Who will lead the Dodgers?

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

Paul DePodesta should have been heading to Palm Springs, Calif., today for the annual general managers' meetings.

Instead, the Los Angeles Dodgers GM is now an ex-GM, fired a week ago and described as a "mistake hire" by the team's owner, Frank McCourt.

Now, the Dodgers, who were in the midst of interviewing managerial candidates to replace Jim Tracy, have asked for and received permission to interview former Texas Rangers GM John Hart.

McCourt tried to switch from new school to old school, but Pat Gillick, a native Californian and a Toronto resident, turned down the Dodgers to take the GM job with the Philadelphia Phillies. This despite Dodgers special adviser Tommy Lasorda telling people to pray that Gillick would wake up thinking of Dodger Blue.

There have been tales of Lasorda and his protege, Bobby Valentine, who managed in Japan during the 2005, running an end-around, or worse, on DePodesta. Executives say rumours of Valentine returning to the Dodgers, where he played from 1969-72, have died down since he has been offered a three-year deal by the Chiba Lotte Marines after winning the Japan Series against the Hanshin Tigers.

Valentine could earn $4 million US per season in Japan, which is likely out of the Dodgers' price range.

Before DePodesta departeds, he packed up everything in his office -- except for a picture of Lasorda.

As for possible successors, let's not forget Orel Hershiser. On the final Wednesday of the regular season, the former Dodgers starter met with McCourt to interview for the vacant manager's job.

Rangers owner Tom Hicks had a verbal agreement with assistant GM Grady Fuson to take over for Hart after 2004 season.

Hershiser, then a Rangers coach, met with Hicks in July of 2004. The next day, Fuson was told the GM plan was off the table. Fuson left the organization soon after.

Hershiser could wind up as the Dodgers' GM in waiting under Hart. The pair are close from their days with the Rangers.

DePodesta didn't really interact well with others, even his own staff. Office workers were told rather than bothering him on the phone they were to e-mail him with such news that "Billy Beane is on Line 2," or "Kenny Williams ... Line 1."

DePodesta paid Tim Wallach $70,000 US to be the Dodgers hitting coach, below what most major-league hitting instructors earn. He fired long-time scout Don Welke after the 2004 season via a letter and referred to scouts simply as "noise."

"I went into Dodger Stadium late in the season for a 10-game homestand," said one National League scout during the post-season. "I didn't see the guy once in the lunch room, the way you see J.P. Ricciardi or other GMs before a game.

"DePodesta didn't want to learn anything from us 'dumb guys.' Brian Cashman, on the other hand, is a bright young guy, who respects the veteran scouts."

In his 20 months on the job -- beating Frank Wren's longevity run by 7 1/2 months with the Baltimore Orioles, DePodesta allowed Adrian Beltre and Steve Finley to walk as free agents and dealt Shawn Green.

He brought in free agents Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Jose Valentin and Derek Lowe. Drew was injured and Kent squabbled with teammate Milton Bradley. Neither Brad Penny, acquired the year before from the Florida Marlins -- when former Marlins manager John Bowles filed a report telling DePodesta not to deal for the pitcher due to injuries -- and Lowe underachieved.

What next for the Dodgers? They could hire Washington Nationals GM Jim Bowden or White Sox's special assistant Dennis Gilbert, a former agent who would be an excellent choice, or Theo Epstein, who walked away from the Boston Red Sox last week, turning down a three-year offer of $4.5 million. Was it a case of not enough money or too much Larry Lucchino?

Can the Dodgers top that, or have they become cheap second cousins to the Los Angeles Angels?


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