Aflac Duck: With the sweep by the Rockies and the Dodgers playoff hopes down the drain, Ned Colleti has graciously accepted our invitation to chat since it appears the Dodger Talk host will never contact him.
AFLAC DUCK: Welcome Ned, now remember you promised to make this a worthwhile interview and to keep the PR spin to a minimum.
Ned: Let er rip.
AFLAC DUCK: Let's go around the diamond. Until today, James Loney had put together an incredible Sept, as he tries to put the myth that he doesn't have enough power for the position to sleep. He's also the smoothest 1st baseman the Dodgers have seen since the days of Wes Parker. After countless Dodger prospects (Brock, Stubbs, Marshal) have failed to impress after stellar minor league campaigns, is this the guy who will finally make Dodger fans forget about Steve Garvey?
Ned: No question, James Loney is the future 1st baseman for the Dodgers. I made a few mistakes last winter, but not trusting James, as our 1st baseman may have been the biggest. I believed in James but just didn't think he was ready, but he was. I'm sure glad I didn't take Kent's advice and trade him for that Texas 1st baseman with all the vowels.
AFLAC DUCK: Speaking of Jeff Kent, he is still an offensive force at 2nd base, but does that make up for the surly disposition, the statuesque defense, the terrible base running, and the disdain he shows for his teammates when they don't do what he feels was the right thing. He continues to slide head first into home, and I cringed when I saw James Loney doing that the other day. He's supposed to be teaching the kids the right way to play baseball, not the stupid way. One broken finger could ruin a season compared to a run. He's vested for next year. Do you want him back?
Ned: I wish I had 9 Jeff Kent's.
AFLAC DUCK: Come on, you hate him as much as everyone else.
Ned: Ha, I forgot how much I hated Kent when we had him in SF. In fact I rooted for Bonds during the fight. Jeff Kent has some issues, the main one being he's a prick when things don't go his way and he's a prick when things do go his way. He's probably headed for the HOF, so he gets free reign. Besides Grady and I are scared to death of him. Have you ever been stared at by him? It is like he's crushing your brain between his two eyes. I'll be honest with you; at this point I'd love for him to retire. That extension was probably not one of my better moves. With James entrenched at 1st base we no longer have a spot we can just move him to when he's no longer able to play 2nd base.
AFLAC DUCK:Most Dodger fans would say he hasn't been able to play 2nd base since the day he was signed. Let's move on.
AFLAC DUCK: Rafy Furcal was the club MVP in 2006, but after suffering the ankle injury, he just never got on track in 2007. His defense didn't seem to suffer, but the power was MIA and the OB skills dropped. His final year is 2008 and you have a top prospect waiting in the wings in Hu. What's going to happen in 2008 at SS?
Ned: We expect Rafy to come back and give us a big year in his walk year.
AFLAC DUCK: Your comfortable with letting Rafy walk after 2008?
Ned: We will talk to him about an extension. Hu has talent but we can't play every kid just because they have talent. Someone has to be the veteran to get the kids through the tough times. If we can ink Rafy to an extension, Hu might see a lot of time at 2nd base. Can you imagine the defense up the middle with Hu and Rafy? If we can't get Rafy to sign an extension then we will have to look hard at Hu as the option for 2009 but we will bring in a veteran as plan B.
AFLAC DUCK: Okay, now your biggest problem. You signed Nomar to play 1st and when James pushed him off of 1st you traded Betemit and moved Nomar to 3b. You have some real problems here. You have the veteran making 10 million who wants to play everyday, but doesn't really have the skills anymore. You have a kid who looked to have a great future until the back thing got in the way. Are you comfortable with Nomar and La Roche in 2008?
Ned: The fans still love Nomar, and he did hit with runners in scoring position, but his health is a huge issue. We could really have used his PVL in Aug when the team was struggling and he wasn't available. Andy was going to get the call when his back gave out. We can't really take the chance that he does his exercises and is ready to play in 2008. 3b is a position I will need to address. If we go into 2008 with Nomar/Andy and the same thing happens that happened in August I'll be stuck without a 3b. I was lucky enough this year that I was able to bring a Shea Hillenbrand in to fill the void but you can't count on that magic happening every season. We might have to look east for a better solution.
AFLAC DUCK: East, whoa Nellie, that is going to raise some eyebrows. Are you thinking you have a shot in the Arod sweepstakes?
Ned: No, we don't have the payroll to go after Arod. McCourt would love to get Arod but he doesn't want to outspend his competition to such a point that he's optimizing the advantage of being in the biggest market in the West. It wouldn't be fair to use our 3.5 Million fans to an economic advantage over our NL competitors and mess with the balance that has been achieved.
AFLAC DUCK: But Frank and the boss have both said they would love to see the Franchise get 4 million fans. Wouldn't Arod just about guarantee they hit that number?
Ned: Sure, but there is more to it then winning at the box office and winning on the field?
AFLAC DUCK: Such as?
Ned: Competitive balance
AFLAC DUCK: I don't think the fans give a quack about competitive balance.
Ned: Probably not, but sometimes you just have to do the right thing. We are not the Yankee's or Boston. We care about what is right for baseball
AFLAC DUCK: Okay, were not getting anywhere here, so your talking Lowell then?
Ned: I'd love Mike Lowell on our team, but I just can't see the Red Sox giving him up. He's been a major reason for their success this year.
AFLAC DUCK: Certainly not Troy Glaus, the man can barely run?
Ned: We looked at Glaus early this year but no, the injury concerns are too great.
AFLAC DUCK: Now you're making me nervous, not that it takes much to make a duck nervous. So what are you talking about?
Ned: My old trading partners who I fleeced last year for Lugo and Hendrickson have a bit of a logjam. They have this kid Longoria who needs to play next year and he's a 3b, but they already have a 3b that has a nice contract and showed that he can play in the major leagues. They also need a 2nd or SS, which we have. I can't say anything more but Sammy may have someone to converse with by next year.
AFLAC DUCK: I can understand your reluctance to give the 3b job to La Roche given the uncertainty of his disk problem, but what would you do with him and Nomar? Nomar is not going to want to take a back seat is he?
Ned: That is a problem. I never should have signed him. Given his health, his bad 2nd half in 2006, I don't know what I was thinking. I just panicked when JD left and thought that maybe Nomar could be the guy he was in the 1st half of 2006. Hopefully he'll just go away.
AFLAC DUCK: We'd all love to see him just go away but it doesn't work that way.
Ned: My head hurts, can we move on.
AFLAC DUCK: Sure, we at AFLACK understand about headaches. Okay, let's talk about the best thing on the Dodgers, Russel Martin. Were you concerned that he lead all catchers in games played, innings?
Ned: Yes, I gave Grady what I thought was an excellent backup catcher. Evidently he was not good enough. I'm not sure what to do for 2008. Do I just let someone like Moeller take the job since he's never going to play anyway? As long as Russell holds up were okay. Since he plays everyday no good backup catcher wants to come here and rust away so I think I'm stuck just going with the fringe backup, and hoping Russell has another year like 2007 in him. For me Russell is the MVP on the team.
AFLAC DUCK: Are you going to buy out his arbitration years?
Ned: Hell yeah. He's the heart and soul of this team.
AFLAC DUCK: Let's head to the outfield. We will start in Left Field. Gonzo did what you expected the 1st half, maybe even surpassing expectations, but as the season winds down it is clear he has been surpassed by the kids. Will he be back in 2008?
Ned: No, Gonzo gave us the bridge to the kids, and we appreciate that but we won't have any need for his services going forward. Andre Ethier will be our everyday outfielder in 2008. Were very pleased with his performance and expect Andre to be a solid contributor for years to come.
AFLAC DUCK: So then let's skip center and head to RF. If Andre is penciled in to be the LF, I assume Matt Kemp will be the RF?
Ned: Yes, Matt Kemp will be the RF. He has a chance to be one of the great Dodgers. In fact, I think your going to see a historical team. With James, Matt, and Russell you have the nucleus that should make Dodger fans very happy in the future.
AFLAC DUCK:Do you any regrets about letting Werth go and not trusting Kemp and Ethier to handle the outfield?
Ned:None, you can't just hand jobs to rookies. Look what happened to Gordon and Marte.
AFLAC DUCK:What about Pence and Braun?
Ned:They percolated 1st. I'm all about percolation.
AFLAC DUCK: Okay then, which brings us to CF. Juan Pierre started out slow, looked unsure of himself in the field and many fans never took to him. Especially the analytical fans who didn't want him in the 1st place.
Ned: I've made some flippant comments about Juan during our prior sessions but honestly I do feel he gets a bad rap. Yes, he played CF in April like a man on cheap roller-skates, but if anyone was paying attention as the season went on he adjusted to Dodger Stadium and I thought he played a superb CF during the 2nd half of the season.
AFLAC DUCK: The on base skills for a lead off hitter still seem to be lacking?
Ned: He had a lot of bad luck bunting. Our intern showed me some numbers that showed his bunting % was way down compared to his norm. This intern used the word "normalize" saying that with a normal year he'd be spot on his career numbers.
AFLAC DUCK: That would still be below normal for a leadoff hitter.
Ned: I'll take you word for it but I think he makes up for his lack of OB skills, with his stolen bases and the problems he causes the opposition. Sure, we'd love for him to morph into Brett Butler but that isn't going to happen. At the end of the day I'm completely satisfied with the job Juan Pierre has done for us.
AFLAC DUCK: How about his arm. It isn't unusual for a catcher to go 1st to 3rd on a single to CF against him. Are you worried about how many runs his arm gives up? I've seen some estimates of up to 30 runs?
Ned: That is absurd. Our intern says that is a bunch of hooey.
AFLAC DUCK: You foresee any forays into the free agent market in the positional area? If so are you going to deal with Scott Boras?
Ned: I'm not afraid to deal with Boras. If you think I look stupid now, how stupid would I have looked if I'd given in to Boras and given JD the hellish contract that Boston is saddled with?
AFLAC DUCK: Pretty stupid, but since you gave Kent an extension, Nomar a two year deal, Schmidt a 3 year deal, and Pierre a 5 year deal it is not like your looking like the brightest bulb in the room anyway.
Ned: My head hurts, I need something to eat.
AFLAC DUCK: I've still got some soft gooey stuff in the frig...