But aside from replacing Alston with Lasorda, who in the Rickey tradition had been groomed as a Triple A manager and then as the Dodgers' third base coach, Peter didn't make a major personnel move in the dozen years before Campanis forced his hand. Says one rival general manager, "Because they are The Dodgers, they developed an institutional arrogance that blinded them."
Campanis became general manager in 1968, the same year Bill Schweppe took over the minor leagues, and Ben Wade became scouting director in 1973. Campanis had been in line to replace Fresco Thompson, who had been in line to succeed Buzzie Bavasi, and all of them had come up through the baseball ranks. That was part of the Dodger way.
Now Campanis is gone, Schweppe is retiring and Wade is under fire, but the replacements have not been clearly defined. Even Lasorda's status is up in the air: He would love to replace Campanis, though he has no clear successor in the dugout. For now, at least, he seems to have lost out to Claire. So while Claire tries to entrench himself in Campanis's seat and pull the organization together, factions are sniping at one another as they jockey for available positions. "There's a lot of backstabbing going on," says one member of the organization, "and Peter's got to step in and pull it all together." This is something Peter O'Malley has never done.
The internecine squabbles have apparently disrupted the business of strengthening the franchise. Rickey built the Dodgers, as he did the Cardinals and Pirates, with athletes. "He believed in skill players," says Pittsburgh general manager Syd Thrift, himself a Rickey disciple. "He looked for players who could run, throw and had great body control, and he looked for pitchers who threw hard."
"Look at the team that won four pennants from 1974 to 1981," says one scout, "and you saw great athletes like Billy Russell and Davey Lopes and Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith. The only real athlete they have now is [centerfielder] Mike Devereaux, and he's in Double A. Where five years ago they had seven or eight pitchers who threw in the 90's, they don't have one pitcher with a 'plus' fastball in Albuquerque or San Antonio." Scioscia, a superb defensive catcher, and Duncan might also qualify as having Rickey-style athleticism, but Duncan's attitude still needs some work.
As head of scouting, the 64-year-old Wade is currently receiving the heaviest flak. "When the major league team is struggling, then we have to stand and take the rap," says the former Dodger pitcher. "The Dodger scouts have nothing to be ashamed of, but the big league club is losing, so I'll accept what blame comes my way."
The criticism of Wade peaked in June, when he gave Opperman $160,000 after selecting him out of high school in Las Vegas with the eighth pick in the draft. Because Opperman had had arm trouble, most clubs were wary of him. But Wade flew Opperman into Los Angeles to be examined by Dr. Frank Jobe, who cleared the 18-year-old pitcher. Opperman reported to Great Falls of the Pioneer League and shortly into his first warmup grabbed his elbow. Three weeks later he underwent surgery, and most likely will not pitch again until next spring.
To make matters worse, the Dodgers have failed to sign this year's second-round pick, too. The top '85 pick, outfielder Chris Gwynn, is hitting .285 at Albuquerque and is a prospect, but a couple of scouts complain that he is injury-prone and lacks his brother Tony's raw speed and power. Even so, Gwynn appears to be the only top choice since Franklin Stubbs ('82) with a chance to make the majors. Though Wade and Claire see third basemen Jeff Hamilton and Tracy Woodson as well as Gwynn and Devereaux as top prospects, other scouts do not necessarily share their opinion.
What went wrong? "Ross Jones epitomizes the Dodger problems," says one general manager. "They had the ninth pick in the 1980 draft and took Jones, a University of Miami infielder. Sure, he made the big leagues [he's currently with the Royals], but he wasn't a skills player like the Kelly Grubers, Glenn Wilsons, Dennis Rasmussens and Ron Robinsons who were out there at the time they picked Jones. It was the same thing in '81 with Dave Anderson. If Campanis, Mike Brito and Ralph Avila hadn't had the Latin connection to get them Fernando Valenzuela, Guerrero [whom they scouted in the Dominican Republic and traded for after one season of rookie league ball], Alejandro Pena and Duncan, this would have come to a head a long time ago. You look at the Reds or Blue Jays outfield and you see what the Dodgers used to be."
Wade is the same scouting director who selected Bob Welch, Rick Sutcliffe, Scioscia and Steve Howe with first selections. In those days, however, he had brilliant scouts like Bert Wells and Bill Brenzel. They're gone now and their replacements don't seem quite as sharp. Today it's said that Wade is playing it safe by drafting older players. Before this year's ill-fated choice of Opperman, the Dodgers had gone nine years without selecting a high school player in the first round.