Walls Now Closing In On Dodger GM Ned Colletti

Thanks to a pitching staff in absolute shambles, the Dodgers are currently in last place in the pedestrian National League West and owner of MLB’s second-worst record (8-13). 21 games into the season, three of the Dodgers five-man starting pitching rotation have an ERA over 5.00 and two of those hurlers, Vincente Padilla and Charlie Haeger, have earned run averages over 7.

Ned Colletti Festival of Fake Hair

(Colletti gave Kemp a piece of his mind)

With the team five games under .500, highlighting the Dodger pitching woes is an offense that is third in MLB in hits and batting average.

Despite those facts, General Manager Ned Colletti chose to lash out at Matt Kemp on Wednesday for his poor play on a L.A. radio show. (Kemp is currently hitting .292 and second in the major leagues with seven home runs.)

Not surprisingly, Kemp and his agent Dave Stewart were distinctly displeased with Colletti’s seemingly misplaced priorities. Stewart went so far to hint that Colletti’s comments might come into play once Kemp is contractually free to leave the team.

So what was it that had Kemp and Stewart so upset?

Wednesday morning on KABC-AM radio in L.A., Colletti said of Kemp:

“Some guys, I guess, think that they’re better than they are. They think the opposition’s just going to roll over and get beat by them. That obviously doesn’t happen. The baserunning’s below average. The defense is below average. Why is it? Because he got a new deal? I can’t tell you.”

That “new deal” was a $10M, two-year contract. Paltry in comparison to many MLB players with similar production to Kemp.

Yes, the gold glove-winning centerfielder has not played well in the field this season and has also had trouble on the bases, but to chastise one of the club’s young superstars, who is reknowned by manager Joe Torre for his work ethic, showed bad judgement on Colletti’s part.  (Not that that would be anything new for him.)

Colletti later was confronted by the L.A. media about his comment and asked if he talked to Kemp.

“I told him I didn’t single him out, the same thing I told [the media] earlier. We had a five-minute conversation.

After being asked how the matter is now perceived by the two, Colletti said, “It’s fine with me.”

Colletti’s defense is that he was asked specifically about Kemp, which he was. But that, actually, is beside the point. His comments were inappropriate in the context of the real reason for the Dodgers crappy early season. And Colletti suggesting that Kemp’s modest salary (by MLB standards) was the reason for his poor play in the field this season was flatly asinine.

Kemp was also asked about Colletti’s comments:

“I ain’t got nothing to say about that. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s all good. People can say what they want to say. I just work hard and try to help this team win.”

Kemp doesn’t care what his GM has to say about his play? Colletti is “people“?

In this case, I  can’t really say that I blame Kemp for his dismissive and somewhat disrespectful reaction.

Later Wedneday, Kemp’s agent Dave Stewart appeared on the Mason and Ireland Show on KSPN-AM in Los Angeles to address the matter of Colletti’s comments:

“When it comes time for Matt to arbitrate two years from now, we’re going to look at that situation and do what’s best for Matt. When it comes time for Matt to be a free agent three years from now, we’re going to look at that situation in the same way as I would with Chad Billingsley, my other client on that ballclub.

“This kind of thing in all the years I’ve been in baseball has never happened with any general manager on any team I’ve ever played on where you single out a player and you hold him accountable for the outcome of what 24 other players are doing as well. There are 25 players on a team.”

The irony of this exchange is that if the Dodgers keep up this losing pace, Kemp will easily outlast Colletti as a member of the organization. Of course, Colletti does deserve some of the blame for the Dodgers pitching performance this season, but most of it should be directed at the owners of the team, Frank and Jamie McCourt.

Thanks to the uncertain outcome of their current divorce proceeding, the McCourts made no effort to provide the funds needed to acquire a single quality starting pitcher in the offseason. The same now-estranged couple has also taken $120 million out of the value of the franchise in recent years, while hamstringing the team with an embarrassingly low payroll.

While Colletti will probably be the first to go if the Dodgers can’t turn things around, the real culprit in the franchise’s disastrous state now clearly resides in the (5-star) ownership  suite.