Colletti pointed and concise in Q&A session
SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers are down to the nitty gritty, with six games to go in the regular season and the National League's new No. 2 Wild Card slot a viable possibility if they run the table.Before Thursday night's key game against the Padres at Petco Park, general manager Ned Colletti sat down with MLB.com for an exclusive interview. He spoke about the frustrations of this season, particularly since the big Aug. 25 trade that brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto over from the Red Sox. As for the near future, Colletti confirmed that he will return next year as GM on a mutual option with these three words: "I'll be here." When asked if he expected the same out of manager Don Mattingly, he simply said: "Yes." Colletti also confirmed that he allowed himself a moment of expression in the clubhouse after the Dodgers lost here on Tuesday night.
Overall, Colletti was pointed and concise about the future and a season on the brink.MLB.com: What's your take on the season to this point? Colletti: I think we've had three different seasons in one. ... For the first six to eight weeks, we played great. We were pretty much as good as you can be. Then we started to have injuries. We lost Matt Kemp with a hamstring injury for 51 games. We lost Mark Ellis. That happened within four or five days of each other. A few weeks later, we lose Andre Ethier. So we had the second hitter, the third hitter and the fourth hitter all out of the lineup. Plus Ted Lilly. Plus Matt Guerrier. So we had this stretch when we were really banged up in some key areas. Then the third part of the season, we started to get healthy. We acquired Hanley Ramirez and Brandon League and Joe Blanton and Shane Victorino and made the Boston deal. No season is really the same from beginning to end, but this was pretty unusual. This one had three different pieces to it. MLB.com: Do you think there has been enough time for all these parts to fit together? Colletti: What guys have been through as a group is always going to be a factor. The guys who are together the beginning of camp are different than those who come on Aug. 25. At the same time, you also have expectations. There was so much fanfare around that trade. It's natural for players to come in and press and want to do well. Sometimes the harder you try, the tougher it gets. Still, in Adrian's case you're talking about 20 RBIs in a month. I'll take that. I'll take that the rest of his Dodger career. The deals we made were to really give us a chance to win this year, but [also] to fortify ourselves going forward. When we made these trades, we thought that these players were going to be with us for a while. MLB.com: And one of them, Crawford, you may not have until well into next season because of Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. Colletti: No, there's a chance Carl opens the season with us. There's also a chance that it will take a little while longer. But by the time we get to May, 30 days in, his arm should be at full strength. He'll be able to hit in a couple of months. So by the time we open Spring Training, the hitting piece of it should be fine. It's going to be the throwing and developing the arm strength, and that should take him a little while. That's why I'm thinking he may be playable on Opening Day. It may not be the arm of a Gold Glove outfielder on Opening Day, but his arm should be at full strength by May. MLB.com: Talking about next year, there hasn't been a formal announcement by the club about your future. Where do you stand? Colletti: I'll be here. MLB.com: How did that work itself out? Colletti: It's been fun. I've had great conversations with [Dodger president] Stan [Kasten] going back to Spring Training and in April just prior to them taking ownership and practically every day since. Everything has been great. It's been a great experience working with these people, Stan on a day-to-day basis. He's someone who understands baseball very well. He's been in the game for three decades. He understands the ups and downs of a season -- expectations, injuries and all those factors. It's good to have somebody like that around. And Magic [Johnson] is there a lot. We have conversations about team building. The sports are different -- basketball and baseball -- but you're still talking about human beings and you're still talking about athletics, achievement and a championship mind-set. It's been a really good few months. MLB.com: That must be a breath of fresh air after last year, with all the financial problems and the ownership upheaval. Colletti: You learn to concentrate on what you can positively control to a certain extent and make things as good as possible. There was a lesson to be learned in that. As much as you had different things going on around the club, there really was nothing we could do about any of it. Don did a great job with it. We talked about it all the time. We just had to stay focused on having our guys ready to play the best you can on the field every day. The rest of it we had no control over, so why spend a lot of time worrying about it? At the end of the day, you're only in charge of yourself. You only have your own effort that you need to be accountable for. As long as the focus is on that, you're going to be in a good spot. MLB.com: So Donnie is back next year, too? Colletti: Yes. MLB.com: That wasn't a hard decision, right? Colletti: No. MLB.com: What do you like, as he's developed over two years as a manager? Colletti: He continues to learn every day. He's open-minded. He's ultra-competitive. And a very hard worker. When you're open-minded and you're very competitive and you work tirelessly at what you do, you're going to have a lot of success, whether that's in baseball or any other aspect of life. That's a huge thing. MLB.com: As competitive as you are, I can just imagine this must be frustrating to be hanging on for dear life in the playoff race with six games left to go. Colletti: Yeah, but I'm fine with it as long as you still have a chance. We've gone through a tough stretch. But that's competitive sports, and that's the baseball season. You do get frustrated from time to time, but you have enough games from the first of April to the third of October to win. We haven't always taken advantage of that, but with six games to go, we still have a chance. MLB.com: So there was a little blowup in the clubhouse after Tuesday night's loss here. We heard that was you. Colletti: I had a passionate exchange in the coach's room. MLB.com: What was the message? Colletti: Were you invited? MLB.com: No, but I wish I was. Colletti: It was just a bit of an evaluation. MLB.com: Do you feel this team has underachieved? Colletti: I think it's tough to tell, because we've made so many changes and so many different things happened. Whenever you have injuries to key players, it changes your dynamic. When a guy like Matt Kemp comes back after missing 51 games, it's tough to play yourself back into shape. You don't have six weeks of Spring Training that you can inject into a season. It's so much more compact and so much shorter. When you have an injury as serious as he had, it really changed the whole context of the season. So to say that we underachieved as a team, to grade that, you almost have to have a full complement all year. If Matt Kemp had played 162 games, if everybody had played the full year and we didn't make trades we made and all the adjustments that they entailed, it might be a different dynamic. We might have as many DL days as any team in baseball. It's unfair to characterize it as underachieving, because we fought through so many things.
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.