Monday, February 28, 2005

Missing Beltre

With the baseball season gearing up, I reaffirm my allegiance to the Dodgers - but it won't be easy this year. I grew up with the team, always looking forward to my next trip to the stadium, knowing all the players, living and dying with their results. Like many kids, I used to sneak a transistor radio into my bed to listen to games. In later years, when I was living in northern California, I used to drive to a spot a few miles from home where my car radio could find the nearest Dodger broadcast. I find something in Vin Scully's voice akin to what infants find in their mothers'.

I have been very disappointed by the Dodgers' latest off-season moves. For many years now, especially since the O'Malley's sold the team, my love and loyalty to the club have made me feel rather stupid in the face of their bumbling and underperforming. Last year, when the team finally played up to its capability, and finally showed some real love, I though that my loyalty had finally been rewarded. But then they let Adrian Beltre go to Seattle, with seemingly little effort on their part.

Today's LA Times features a Bill Plaschke interview with our departed third baseman. While the article is marred by Plaschke's typically maudlin style, it shows that Beltre is clearly disappointed by the turn of events. He wanted to remain a Dodger, and says he would have taken less money to do so.

Here's a key part of the article:
"The bottom line is, the Dodgers didn't want to sign me," he says. "If they had only talked to me and told me their plan, I would have signed for less money to stay there. I needed to hear it from them. We could have worked it out. But they never even talked to me."

The communication problems that were a virus to Paul DePodesta's first off-season as Dodger general manager were particularly destructive here.

Beltre says the last time he spoke to owner McCourt or DePodesta was during a Dodger Stadium meeting a couple of days before Thanksgiving.

"They both told me that I was their top priority, that they wanted me back," he says.

He hasn't heard from either man since.

He canceled a trip to the Dominican Republic to await their call but never heard.

He hung out in an Arcadia home he had purchased a couple of months earlier because he thought he would stay a Dodger but never heard.

He thought about how both men made a similar "priority" promise to him during the division-clinching celebration, but still he never heard.

He read where the Dodgers were negotiating with Corey Koskie to replace him … but still never heard.

According to Beltre, when the Dodgers finally did make an offer, they first had to be phoned several times and finally tracked down by agent Scott Boras, who warned that three other teams had made offers with 24-hour deadlines.

When somebody finally did call him back, it was not DePodesta but assistant general manager Kim Ng. She delivered an offer for almost $3 million less annually than the Mariners' $64-million offer and the Detroit Tigers' $90-million offer.

"But it wasn't about the money, and that offer would have been fine," Beltre says. "But they never explained their strategy to me. They never told me what they were doing. They never let me feel I was part of things."

I know that this is only Beltre's side of the story, but this makes me very, very sad. Well, I guess I am supposed to console myself with the thought that even though Jose Valentine barely hit his weight last year and has an iron glove, he did get quite a few walks.

No comments: