October 1, 2014

Mannion Out as Dodgers President

Ok, I didn’t see this one coming.  According to Dylan Hernandez, Dennis Mannion is out as president of the Los Angeles Dodgers and replaced by…wait for it…Frank McCourt!

What makes it surprising is that there were no rumblings that Mannion was doing a bad job or that he was unhappy with the Dodgers.  Mannion came to LA in 2007 as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer before being promoted to President in March 2009.  He’s credited with the creation of Mannywood, and was involved in the club’s 50th anniversary celebration and the opening of Camelback Ranch.  Mannion also came to LA with significant front office / business operations experience with the Baltimore Ravens, Ascent Sports (the folks who own the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets) and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Look, I have no idea whether or not Mannion was good at his job or if he was successful in achieving the goals that Frank assigned him, but I do think it’s a little odd to see an experienced team president leave and then be replaced by the owner himself – especially given the current state of the team, the ongoing divorce, etc.

I did have the chance to meet Mannion twice, and each time the first question out of his mouth was about what the fans were thinking about some aspect of the club – a great sign.  That said, Mannion was also well-known for making at least one unfortunate comment in public.

Mannion also once asked me during a one-on-one conversation, with a lot of sincerity, why the media criticized the Dodgers as much as they did and if there was a way to fix this (I wanted to shake him and say: they’re objective journalists…they’re not here to like you!  Put the best possible team on the field with the best possible manager and you will earn people’s respect.).  The comment just seemed really out of character for someone with Mannion’s experience and frankly left me thinking that he was a little out of touch.

So what does Mannion’s departure mean for Dodger fans?  We really don’t know the answer to that question, but I think it’s safe to say it won’t affect the team that takes the field each day, as baseball operations was always the responsibility of Ned Colletti’s.  However, it will be interesting to see what happens next in what is sure to be an interesting off-season for the Dodgers.

Finally, if you’re itching to get to a Dodgers game, the full Spring Training schedule is now available.  The first home game at Camelback Ranch is Sunday, February 27, 2011 against the Anaheim Angels!

Dodgers Host Third Annual Blogger Night; Embrace New Media

Alex, Ron Cey, Chris

The Dodgers get it. I’m not sure that there is another organization in professional sports that gets it the way that VP of Communications Josh Rawtich and the Dodgers get it. 

What the Dodgers “get” is how to engage with bloggers and members of non-mainstream media outlets to expand their outreach into conversations that are happening across the internet. 

Josh and his staff reaffirmed this position when they hosted the third annual blogger night at Dodger Stadium on Monday, July 5th in a luxury suite behind home plate. As with past events, there was a steady stream of Dodger dignitaries that stopped by to engage with the bloggers in attendance, including Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.  Colletti stayed for an hour after commenting that his visit last year ‘felt rushed’ and that he was impressed by the level of questions and discussion at past blogger engagements. 

Ned Colletti

Colletti wasn’t the only front office visitor that the 14 blogs who were in attendance had a chance to meet: Assistant GM Kim Ng, Dodgers legends “Sweet Lou” Johnson and Ron Cey and Dodgers President Dennis Mannion all dropped in for a considerable piece of time to listen and respond. 

Dodgers President Dennis Mannion

The list of blogs represented was also impressive, including many of our favorites, such as Dodger Thoughts, True Blue LA, Sons of Steve Garvey, LA Dodger Talk, and Vin Scully is My Homeboy, just to name a few. These guys were engaged and made the most of their time with Colletti and the others, while also taking time to stay on top of the game that was going on (something Chris and I weren’t able to do nearly as effectively). 

Chris and Sweet Lou

Following are a few thoughts and nuggets of information that were of interest to us: 

Pitching and the Trade Deadline 

Both Colletti and Ng were clear that pitching is their top priority as the trade deadline nears. They didn’t seem to be particularly focused on starting pitching or relievers, but it was obvious that both character and consistency were at the top of their list of traits they were looking for. Ng and Colletti split duties here, and either one might be involved depending on who has an established relationship with the key individuals (player, front office, agent, etc.). 

Digital Media is Growing for the Dodgers 

Chris and I had a great exchange with Josh Lukin who is the Director of Digital Marketing for the Dodgers. Josh started ramping up the digital marketing efforts for the club a few years ago while working on more traditional marketing efforts, but now dedicates most of his time on social media. It’s clear that Lukin is very interested in pushing the envelope in the digital space and leveraging Twitter and Facebook in particular to drive promotional efforts, deliver news and generally get folks more engaged with the Dodgers online. We talked about his recent promotion where he rewarded members of the four new Dodger email clubs with the opportunity to purchase standalone game tickets to the Yankees series before also sending a Twitter broadcast with a similar offer to the team’s followers. Lukin said the ROI on Twitter, Facebook, and SEA engagements have been very strong and that we could expect the Dodgers to do more in this space. 

Continued Blogger Support For Home Games 

The Dodgers are continuing to support a select set of Dodger Blogs with shared credential access to home games – something that MLB and other teams have been very slow to follow-up with on their own. Public Relations Supervisor Amy Summers told me that blogs now cover roughly 30-40% of the home games at Dodger Stadium and that weekend coverage is at almost 100%. She indicated that the Dodgers organization was very pleased with how the program has worked thus far and we discussed the “storytelling” aspect of blogs as compared to traditional journalism. 

Blogger Camaraderie 

Most of us who have been blogging about the Dodgers have met one another a few times over the past three years. What’s most impressive is the sense of mutual respect that runs through the group. Each blog really is unique and has its own slant or type of storytelling, which differentiates it from the others and removes any sense of competition. When we all get together at outings such as this, we share stories, trade insights and generally enjoy one another’s company. It’s a refreshing change from how blogs from other teams or sports interact with one another and something that just seems to have developed amicably. 

Overall, it was a great night in Chavez Ravine. I even saw team photographer Jon SooHoo in the parking lot getting set for a fireworks shot while perched at the top of a ladder (his image is shown below). I’m looking forward to next year’s event and the continued dialogue with both the team and my fellow bloggers in the second half of the season. 

Fireworks at Dodger Stadium - Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers

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Dodgers Show the Love to Team Bloggers

Tonight the Dodgers PR leadership including Josh Rawitch and Amy Summers hosted the Third Annual Blogger Night at Chavez Ravine.  We’ll have much more on the activities of the evening on Tuesday, but highlights included nearly an hour-long, candid Q&A with general manager Ned Colletti, as well as one-on-one discussions with team president Dennis Mannion, assistant general manager Kim Ng, as well as photo ops with Dodger legends Ron Cey and Sweet Lou Johnson.

Per Inside the Dodgers, nearly 15 different sites were in attendance….many of which are favorites of ours, and many new ones as well.

Thanks again to the Dodgers organization for their ongoing commitment to social media and spreading the love to Dodger fans across the globe.  We know many of you can’t attend Dodger games for a variety of reasons (including not living in LA), and we’re glad we can help share the insights we pick up at events such as these.

UPDATE: Here is the official recap and pictures from the festivities.

Note: Photo of Ned Colletti from 2008 Blogger Night

Our Take on Dodgers’ Prez Dennis Mannion’s Comments

Maybe it’s just me, but I was hoping to be a little more inspired after reading the Q&A that Bill Shaikin conducted with Dodgers President Dennis Mannion for the Los Angeles Times.  On the plus side, Mannion did say that Colletti was free to sign players to big contracts, and knowing Ned’s philosophy on such things, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s waiting to see how the market shakes out over the course of the winter.  I’ll be patient….the last thing anyone wants is some ridiculous contract on the books for the next four to five years, right?

However, one portion on the interview brought back bad memories of comments made by Jamie McCourt last year – the exact thing that I’m sure the Dodgers wanted to avoid:

Since Wolf probably would have signed a long-term contract somewhere else even if the Dodgers had offered him arbitration, how worried were you about the millions it might cost to sign the draft picks you would have gotten in return?

You’re dealing with a very fluid situation. Those millions that are potentially in play, they can manifest themselves where the opportunity is. If the opportunity is in buying more portable concession stands, then that’s what you do. If the opportunity is buying some international talent that you have a very good handle on, that’s what you do. In this particular world, you’re making those assessments on a daily basis.

We have heard many times from teams that say they have allocated money from one part of baseball operations budget to another, say, from major league free agents to scouting or player development. Are you saying your choice could be between spending on amateur talent and spending on portable concession stands?

I’m just saying you have to have that kind of a fluid mind. That’s an absurd example, to tell you the truth. I just used it to show you should be able to cross over budgets when necessary. Let’s face it, our main imperative is to win games and win a championship. So you can tell who’s going to win that battle when it’s fought.

While it is absurd to compare dollars for players to dollars for portable concession stands, as a PR guy, I actually find it even more shocking that Mannion would make such a comparison in light of Jamie McCourt’s comments from last year (where she suggested the possibility of taking money designated for players’ salaries and instead using it Little League parks).  I know he’s trying to make the point that the Dodgers on-field and off-field operations are now one, but if I were him I would have stayed away from such comparisons at a time when many Dodger fans are holding their collective breath, waiting to see if the team is going to make a significant move in improving the quality of play on the field for the coming year.

Side note: I did have a chance to meet Dennis Mannion in passing at Spring Training last season, and I came away thinking that he was an enthusiastic guy who really cared what the fans thought about the team and the facilities.  I will not pass judgment on him after reading just this interview, and I hope we have the chance to hear from Mannion about his master plan in the months ahead, but what I’m personally looking for is a long-term strategy for the future of the Dodgers and how this team will continue to compete, contend and win for years to come.