10/20/09 5:19 PM EST
Dodgers extend Colletti to long-term deal
Length not disclosed, but GM to remain for significant period
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"Besides last night?" he replied, referring to the crushing 5-4 walk-off loss his club suffered against the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
Colletti remains, as does his dry sense of humor. How long he's signed, however, is officially a big secret. Colletti and the club intentionally refused to define what "long term" means. When he was originally signed, both sides announced a four-year deal.
"It's a long-term deal and I'll be here for a long time and maybe here for longer than that," said Colletti.
Colletti spoke of his mission to bring stability and continuity to the organization, and in keeping with that, said his signing was a symbolic statement that the club will continue in the direction he set in spite of the recent confirmation by owner Frank McCourt and CEO Jamie McCourt of their separation.
"Had I thought this was not the right place, I wouldn't be here," he said. "I don't have to be here. I believe in the people here and the direction we're going. It is the right place to be. It's not a decision I made under duress."
Under Colletti, the Dodgers have won consecutive division titles for the first time since 1977-78 and reached the postseason in three of his four years. The last time that happened was 1963-66, nine general managers ago.
"One of our core promises to our fans is championship-caliber baseball, year in and year out," said owner Frank McCourt. "Ned has been instrumental in our going a long way towards fulfilling that promise. I couldn't be happier for him, both personally and professionally. The stability and continuity that extending his contract provides will further help us achieve the goal of being a consistent winner and I'm thrilled that he will continue to lead our baseball operations into the future."
This year, Colletti provided manager Joe Torre with five in-season acquisitions -- George Sherrill, Vicente Padilla, Ronnie Belliard, Jon Garland and Jim Thome -- that were instrumental in varying degrees to the club locking up the division and the home-field advantage.
That came after Colletti spent the winter keeping alive contract talks with Manny Ramirez, whose acquisition by Colletti the previous summer carried the Dodgers to the postseason as Ramirez captivated the city.
Colletti also re-signed free-agent infielders Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake and rebuilt the pitching staff with the acquisitions of Randy Wolf, Jeff Weaver and Guillermo Mota. His biggest coup might have been the signing of second baseman Orlando Hudson when other clubs were scared off by a career-threatening wrist injury. Hudson became an All-Star.
More importantly, Colletti resisted the temptation to trade away Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Jonathan Broxton, James Loney, Russell Martin and Chad Billingsley in recent years for quick fixes and kept intact the nucleus of a club that had the best record in the National League.
He said signing those core players to long-term contracts would be considered "in a case-by-case situation."
"It's got to be right for them and for us, too," he said. "We're not losing any of those players to free agency for a few years. It will be based on how hard they play and how hard they'll continue to play if they get a long-term deal."
Colletti was criticized for the 2006 signing of free agent pitcher Jason Schmidt, who won only three games in three seasons; for signing Andruw Jones, who was released halfway through his two-year contract; and for giving a five-year contract to outfielder Juan Pierre.
He said the toughest part of his four years was balancing rebuilding and winning.
"Balancing what you know and being patient with the urge and desire, hearing about '88 [the last World Series win] and fixing it overnight," he said, "athletics isn't like that. It takes time to get their feet on the ground.
"Some decisions were made out of impatience or in part trying to turn around 71-91 [the record of the 2005 team he inherited]. In hindsight, we wouldn't have made those decisions. In the last two years, our decisions have been keener and more fine-tuned. There's less impatience. We've had to have patience with the players, it's important in making 71-91 go away."
One of Colletti's first moves was one of his best, dealing the troubled Milton Bradley to Oakland for Ethier. He also signed Japanese free agents Takashi Saito and Hiroki Kuroda.
Colletti, 54, was hired to replace Paul DePodesta on Nov. 16, 2005, signing a four-year deal with a mutual option for 2010 and inheriting the team that had gone 71-91. He came to the Dodgers after 11 years with the San Francisco Giants, the last nine as assistant general manager. Before that, he worked for the Chicago Cubs in the public relations and baseball operations departments. His professional career began as a sportswriter in Philadelphia.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.