Then there is the peculiar case of Eric Davis, who grew up in the Dodgers' own backyard in Southern California. Brito, the same scout who signed Valenzuela, brought Davis to Dodger Stadium for a workout in 1980. According to Brito, Davis had an impressive tryout, but the Dodgers still ignored his recommendation to draft him. Davis was picked in the eighth round by West rival Cincinnati in 1980. And there went the solution to the centerfield problem that had been plaguing the Dodgers for years.
"There have been some mistakes made in the scouting area," concedes Claire. "But before anyone jumps on the Dodger scouting and development people too hard, look around at all the Dodgers playing for other teams." Four of the eight National League All-Star pitchers—Sutcliffe, John Franco, Sid Fernandez and L.A.'s own Orel Hershiser—came out of the Dodger organization. So did Rick Rhoden, Candy Maldonado, Tom Niedenfuer, Dave Stewart, Sid Bream, Ted Power, Jeffrey Leonard, Charlie Hough, Bill Buckner and Don Sutton. According to the old Rickey axiom, it is better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late, but obviously someone jumped too early and got too little value in return on too many occasions (see box at left).
In their defense, the Dodgers have won three division titles in the '80s and only a Jack Clark homer off Niedenfuer spoiled their chance of going to the World Series in '85. They also have had one monumental piece of bad fortune in the person of Howe, whose continuing drug problems derailed what could have been a brilliant career. "He screwed them up more than any one player screwed up any other organization," says Cardinal manager Whitey Herzog.
Because the Dodgers kept believing Howe was recovering, they traded Franco to Cincinnati for Rafael Landestoy. At the time, Franco was not considered a prospect because he hadn't yet come up with his screwball, but still he was a lefthanded reliever. Because Howe went down, Ken Howell was forced to be a closer instead of playing his more suitable role as a setup man. When Howe went down for the third time, the Dodgers felt compelled to deal Fernandez to the Mets for Carlos Diaz. Ouch! Fernandez is a 24-year-old starter; Diaz was released last October. The Dodgers also traded catcher Steve Yeager to Seattle for lefthanded reliever Ed Vande Berg, which led them to ship Maldonado to the Giants for backup catcher Alex Trevino.
Wade also claims that the Dodgers would have drafted Roger Clemens in 1983, but Howe's situation forced them to take a college lefthander (Erik Sonberg) who could get to the majors quickly. "Put Fernandez and Clemens in our rotation, Franco in the bullpen and Maldonado in the middle of our lineup, and see how we look," says Wade. "Not all of those players had to be traded, either." They won't come right out and say it, but Wade and Schweppe evidently feel they are taking the rap because Campanis stayed on too long and, not seeking assistance from below, got virtually nothing for Stewart, Sutcliffe, Leonard, Power and Hough. "We gave up [R.J.] Reynolds and Bream for [Bill] Madlock," says Wade, "and got nothing back for Ron Cey. How does that figure?"
Since ascending to power, Claire has picked up a number of released players and giveaways: Mickey Hatcher, Danny Heep, Phil Garner, Brad Havens, Tito Landrum. Asked if this isn't an indictment of the organization, Claire makes it clear that it is more of an indictment of the Campanis regime. "What we're trying to do is add veterans who have a history of being winners so we can stabilize our young players and give them time to develop in the minors," says Claire. "Woodson, Hamilton, Gwynn, Jose Gonzalez and kids like that need to be playing every day and learning in the minors. We can't be bringing them up here and either forcing them to learn on the major league level—which is very difficult—or sit on the bench. I think some players have been hurt by this in the past."
Clearly, Claire is saying that despite the scouting mistakes of the past, he agrees with Wade and Schweppe when they decry the absence of patient development of young players in the last decade. Where Campanis was unpopular with other general managers and considered difficult to deal with, Claire has been tireless in trying to make deals and, in one general manager's words, "mend the fences that had been broken by Dodger arrogance."
Meanwhile, there is another situation that needs to be resolved within the Dodger organization. It involves Lasorda, who longs for the G.M. powers now exercised by Claire. When Lasorda recently commented that there weren't any replacements coming out of the farm system, Albuquerque manager Terry Collins fired right back. "That's his opinion," Collins told the Los Angeles Times. "Sometimes I think what Tommy Lasorda is doing is wrong. But that's his decision, and he's going to have to live with it." Lasorda was outraged and told one associate, "Now I'm going to find just where I stand."
Claire had the Albuquerque manager call Lasorda to explain his comments, but two weeks after Collins's remarks, the picture remains murky. That has led some to ask: Is the new regime saying that Lasorda has been impatient and hence is part of the problem? "There's more there than meets the eye," says a general manager familiar with the situation. "Fred's trying to make a major trade to prove he can do it, and Tommy's trying to block him because he wants the job."
Lasorda's friends say that if he cannot move upstairs he will look elsewhere for a manager-general manager's job. He denies it. "I turned down millions from the Braves and the Yankees," Lasorda says. "I'll do whatever Peter O'Malley wants me to do. The O'Malleys have always been wonderful to me."