In addition to the weekly Sunday media column that focuses on former Dodgers GM and current SportsNet LA studio anlayst Ned Colletti and his new book, “The Big Chair,” we have these Q&A excerpts, and more:
Q: Your resume as a sports writer — Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times, the Commercial-News in Danville, Ill., covering football and basketball, leading to covering the Flyers for the Philadelphia Journal … you were on a career path that perhaps you’d still be on if that paper hadn’t folded and you needed to go back to Chicago to find work. Do you miss sports writing?
A: Not really. It was a great outlet. Now when you do this TV work, and have to say things in 90-second bites, you kind of have to write in your head as you’re going along. A comment on the air isn’t written, but you have to formulate that same thought process. But I can’t say I miss journalism or a newspaper job.
Q: The foundation of journalism is the ability to communicate — being clear and concise, finding the right words. Is that a foundation that works for you no matter what job you do?
A: No doubt. You were taught to understand people and the psychology of life across the board and the value of communication. I know now that while I may have started off behind everyone in the baseball world, too – I was in journalism, I wasn’t a minor-league player, I didn’t intern at a major-league club – as my career started to grow and transition into other things, my experience as a writer helped me understand the world of a writer. I could appreciate it when they needed something for their stories. I knew what a columnist was, what a beat writer was. So when I got my first job in baseball in publications, and media relations … If I don’t have the journalism degree, I don’t get the publications job, or work at the Philadelphia Journal where Bob Ibach worked before me at the Journal, I got to know him, now he works for the Cubs and offers me these jobs. All these things lead me to where I am today – and that includes now teaching a sports communication class at Pepperdine on top of a general manager class in sports administration. All these things work for the good in the end.
Q: As it turns out, the son of ESPN’s Karl Ravech, Sam, was one of your students last spring and he got a job in broadcasting (the San Francisco Giants’ Double-A team in Virginia). What do you think of his quick entrance into the business?
A: For someone who maybe had a leg up on the rest of the competition, he was incredibly humble. And hungry to learn. He came to my class two weeks ago to talk to the students.
Q: In a story in the Pepperdine campus magazine, it says that you gave Sam Ravech some simple advice: Stay true to yourself, stay focused on your faith and avoid getting caught up in the noise of the limelight. Sounds like the kind of advice you’ve taken to heart and lived by yourself all these years.
A: I still carry that. Life is humbling. We’re all the same. It’s what you do with your opportunities.
Q: The book is filled with stories about your thought process in doing trades and all that involved, and how you saw the media portray the McCourts, your bosses, through all this. How do you think the media portrayed you through your time as the Dodgers GM, and was it fair?
A: I can’t really tell you because I really didn’t pay much attention to it. One of the things that happened during the McCourt era, a lesson I learned later in life, is there are only so many things you’re going to be able to control in your world. Besides your own effort and how you view life, you may be able to guide a negative and make it a positive, or take a positive and make it even better. I needed to concentrate on that and things I couldn’t control, I didn’t spent time on. Being a GM is all encompassing. To worry about their divorce or bankruptcy, I couldn’t do that. We were saturated into those jobs every day, myself, our scouts and player development. When others were eating or sleeping, we were working. And you do that over a period of time, of decades, you listen a touch, but people don’t necessarily know what went into the decisions or the thought process because they’re not privy to it. It’s not their fault, they just don’t have all the information. Sometimes you make a trade because you need to make a trade for reasons no one knows on the outside.
Q: You made reference to a “prominent sports columnist who once told me point blank that as long as I continued to support McCourt, he would do everything he could to make me look bad and damage my credibility and career. And he did at least try.” Was that fair?
A: He told me, “I need you to expose these people.” I said, “You know what, you’ve got the wrong person. Do whatever you want to do with me. It doesn’t matter what you do with me. But I’m not going there.”
You know, I’ve learned a lot, pretty much every day of my life. I’m never the smartest person in the room. I love to learn and make it a point to study people and to watch. I find myself in life now talking far more than listening, but for many years, all I did was listen. If you talk to agents about how they dealt with me, maybe one of their frustrations is that I didn’t offer much. I listened. They’d get to a point to maybe they’ve spoken for an hour and I hadn’t even said hello. That’s how you gain information. I always had to pay attention. I’m not gifted academically. I’m only gifted in being blessed beyond measure. That’s the greatest gift I have. And I’ve used it with every opportunity.
I know my route toward being the GM of the Dodgers or assistant GM with the Giants is nontraditional. It’s not characteristic about how it goes especially these days.
Q: It’s a path a lot like Fred Claire – from sportswriter to Dodgers GM. Do you ever compare notes?
A: Years ago, but not a lot lately. Someone I admired from afar since I’ve been in baseball since 1982. The Dodgers were always a unique organization from the outside. They were so much like the marquee franchise in a lot of ways. It had a different feel to it. People were there for a long time and had tremendous loyalty and promoted from within. You had to have the culture to be part of all that. I could see it from the outside. As I was here more I started to see it.
Q: Not a lot is spent in the book explaining your thought process into taking a TV job after your GM run ended in 2014. Lon Rosen, the team’s VP of communications, tells you that Time Warner Cable is interested in having you joining them. Why did you jump on that so quickly and not take time off?
A: The typical response might have been: I’m going away and don’t want to see anyone again and vanish into the atmosphere. But I didn’t want to do that. There are too many things I still want to do and too much time on my hands. I knew if they were serious about it, I’d talk to them now, today. I really wanted another challenge. I needed to be challenged. The thing I miss about the GM situation is the competition, the team building of the people in uniform and the team building the executive ranks. This would keep me near the game and an opportunity to learn something new. My competition wasn’t another team or beat the Giants, my competition was how do I get to be good enough at this to stay. How do I transition into a new role and still keep my credibility and still tell it like I see it. This had to be a good challenge for me – I didn’t go to broadcasting school. So here I am and now I have to learn how to do it.
The people here have been among the best people I’ve ever worked with. I don’t say it as an advertisement, I say it as a fact I tell them all the time. They’ve helped me, trained me, taught me, we’ve laughed, we’ve re-done things, I’ve had so much fun doing this.
Q: Did it matter to you what you were going to a place where you’d have to talk about how things worked in the front office and maybe give away some trade secrets, as you were then the special advisor to the president?
A: I think I’m pretty much the same guy. I think I can be critical but I appreciate what players do and I know how hard the game is to play. If I see someone struggling but knowing they do all they can do – you can control so many things.
Q: What have you picked up from other analysts that you work with here?
A: I’ve learned from all of them. Orel (Hershiser) is like a conductor and he keeps everything moving. Normar (Garciaparra) and Jerry (Hairston), they bring their personalities for the show. Ironically, I signed all three of them to contracts at one time — with Orel, it was back in San Francisco. We’ve known each other a long time and I love talking baseball with them. But now I’m not the boss, I’m the rookie. So there’s different conversation. And John Hartung has been tremendous and one of my best friends, so helpful. The person who anchors that desk is so key. They can make it difficult or easy or interesting or whatever they want. His style and class and grace and willingness to help me has been great.
== Colletti will appear at a book signing at Chevalier’s Books (126 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
== Colletti appears on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Oct. 4.
== Colletti appears on KPCC-FM:
— 89.3 KPCC (@KPCC) October 6, 2017