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A lot challenges face Dave Wallace and the new general manager

4-24-01

When the Los Angeles Dodgers forced their general manager Kevin Malone to resign last week, they appointed Dave Wallace as their interim general manager until a new permanent general manager can be found.  Though the season had started, many decisions face Wallace.  The Dodgers need to reshape during the season to be considered a serious contender for the National League Western Division title.

Dave Wallace returned to the Dodger organization last December after a three-year absence.  He is a classy individual who knows baseball, especially pitching.  When Wallace returned to the Dodgers, most people believed Wallace was being groomed and to be Malone's replacement.  However, now Wallace says he does not want the general manager job because he loves working with young players.  Though Wallace has never been a general manager, he is qualified for the job.

Wallace must get the focus off him and what he says, and the media and the fans must focus on his baseball actions.  Malone made almost a mockery of the general manager job by his desire to have attention.  Though Malone did make some good small moves, not many remember them.  We remember the signings of Kevin Brown, Devon White, Carlos Perez, and Shawn Green where he gave too much money away.  We remember when Malone made outlandish comments, such as “new sheriff in town” and “Dodger Boy.”  Wallace does not crave public attention, and he probably will not make outlandish comments to embarrass the Dodger organization.

Because the season is happening, Wallace will have to make critical decisions.  Players get injured and healthy.  The general manager's job is to decide who to promote when a player goes on the disabled list and who to demote when a player comes off.   When a player performs badly, Wallace, as acting general manager, must decide whether to demote the player to the minor leagues, to trade him, to keep him, or to release him.  Though the Dodgers hope to find a permanent general manager by the All-Star break, Wallace must consider trades to help the Dodgers during the stretch drive.  

The first decision that Wallace faces is what to do with Carlos Perez.  Since Perez signed a three-year contract worth $15.5 million in 1999, he has not pitched satisfactorily.  The Dodgers hoped last September's shoulder surgery would improve his performance.  However, apparently it has not when he has an ERA over 5.00 at triple-A Las Vegas during a rehabilitation assignment.  The Dodgers have until May 5 to promote Perez or release him.  Bob Daly has been reluctant to release him with such a large contract.  Perez did experience some success as a reliever.  However, Perez does not like relieving, and probably he will complain about it in the newspapers.

Wallace must decide whether the Dodgers should keep Jose Antonio Nuñez on the 25-man roster or risk losing him if they send him to the minor leagues.  Nuñez is a talented 22-year-old left-handed reliever who has never pitched higher than Class A.  The Dodgers obtained Nuñez with the Rule V draft from the New York Mets organization.  The Rule V draft allows a major league team to select a player, who did not make the 40-man major league roster after a certain amount of time in the minor leagues, out of another major league organization.  It stipulates the team must keep the drafted player on the 25-man major league roster for the entire season or the team must offer the drafted player to his original organization for $25,000.  Nuñez has already proven he needs more seasoning before he pitches in the major leagues. Because left-handers are so rare in baseball and Nuñez is so talented, it is almost a certainty the Mets will want Nuñez back.

The Dodgers must have a better on-base percentage to have a satisfactory opportunity to win their division.  If Marquis Grissom and Tom Goodwin prove they cannot get on base at least 33 percent of the time, the Dodgers must trade for a decent leadoff hitter.  Alex Cora has not proven he can hit above .230 in the major leagues.   If he cannot, the Dodgers must find another shortstop.  Shawn Green, Gary Sheffield, and Eric Karros can produce many runs only if they have runners on base in front of them.

Wallace must decide what to do with Angel Peña.  Peña is a 25-year-old talented catcher.   He has a strong throwing arm and the ability to hit home runs.  Although the Dodgers were not impressed with his work ethnic and Peña has had weight control problems, he has not lost his abilities.  This year he went to Duke Weight Center to learn how to control his weight, and he also has worked hard.  Because he had an impressive spring and was out of options, he made the major league 25-man roster as the Dodgers' third catcher, behind Chad Kreuter and Paul Lo Duca.  Since the season started, Peña's skills have been rusting on the bench.  Wallace must decide whether the Dodgers should keep or trade Peña.

Though the Dodgers might be better off without Kevin Malone, Dave Wallace has inherited a difficult job. The Dodgers want to find a permanent general manager as quickly as possible, but the search for a general manager will take a while.  The Los Angeles Times has speculated the Dodgers are interested in John Hart of the Cleveland Indians and Billy Beane of the Oakland A's among others.

© Sarah D. Morris

 

 

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