After the unexpected dismissal of 32-year-old Paul DePodesta and an 18-day process to find a replacement, McCourt chose Colletti over Dodgers assistant general manager Kim Ng. McCourt said Colletti satisfied the four criteria he spelled out the day DePodesta was dismissed -- leadership, talent evaluation, baseball experience and communication skills.
Especially communication skills.
"Ned and I hit it off," said McCourt. "We had chemistry immediately and that's a very good sign. It's a big piece of building a successful team. Our goal is to have sustained winning, and now we have the person in place that will allow us to do that. He's the best guy for the job."
McCourt, calling the 50-year-old "my baseball guy," said Colletti will be the "point person" in the search to find a replacement for manager Jim Tracy, who left at season's end, citing philosophical differences with DePodesta. Tracy ultimately was hired to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I'm relying on Ned -- it's his responsibility to run the baseball operation," McCourt said of Colletti's task in finding a manager. "When it gets down to two or three, unless he feels there's an obvious choice, we'll sit down."
McCourt said the manager should be "somebody who, when the game is on the line, brings victory home for us. Somebody who brings people together, who's a good collaborator, an experienced person who knows how to win."
It is believed that DePodesta's search to replace Tracy, which was leading toward farm director Terry Collins, was the final straw in the deterioration of his relationship with McCourt, who personally intervened and interviewed former Dodgers Cy Young Award winner Orel Hershiser days before dismissing DePodesta.
Hershiser might still wind up in the organization, but Colletti's comments indicated a preference for someone with the managing experience of a Piniella or Fregosi as compared to Hershiser, who is the Texas Rangers pitching coach, but has never managed at any level. Colletti negotiated Hershiser's contract when he became a Giant in 1998.
"You need a great leader who has won, who knows how to win the last game of the season, who can relate to every player young and old, who won't be outmaneuvered by the other manager," said Colletti. "Somebody well-rounded who will communicate with me daily. We won't manage the manager, but we have to all know what we're doing."
Piniella, who left the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last month, has managed five teams over 19 seasons in the Major Leagues, taking the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title in 1990. One of Piniella's closest allies is Lee Elia, a mentor of Colletti.
Fregosi has managed four teams (including the Angels) over 15 seasons in the Major Leagues, taking the Phillies to the World Series in 1993. He last managed Toronto in 1999-2000 and has been a special assignment scout with Atlanta for three years. Prior to that, he worked with Colletti in San Francisco as special assistant to the general manager.
McCourt and Colletti would not say how the 2006 payroll would compare to the roughly $80 million the Dodgers spent in 2005, when they were decimated by injuries and went 71-91, the second-worst mark since the team moved from Brooklyn.
McCourt said Colletti would have "whatever resources it takes to win," while Colletti said if he finds the right players "to take us to the top, come to [McCourt], and if it's the right thing, he'll do it.
"If I didn't think we had the resources to do it in a classy, thorough, consistent way, I wouldn't be here," Colletti said. "I believe in what I've heard."
Colletti said "a foundation" was in place for the Dodgers to reclaim the top spot in the division, but as currently constructed, the roster needs resolution of the corner infield spots, starting pitching and outfield. He said he was open to free agents for the short- and long-term, as well as handing over a job or two to the young players.
"We have to be building and winning at the same time," he said, citing an abundant farm system that might deliver legitimate prospects as soon as 2006. "We may have big-league stars there and you don't want to hold them back."
Colletti was involved in the Giants' acquisition of Jeff Kent from Cleveland and he spoke favorably of the second baseman he also sarcastically referred to as "Mr. Chuckles" for his sour reputation. Kent met with ownership just before DePodesta was dismissed after telling teammates he would ask for a trade if the club wasn't committed to winning immediately.
He sidestepped a question about the future role of center fielder Milton Bradley, who is recovering from a knee operation but also had a run-in with Kent last season.
Colletti, who apprenticed as the right-hand man of San Francisco GM Brian Sabean for nine years, said he places a priority on players who stay healthy, although he implied that the Dodgers' problems in recent years ran deeper than the wave of injuries that hit in 2005.
"You came to Dodger Stadium in the late 80s, they were well prepared, they could beat you a number of ways, they played to the end, they had a great manager who put pressure on the other team's weaknesses and the players bought into it.
"I don't see that all the time the last few years. I rarely feared coming in here. Inner intuition is what I'm getting into. We've lost some of that over here. It's not as poignant, not as prominent as it once was. The upside is that this can be one of the great franchises of all time."
He also said statistics play a role in his decision-making, but not necessarily a large one.
"They are a piece of the puzzle, but just part of it," he said. "There's character, work ethic, credibility, approach to life. And at the end of the day, you look at the stats, but they don't tell the story."
Ng, who has three years remaining on her contract, attended the press conference and said she would remain with the organization.
"I've been here for four years and I want to be part of it," said Ng, who was hired by former GM Dan Evans. "There are a lot of good things happening here on the baseball side."