11.16.2005

Restoring D-ger Tradition: They Hire Sheriff Ned?

The D-gers finds their new GM, plucked from their biggest enemy's hire: Ned Colletti. Sounds like a fit for the most part. McCourt said in his statement that "the team needs a strong foundation" and he listed his criteria for the new GM - a leader, a communicator, and experienced - and did not necessarily have to have been a GM previously. Then he further clarified and qualified what he was looking for by saying, "Leadership is a very important characteristic, no question. 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." In addition, Lasorda listed what he would be looking for in a GM, which, obviously, is probably what he told McCourt as well: "He has to know the game, know how to handle people and communicate with people and depend upon people working for him. That guy would be successful." Obviously, they also put up the usual stuff about returning to winning traditions, yada yada.

I found the descriptions of the GM candidates to be rather interesting and hilarious in some ways. For the funny, in Ng's description, they list all her career achievements, which is quite impressive, then end with this bon mot: "Ng graduated from the University of Chicago, where she played softball for four years." (emphasis mine); what's the point of this, is this a critical piece of info for their position search? For the interesting, Colletti was described thusly, "Granted broad authority by Sabean, Colletti's duties have included assisting in the acquisition of players, overseeing waiver and rule compliance, formulating salary arbitration cases and managing roster payroll." They also mentioned his authoring of four books.

Lets run down the laundry list:
  1. Leader: not sure where they would find example of this leadership in Colletti's past, I would have to assume this was more behind the scenes, in the duties he did for the Giants. Just on gut reaction, I would say no, but I'm open minded enough to give them that one.
  2. Communicator: Colletti is definitely that, I've heard him on the radio and he quite good, as good, even, as Sabean. That comes from his PR background from his Chicago days. In addition, the Merc noted that Shawon Dunston highly praised his abilities of being able to speak to players like "you're a person, like a friend." The article also noted that he "was an affable and popular figure in the Giants' clubhouse," and that this was an area that DePodesta was lacking in.
  3. Experienced: Again, Colletti is definitely that, with almost 25 years in the game, plus extensive duties as outlined above.
  4. Keen eye for baseball talent: this is where the horse and the cart separates. Based solely on what the description of Colletti is from the D-ger PR notice, no where in there is it said that he has this skill. He is very much an operations/administrator type of guy. Even Kim Ng was noted for her stint as farm director, there was no mention of Colletti even having this experience, let alone skill.
  5. Working towards a common goal: Colletti was a consumate company man, he represented the team well on the air, and appears to have done a good enough job for the team in his duties. I mean, the team didn't fire him, kept him around all this time, and pushed his name out there for GM vacancies. Sounds like he can do this fine.
Now, about his performance on the job for the Giants, as described above:
  1. Player acquisition assistance: From what I understand, Ned did the negotiating with the agents and therefore had great influence on the salaries and contracts that we signed over the years. Prime bad examples include Benard's 3 year, $11M contract, Neifi's 2 year, $4M contract, and some might include Snow's and Nen's contract. There are those who would throw in Rueter, Alfonzo, Matheny and Vizquel, as well. But good examples include Bonds, Kent and Aurilia. So he's good at negotiating and covering the rules, but there are enough mistakes to think that he's not the greatest to have ever done this. However, a recent Baseball Prospectus article noted that most free agents have been overpaid, so perhaps that is not his fault but a function of the marketplace. The Merc article noted Colletti developed a reputation for shrewd contracts when he was with the Cubs. But the Benard and Neifi deals were particularly galling for Giants fans. Overall, all indications are that he is very good negotiator, other than the dollar amount aspect.
  2. Waiver and Rule Compliance: I don't recall anything big happening, only that we lost a prospect last season (Leslie Nassar or something like that) who ended up on Baseball America's Top 10 list of prospects for the rookie league he was in, so that's a mistake there as well, just on my cursory knowledge of that situation (perhaps there are arcane rules on protecting the prospect that prevented the Giants from protecting him). Perhaps there were other ones but that's all I recall. Oh, and there was a problem one year where the player we called up was sent down but because of the 10 day rule, the Giants couldn't call him back up when they wanted, a slight rule screwup but still a screwup. Nothing really to go on except to accept their view that he did a bang-up job of this. However, I must note that Colletti was around when Matt White was the first round pick of the Giants and he became a free agent because one of the rules of the draft was not followed to the tee; I have no idea whether he was in charge of that then, but presume he would be the one involved (but then again, perhaps that's how he got this duty, because of prior screwups, this was not a duty of his listed for his Chicago experience).
  3. Arbitration: he was clearly involved in arbitration, as the Giants were only in one arbitration case the whole time he was in charge, and that was A.J. Pierzynski. Colletti was front and center on that one, I can still remember him discussing that on the KNBR nighttime sports talk show. And he screwed it up totally. Most media had A.J. slotted $3.0M eventually (initially $2.5M). A.J. asked for $3.5M and the Giants offered $2.25M and they lost the case. Then again, the Giants were able to avoid arbitration with all the other players during his tenure and that's a plus for him too, as I don't recall us overpaying for many of these arbitration eligible players, other than Benard.
  4. Managing roster payroll: I think most Giants fans haven't thought much of the Giants performance in this the past few years, because of the aforementioned problem contracts. In addition, the under-shooting of A.J. salary proposal in arbitration counts against him here. So I think this would have to considered not to be a job well done.
Overall, as a Giants fan losing Colletti, there are enough pluses and minuses to generate a "ho hum" reaction to this move - he seems like a good operations/administrator type of guy, someone every organization needs, but that this is a skill that can be developed and gotten relatively easily, witness both Colletti and Ng rising from relatively minor positions to where they are now, essentially the same position, same skill sets.

My main problem with the move is that he is going to our main rivals and he intimately knows the Giants plans for everything, especially regarding who we'll be targeting and for how much, who our best prospects are (and who are not), what our best practices throughout the organization is (since he has broad duties he probably has touched most of our operations). They should really pay us in some way with a player or something. However, this is a relatively short-term phenomenon for this off-season, then perhaps it could become a plus if Sabean and Ned could work out trade deals in future years.

As a Giants fan observing Colletti becoming the D-gers GM, I see this as neither a plus or minus, on its own, but in comparison with their prior GM, DePodesta, I have to see this as a plus for Giants fans. Overall, Colletti will be an able administrator and operations person for LA, so that would be a negative for Giants fans as we love chaos and incompetance in the GM ranks, but I have to assume his lack of player development background means that the D-gers current structure of drafting and player development will stay the same since it has been successful in drafting over the past few years and he just has to watch over it. However, since I am saber-oriented, I am glad that DePodesta's skills in that area is no longer in the D-ger's corner, and since Colletti has not demonstrated any skills (perhaps he has it but he hasn't had a chance to show it) in finding diamonds in the rough, the D-gers are taking a step backward in that regard, especially as more successful GM candidates passed on the job, from Gillick, to Hart, to Hunsicker. With an inexperienced person in charge, there is always the chance that Murphy's Law might operate and that someone is promoted above his level of competence.

So there's a new Sheriff in D-ger Town and Sheriff Ned looks to put some teeth in their administrative duties but not necessarily in the baseball talent evaluation area, which would be a bigger problem for Giants fans. But I find it totally incongruous that they hired a Giants employee with no links to the D-gers' past to be the one to restore the D-ers to their winning tradition, as McCourt put it. There was all that talk about Hershiser and Dusty Baker, coming in as two past D-ger greats, bringing back the glory, but in the end they ended up with a Giants employee. As much as it seems that Ned is a nice enough fellow, I wish him bad luck, from the bottom of my heart, in his new job, as he's now GM of the D-gers! Go Giants!

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