L.A. again counting on pitching, defense

Updated: March 26, 2004, 2:06 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Paul DePodesta needs to wean himself off Oakland, and quickly. When asked to assess his new team, the Dodgers, he instinctively responds by comparing them with his old team, the Athletics.

Paul DePodesta
Paul DePodesta learned his craft with the A's as Billy Beane's right-hand man.
Here's why: The 2003 A's led the American League with a 3.63 earned run average and ranked first in fewest homers and hits allowed. The pitching of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder compensated for a mediocre offense and helped the A's win 96 games and make the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

The 2003 Dodgers also relied heavily on pitching, leading the National League with a 3.16 ERA and allowing the fewest home runs and hits. Kevin Brown, Hideo Nomo and Eric Gagne compensated for a pathetic offense and helped the Dodgers win 85 games and finish 15½ games behind San Francisco in the NL West.

Hey, you can't have everything.

"When you have that kind of pitching, you don't need to be the '27 Yankees to win a lot of games and give yourself a chance to play meaningful games in September," said DePodesta, who signed a five-year contract in February to replace Dan Evans as Los Angeles' GM.

Oakland GM Billy Beane, DePodesta's former boss, routinely said DePodesta was "slumming" in baseball and would be equally comfortable in, say, the investment banking world. DePodesta just happens to love baseball and the art of making all the pieces fit. At 31, he's ready to put his Harvard economics degree and underrated people skills to use and implement his long-term vision for the Los Angeles franchise.

Short-term, he has problems. The Dodgers' offense is still feeble, and DePodesta is short on the money and time required to fix it.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer