Culture Change

On InsideSocal.com, J.P. Hoornstra wrote a blog on December 30, 2017 about O’Koyea Dickson going to Japan.  I took me until today to read it because J.P. seldom posts there… the last time he posted was on July 23, 2017, where he wrote about Clayton Kershaw Leaving the Game With a Back Injury. So, him writing a post there was an actual event.  When I saw the post entitled: “Headed for Japan, O’Koyea Dickson reflects on his Dodgers tenure.” I almost didn’t read it.  I don’t have time to read every items about the Dodgers, and while O’Koyea Dickson was a First Class Human Being, I admit I almost skipped it because I tend to look forward rather than backwards. As I read it, something really jumped out to me.  Read this part and then I’ll talk about it:

Being the eighth-longest tenured player in the organization comes with an iota of perspective. Dickson was a 12th-round draft pick in June 2011, six rounds after Barlow. Logan White was the Dodgers’ amateur scouting director then, Ned Colletti the general manager. Gabe Kapler had just retired after being cut in spring training.

To hear Dickson tell it, the regime change had a significant impact.

“Having (farm director) De Jon Watson and (minor league field coordinator) Jeter Hines was a total complete 180 once (Andrew) Friedman and Kapler came over,” Dickson said. “I felt like we were kind of caged in. I don’t think they were allowing us to be the players that we all could be. Some of the limitations were kind of on us a little bit, whether it was the clean-shaven, wearing your pants a certain way – the ‘Dodger way’ – it felt like we were limiting ourselves. No disrespect to De Jon and Jeter, that’s how they wanted the organization, or at least the minor league side, ran. Some players blossomed in it. Some players didn’t. When Friedman and Kapler came in – ‘you can be the player you want; you know what your strengths and weaknesses are; continue to better your weaknesses but we’re going to focus on your strengths’ – complete 180 for sure. It was kind of an eye-opener.”

While respectful and not throwing anyone under the bus, Dickson said a mouthful in what might be his last Dodger interview.  Essentially, he said that the old front office was more concerned with appearances and order than they were with growing the farm. When Friedman and Kapler came in, it was a complete 180!  That day was the Day the Culture began to change for the Dodgers’ Farm System.

De Jon Watson and Logan White are first class human beings and I am not writing this to be mean, but “culture” is almost an intangible… except that it’s not! The cover photo is of De Jon Watson giving me a tour of the Minor League Side of Canelback Ranch and he was pure class. I wish him well in everything he does.

Culture is also hard to change.  This may explain the sweeping changes in personnel throughout the Dodger coaching and managerial staffs in the first two years of FAZ taking over.  It may also explain why the farm system has been more productive than ever and is one of the best in the game – Culture!

In Live Science, it has this to say about culture:

Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.

The Center for Advance Research on Language Acquisition goes a step further, defining culture as shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. Thus, it can be seen as the growth of a group identity fostered by social patterns unique to the group. 

“Culture encompasses religion, food, what we wear, how we wear it, our language, marriage, music, what we believe is right or wrong, how we sit at the table, how we greet visitors, how we behave with loved ones, and a million other things,” Cristina De Rossi, an anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate College in London, told Live Science.

The word “culture” derives from a French term, which in turn derives from the Latin “colere,” which means to tend to the earth and grow, or cultivation and nurture. “It shares its etymology with a number of other words related to actively fostering growth,” De Rossi said.

Culture is really an excellent term to describe what a farm system does: “Grow, Cultivate and Nurture!” Evidently, it wasn’t doing that when Friedman arrived.  It is now.  Any good gardener knows that plants grow quicker, faster, stronger and more robust with proper weeding, watering, fertilizing and nurturing. It’s takes the right culture.  Culture is a big deal to everyone and especially the kids on the farm.  Past performance may not be an indicator of future results.  Watch these kids flourish as the Farm System builds on their strengths. Great careers usually start with one thing – a Belief!  The right Culture provides a fertile ground for that belief to sprout and grow.

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 37 Comments

  1. Bumsrap said yesterday: Mixed in with the discussion of Puig for Bradlety was mention of a blockbuster with Brewers that included Braun. Might Puig and Kemp have been part of that trade exploration?

    The trade possibility that involved Puig and Braun was in 2016, not this offseason.

    1. I stand corrected and now I have to find where I read that. Good news. I don’t want FAZ to have any interest in Braun.

  2. Culture is now the buzz word. When I am interviewing any potential employee, their first question is what is the culture of the company like. I guess culture was always prevalent, just not the word. Today’s millennials seem to like more freedom of expression and less structure. It seems to be a more of a me thing than we. It doesn’t seem so far fetched that this belief should filter down athletes. How many of us would have thought it was a consideration that athletes would ever kneel down during the singing of the National Anthem. But that is the new culture of self expression.
    .
    I grew up needing structure. Self expression always got me into trouble. I do not welcome the new culture with open arms, but I understand it and accept it. I like tradition, but that also seems to be something that appears to be fading.
    .
    Maybe it is culture, but to me the big change in the Dodgers is their change in philosophy and roster construction. Today’s Dodgers build a 40 man roster, not just a 25 man roster. Starting pitchers going 200-220 innings are no longer necessary to win. Bullpens are now just as important as the starting staff for the 162 game season (not so true for the playoffs). Players who can play multiple positions are sought. Platoons are now considered a necessity rather than an anomaly. The days of 5+ year 9 figure salaries are being phased out, especially for those on the wrong side of 30. Good character is more important than big numbers. Many teams followed these philosophies for financial reasons, but now that the Dodgers, a well financed team, are adopting them as a rule and succeeding, other teams are starting to follow.
    .
    I know that Gabe Kapler believed in exit velocity as a key metric for hitters. Strikeouts were unimportant, but how hard the ball is hit was important. So is nutrition.
    .
    I am not exactly sure what cultural difference existed under Colletti, Watson, and White compared to FAZ, Kapler, and Gasparino, but the changes in farm philosophy and roster structure have sure manifested itself into a first rate run organization, evidenced by being named the #1 organization in MLB. If growing facial hair, growing their hair long, wearing their pants just below the knees or just above the ground are important to the players, so be it. All are unimportant to me as a fan as long as they win.
    .
    Strategy, philosophy, or culture. Whatever it is that is changing, keep it coming. But keep drafting players like O’Koyea Dickson no matter what. He is a tremendous young man who deserves the best. While he may never get a hit in MLB, he will always be a ML player to me.

    1. I think the culture is a by-product of the Dodgers new strategy and philosophy as AC said. Under Friedman, the farm system is the assets that keep the team competitive and those assets must be given the same information and training that the Dodgers get to grow and develop their skills. To me, the Dodgers using more of their 40 man roster and the shuttle between OKC and Dodger Stadium is nothing more than using as much of the assets to get some very short but very meaningful on the job training.

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  4. I am not a huge fan of the Ned Coletti era, even acknowledging that he was hamstrung for much of the time that he was GM (2006 – 2014) by Frank (the crook) McCourt. However, it’s easy to forget that the farm system did produce under Coletti, Logan White, and DeJon Watson.

    Kershaw – drafted 2006
    Witherow – 2007
    Eovaldi – 2008
    Joc Pederson – 2010
    Schebler – 2010
    Tolleson – 2010
    Seager – 2012
    Paco Rodriguez – 2012
    Stripling – 2012
    Cotton – 2012
    Coulombe – 2012
    Bellinger – 2013
    Kyle Farmer – 2013
    DeLeon – 2013
    Verdugo – 2014]
    Stewart – 2014

    Additionally, international signings include, Puig, Jansen, Baez, Urias – and they traded for Ethier as a farmhand.

    I’m not criticizing the Braintrust, but it is simplistic to say that Coletti et al were not successful at drafting and developing big leaguers. Maybe Dickson didn’t like the rules imposed by the prior regime, but that is also an overly-simplistic way of evaluating the team “culture”.

    1. I had a chance to talk with White for several hours. He couldn’t escape. We were sitting next to each other on a 4 hour plane trip. Poor guy. The one thing he emphasized the most was character. He also met with parents to witness first hand the culture the player was raised in.
      .
      There are cultures that existed with FOX news and Hollywood. Some of that culture was harmful and some of it was helpful. I don’t think what Dickson was saying about Watson meant that the culture was harmful but that some players bumped up against the rules more than others.
      .
      Structure is always good if not stifling. Kapler and FAZ helped players to understand more stats and how they measured success in ways that were more beneficial than the old batting average ones. Also, they helped players eat better. Most minor league players eat too many McDonald burgers because they are cheap. Helping them eat better was just one of his contributions.
      .
      It isn’t so much that the Dodgers are a better organization than they used to be and more that they are evolving and improving continuously.

      1. While I absolutely agree that the Dodgers are evolving and improving continuously (as are most MLB teams), I do think they are a far better organization now than existed under Fox or McCourt. I cannot go as far as to say that they are a better organization than those under O’Malley/Campanis and O’Malley/Claire. They certainly are not as successful if you count WS wins as a measurement of success.
        .
        I think the difference between the Colletti/Watson/White regime compared to FAZ/Kapler/Gasparino is the emphasis on the farm system. The prior regime did believe in drafting good young players. Some times they worked, but most of the time not so much. Their reliance on good foreign players was greatly diminished. They were not shy about signing high priced free agents or trading for players with high salaries. The current regime strongly believes in the 40 man. They believe that the long term sustainability of the Dodgers is through the farm system, either through draft, trade, or foreign born assets. While there may be a member on the existing 25 man that may deserve a high priced contract, they have yet to sign one to more than 5 years or $80M. Their AAV comfort seems to be at $16M (2 WAR). Will Kershaw test that strategy, or more importantly will FAZ agree that Kershaw is a once in a generation player that rules do deserve to be broken for.
        .
        I think MLB is taking a different approach to how an organization is built. The new approach is being directed by FAZ. Some like it, MANY MANY do not. I do not know if that is a cultural change, or just a philosophical change.

        1. McCourt certainly didn’t invest in international players and I am sure he sucked as much cash out of the Dodgers as he could, so the minor league system did whatever it did with perhaps less than adequate financial support. I have no idea of the quality of instruction.
          .
          Fox traded Piazza. Enough said for me.

        2. Good points…the emphasis on the farm system started with Kasten and bringing in FAZ was a nod to restoring fiscal sanity. The farm system is now bearing fruit and the 40 man is stocked with versatile players and has gotten progressively younger. They may be going conservative for this year but will be at or slightly over the luxury tax threshold for the next few years to come. I don’t think they have a small market mentality, rather a goal of value and upside and controllable assets. The first test of the small vs big market mentality may well be Kershaw and then what they do with guys like Cory and Cody. I believe they are in very good hands with Faz and that Colletti did a decent job despite moves like Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt. Guggenheim is not afraid to put big money into the front office, minor league system and facilities, coaching, nutrition, drafting, international scouting and spending and Dodger Stadium itself, things that don’t factor into the luxury tax but do cost money.

  5. I agree with Dodgerrick about Colletti. He may not have been as thorough on the farm system as FAZ, but him and Logan White did draft alot of talent over the years. I think a great education for alot of you guys out there is to read his new book”Big Chair”. I am about 3/4 of the way through it, and yes, he was totally hamstrung by McCourt when he had a chance to get help. We had a chance to get C.C. Sabathia in his prime, but McCourt kept telling him the money just wasn’t there.We were real close to getting him. Coletti really gets into depth the constant phone calls to other GM’s, the “fishing expeditions” they all take to check out other players, and how much time they truly spend on the job, it never ends. He did say because of McCourt’s lack of finances, our Latin America presence was essentially shut down, although when we got Puig he said that gave us alot more juice. How he got Hanley in a trade was right out of FAZ’s book. The one thing I am on right now is how totally nuclear the relationship between Mattingley and Puig was. He details some arguments between those guys that will blow you away. While I truly think we took a step up by getting Friedman, and we are in great hands, I think we do need to tip a Dodger hat to Colleti for actually surviving and even thriving during the McCourt years. Don’t forget, he did get us to the 2008, 2009 LCS. Not bad.

    1. i hated coletti but really liked logan white. i was also a big dan evans fan for whatever thats worth. i think logan white gets a bum rap these days. he was never the problem.

  6. Gonna quote from Coletti, pretty good stuff. “I wasn’t managing the team, Donnie was. But it was my job to look from thirty thousand feet. It was my job to see the game and the team, in a different way than the manager. The managers view is rarely longer than day to day. The GM needs to look at today, tomorrow, next week, next month, next season, three and five seasons down the road, And the GM can sometimes see what the manager can’t, and vice versa.” This is what we don’t see when we rag about the moves and non moves that the GM makes. FAZ faces the sames challenges that Colleti faced, only this time they have the people in place (Walters, Kasten, Guggenheim) that can make a GM’s plans happen..

  7. Seems like FAZ chose to overwhelm his counterparts by hiring his adversaries, he even kept Ned around. At the time I wondered what they needed all them guys for? Now, I wonder how many deals they have in place as backups when they finally decide to pull the trigger on something. Having all those qualified resources must be fairly handy when trying to suggest and swing 3 team deals.

    Anyhow good reading today, y’all. Keep it up!

    1. I’m not sure that was Andrew’s call. Ned was under contract and I think he is a special advisor to the Chairman of Kasten, although on the Dodger’s website he is not listed period!

      Jerry Hariston is listed as an announcer, but not Ned.

      Ned is absent from any roster.

      1. I know he was doing the pre-game and post game shows. I often wonder why a guy with his record in the post-season hasn’t he been hired away by now?

        1. Baseball has changed. Ned was old school and is “old.”

          This is the new paradigm! Sabermetrics has changed everything and it’s is a young man’s position.

  8. I wasn’t anti Ned, although his philosophy quotes all the time did wear on me. I know, I said I would break his job performance down…but to be honest, I’ve kinda moved on. I do wonder if Neds only real plan was just to absorb info gathered around him and make a decision based upon the results. FAZ, at least to me, has an overall plan in place… Having said that, I do wonder what Ned has to say in print these days and will most likely buy his book.

  9. A gambler would probably put their money on this lineup starting the season:
    .
    Chris Taylor, CF
    Corey Seager, SS
    Justin Turner, 3B
    Cody Bellinger, 1B
    Yasiel Puig, RF
    Joc Pederson, LF
    Logan Forsythe, 2B
    Austin Barnes, C
    .
    Toles has a chance to bump Pederson if Joc hasn’t slimmed down or comes to spring with yet another swing. But Toles still has to prove he is 100% healthy.
    .
    I don’t think FAZ offered Puig for Bradley. Interestingly, on MLB Network this morning the Boston press guy and the show hosts said they would have done that trade in a heartbeat but for opposite reasons. One liked Puig and the other liked Bradley.
    .
    Forsythe seems to be a better defensive second baseman than Taylor so why would FAZ want to improve the defense in CF at the expense of 2B? Who would play RF for Dodgers if Puig were traded? Platoon Toles and Kike’ until Verdugo is ready to take over?

    1. I think there is equal chance that Toles is fully recovered from surgery as Joc will come to ST in shape. Both will have to prove that they are ready. There is absolutely no way Joc will be in the lineup with a LHP. His career splits against LHP is .184/.278/.321/.599. Unless some magic switch is turned on, Joc has proven that he cannot hit LHP, just as much as Kike’ has proven that he cannot hit RHP with his career splits of .207/.265/.324/.589. Neither one will be the regular LF. The only two players on the current 40 man that have a chance of being the regular LF is Andrew Toles or Alex Verdugo.
      .
      Unless Verdugo earns the everyday LF position out of ST, he will go back to OKC to play everyday. FAZ will not let a 21 year old top prospect sit on the bench as a platoon OF or PH. But he will get a chance to prove he does belong.
      .
      I think management knows what they have with Joc and Kike’ but not so sure with Toles or Verdugo. That is one reason why I am against Kemp coming to ST. He would take innings and AB’s away from Toles/Verdugo as well as Joc/Kike’.
      .
      If Toles shows he is not ready to hit LHP consistently, none of the LH hitters will be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. That will be Enrique Hernandez who will face Madison Bumgarner. Not Joc or Toles.
      .
      It will be an interesting ST battle if there are no other roster changes.

  10. Interesting that no one has commented on signing Zach Neal to a minor league deal, another guy who can start or relieve and has a high ground ball rate. I see Jake Peter is not on the 40 man roster but Alexander is so he will have to earn a bench spot. The 40 man roster is now full again but absolutely no news on the status of Kemp and what their plans are for him and no public statements from Kemp either. Arbitration is around the corner, if form holds true all will settle near the deadline barring a trade (Avilan was one of them.) I can’t help feeling there is another deal in the works that no one has heard about.

  11. The Dodgers have plenty of outfielders but marginal depth at first base. Might a trade of Kemp for Hanley Ramirez help balance that depth?
    .
    Hanley breakdown: 19M in 2015, 22M 2016, ’17 and ’18. 2019 22M option vests with 1050 plate appearances in 2017 and ’18 3M bonus. In 2017, Ramirez had 553 plate appearances, meaning he needs 497 in 2018 to trigger the option for 2019. Admittedly, this isn’t a guarantee. Aside from any assumptions about his level of play next season, Ramirez has reached 497 plate appearances in three of the past five seasons. Hanley would not get the 497 PA with the Dodgers so the Dodgers would save Kemp’s cost in 2019.
    .
    The Dodgers owe Kemp $21.5M for each of 2018 and 2019.
    .
    Ramirez can play a decent first base. Is there that big of clubhouse drama between the two?
    .
    Boston needs a big bat and Hanley didn’t give that to them last year. They prefer to use Martinez at DH if they sign him but he doesn’t want to DH. I think Kemp would settle for DH and play some LF in a ballpark that is perhaps best designed to mitigate weaknesses Kemp has more than any other ballpark.

    1. 1B Depth:

      1. Bellinger
      2. Grandal
      3. Forsythe
      4. Hernandez
      5. Barnes
      6. Turner
      7. Farmer
      8. A-Gon (if he comes back)

      All eight have played 1B. It looks to me that there is a lot of depth at 1B. Hanley makes Kemp look like a Gold Glover in LF.

      There is no chance that deal happens.

    2. No chance of a Kemp for Ramirez trade. Ramirez is more of a potential negative presence than Kemp. Ramirez’ $22M 2019 option vests with 497 PA in 2018. There is no way he gets those PA with the Dodgers, and there is no way he is going to accept that respectfully. I assume it is possible that Boston will accept two years of Kemp with a $20M AAV vs. a one year Ramirez $22M AAV, but I do not think so without some other prospect(s) being sent to Boston. I think it is much more likely that Kemp is simply released and signs with an AL team as a DH for ML minimum. I think the same is possible for Ramirez with Boston, especially if they get JD Martinez to sign with them.
      .
      Plus he is no 1B. The only reason he played 1B is because he butchered LF so bad and Papi was the DH. This year Boston knew they needed a 1B and signed Mitch Moreland.

      1. Ramirez passed my eye test at first during a game I saw in person in Boston. He made multiple very good and difficult plays at first. If that trade with Boston were made and Ramirez were to be a jerk, he can be released and the Dodgers still save money. I will let FAZ add a player as needed to that trade as the point of the trade was not to put all the pieces together but to only suggest the players of real interest.

        1. I also saw him in Boston live, and while he did not butcher anything, he did not make some plays (2 that I remember) that could/should have been made by an average 1B. But it does not matter what either you or I think. Boston has said plenty with the signing of Mitch Moreland. He will be the 1B, at least against RHP.
          .
          Sure the Dodgers would make the Ramirez for Kemp trade, but Boston would not without the addition of at least one top ten and one top twenty prospect and cash. Why would Boston trade one $22M AAV for two $20M AAV without something significant being included by the Dodgers. I would not trade any prospect for Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers do not have to do anything to stay under the luxury tax which has been their stated goal. Hanley Ramirez does not help the Dodgers. As Mark indicated above, there are a number of players who can spell Bellinger at 1B. I would rather sign Mark Reynolds for $2M than make a trade for Hanley Ramirez.

  12. Clarification of early thoughts on Toles. I vaguely (as always) remember him struggling with his defense a bit when the pressure was magnified. I wasn’t all that concerned with the velocity of a thrown ball by him, but more-so with his ability to make an accurate throw, or just gather the ball in the glove cleanly. I like what Toles has done to reach the Show and I like what he has done since arriving, don’t get me wrong.

    1. I think it will be interesting what happens at Catcher this year. I do not think the Dodgers will trade Grandal NOW… but they could at the break… especailly if Smith or Ruiz are smoking hot.

      If Barnes can continue to step up, Yasmani is expendable… and valuable to a team that needs a catcher due to injury or slump. I am just not ready to anoint Austin after 252 AB’s.

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