By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) From his humble beginnings as a lower-middle class kid growing up in Franklin Park just outside of Chicago to his exit as the Los Angeles Dodgers general manager, Ned Colletti has done it his way. Colletti was moved out of baseball operations department and into an advisory role with the Dodgers on Tuesday, the same day they hired Andrew Friedman away from the Rays to run their baseball operations. Throughout three ownership changes in Los Angeles, Colletti did an excellent job of running the franchise under strange and at times quirky circumstances.READ MORE: 15-Year-Old Among 2 Shot In West Englewood
Hired by Frank and Jamie McCourt, Colletti kept his nose to the ground running the baseball operations while the franchise and fan base disintegrated under the quirky pair of overmatched owners. One of the few things the McCourts did right was hire Colletti to rebuild the system and make the Dodgers a contender again. That, he did well, as the team went to the playoffs five times in the nine years of his reign.
I became friends with Colletti in 1982 when he was the new assistant public relations director of the Cubs. Colletti was a sports writer covering hockey in Philadelphia before coming home to take his dream job. He was a huge Cubs fan growing up and spent many summers in the stands with the bleacher bums in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Starting a young family back home and working for the Cubs was the real beginning to his baseball career.
Watching Colletti dig out statistics and create his own unique baseball data, former Cubs manager and then-general manager Jim Frey tabbed Colletti as special assistant in the team’s front office. That acknowledgement by Frey helped jump-start Colletti’s career as an executive. Moving on to San Francisco as assistant to general manager Brian Sabean, he became an expert at contracts and arbitration rules before learning the practical scouting side of the business.READ MORE: Man's Body Pulled From Lake Michigan In Evanston, Hours After Crews Rescuing 3 Other People Find His Belongings On Beach
I remember sitting in a tiny airport in California and talking to Sabean after the general managers’ meeting in Palm Springs in November 2005. He told me he was excited Colletti was interviewing for the Dodgers general manager job.
“He deserves it,” Sabean said. ” We are really going to miss his expertise and his friendship. He is our great friend, not just a co-worker.”
That has been the reputation Colletti has built in his 33 years in the game: a great baseball man and even better person. Though he has a new role with the Dodgers, I’m hoping he moves on at some point and runs another club before he calls it a career. We can go on and on about how Colletti was tabbed as the fall man for Clayton Kershaw and his teammates not getting the job done in the playoffs, but that would be a fruitless journey now that a new baseball executive has been hired.
Suffice to say, the baseball industry knows the stand-up guys and the people who get things done properly. Ned Colletti can stand tall among those men.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Last Weekend Of Summer May Be Among Nicest
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.