the job before McCourt hired DePodesta. Valentine played for Lasorda in the Minor Leagues and has been a longtime Lasorda protégé.

Lasorda, who held the position on an interim basis after Fred Claire was dismissed in 1998, ticked off the attributes he would want in a general manager.

"He has to know the game, know how to handle people and communicate with people and depend upon people working for him," he said. "That guy would be successful."

Friday, DePodesta's short list of managerial candidates was trimmed to three -- supposed front-runner Terry Collins, Orel Hershiser and Alan Trammell. It was generally known that DePodesta favored the hiring of Collins, his farm director, while McCourt was intrigued with tapping into Dodger tradition and bringing back Hershiser, the former Cy Young winner now the pitching coach of the Texas Rangers.

"Orel keenly understands what it means to be a Dodger," said McCourt, who interviewed Hershiser last week without DePodesta present. "To restore the glory. It's important to bring everything together and restore the great tradition."

McCourt said he notified the three finalists Saturday that the managerial search had been put on hold, adding that other candidates might emerge depending on the general manager, pointing out that DePodesta inherited Tracy.

"We haven't had the consistency that's essential," he said. "It's a clear lesson to everybody being in synch and working together."

He also said assistant general managers Kim Ng and Roy Smith would handle personnel business during the search. The annual general managers meetings start Nov. 7.

"We will get the best GM, and with dispatch," McCourt said. "We will be very aggressive, mindful of the importance of the offseason and the need to make a decision."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.