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Dodgers: The Big Chair and Thoughts on the Colletti Era



“The big chair isn’t a recliner.  It’s a hot seat that never relents.”

Ned Colletti, Former GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers

Colletti’s Legacy

On November 16th, 2005, Ned Colletti was hired as the tenth General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He would ultimately serve in that role over the course of the next 9 seasons, outlasting one of the most tumultuous ownership groups in the history of baseball – the McCourts.  During his tenure, all but one of his teams had a winning record. In all, they reached the postseason five times and the NLCS in three of those years.

His staff was responsible for scouting Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig. They signed key players like Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu.  However, the pinnacle of his time leading the Dodgers was the blockbuster nine-player trade with the Boston Red Sox. The trade brought veteran all-stars Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to Los Angeles. This invogorated a fan-base that was reeling from the McCourt era and produced a perennial playoff contender.  

At the time, this move along with so many of Colletti’s other big-money acquisitions (e.g. Brandon League, Brian Wilson, Alex Guerrero. etc.) were indicative of a new ownership group that was willing to pay whatever it took to bring a World Series back to Los Angeles.  However, the legacy of bloated payrolls and overpaying aging veterans has in many ways hampered the financial flexibility of the current front-office, keeping the prospects of a championship ever-elusive.

Colletti’s Memoir

Having recently finished reading Ned Colletti’s memoir “The Big Chair” – a book I would highly recommend to all baseball fans – I figured I would highlight some of the more interesting points, ideas, and opinions he shares candidly throughout the piece.  It’s not often that you get first-hand takes from the highest ranking executive in an organization as storied as the Los Angeles Dodgers. As luck would have it, Colletti’s reign spanned one of the most exciting periods in franchise history.

  1. Born and raised in the working class town of Franklin Park, Illinois; Ned’s grit and street-smarts propelled him to the top.

  2. Saying goodbye to San Francisco and long-time friend Brian Sabean was one of the most difficult moments in Colletti’s professional career. Still, he remained connected to the organization through his son who was a successful scout for the team during their championship runs.

  3. During his interviews for the GM position, Frank McCourt purposefully made him as uncomfortable as possible. And still, Ned still considers Frank to be one of the smartest businessmen he knows and a very shrewd negotiator.

  4. Kirk Gibson was furious he didn’t have a chance to interview for the open manager position, which was eventually filled by Grady Little.

  5. The Dodgers nearly traded for CC Sabathia, but Frank McCourt refused to pick up an additional $4 million in salary.

  6. The McCourt divorce trial was demoralizing for staff and players. Payroll was slashed by $20 to $30 million, making it impossible to have competitive seasons.

  7. Colletti thought that signing Joe Torre to manage the team brought the organization instant credibility – and he was perhaps the only manager in the sport that could keep the ego-driven squad in check.

  8. He considers the Manny Ramirez trade and the ensuing hysteria around “Mannywood” one of the most exciting times during his entire baseball tenure.

  9. The blockbuster trade with the Red Sox was as much about sending a message to the fans as it was about bringing on additional talent. Colletti knew that Adrian Gonzalez was a perfect fit for Los Angeles and would become a fan-favorite.

  10. People called Yasiel Puig’s signing “puzzling,” but Ned knew that the organization needed to do something drastic in order to reestablish their legacy of developing Latin American baseball players (it worked as planned).

  11. Ned personally promised future manager Don Mattingly that the position would be his after Joe Torre’s tenure was through. Nevertheless, it was over faster than expected.

  12. Don Mattingly and Yasiel Puig were on the verge of physically fighting at multiple points.

  13. Colletti favors a lifetime ban for players caught cheating with PEDs

  14. The explosion of salaries has helped skyrocket the number of players who go on the disabled list. This is – as Colletti explains – because nobody wants to play through pain.

  15. Within 10 minutes of the NLDS loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Colletti was informed “you’re going to be in trouble here” by L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke

  16. Ned doesn’t consider the lack of a World Series appearance as his greatest failure. He lists his inability to rekindle the “Dodger Way” – or a “we versus I” environment like he had helped foster in San Francisco.

  17. In 2016, Ned cried while watching the Chicago Cubs, his hometown team, win their first World Series in 108 years

Summary

“The Big Chair” is a fantastic collection of stories and recollections from one of the most respected executives in baseball for one of the most respected franchises in sports.  Since Ned has a knack for storytelling, he is honest and critical of his time as a baseball executive.  The content ranges from stories of his childhood, growing up as a “bleacher bum” at Wrigley Field. Also, it spans his tenures with the Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Colletti crosses paths with wide range of personalities during his time in sports, and writes about the challenges and opportunities he had to work with some instantly recognizable names (e.g. Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Joe Torre, Scott Boras etc.).  He takes readers through a day in the life of a General Manager, and is thorough and concise in his recollection of his many dealings.  Further, it’s a fantastic book for sports lovers and a good reflection on the triumphs and failures of his historic career.

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Written by Isaac Castro

Born and raised in Southern California, his earliest Dodgers' memories are watching the games from his Grandmother's living room in Oxnard, CA and packing in on Friday nights with his family of 7 to Chavez Ravine. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics, and still resides in enemy territory. He plans on naming his first born after Chase Utley.

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