After 33 years toiling in the front offices of Major League Baseball, Ned Colletti has found a new home as a pro scout with the San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League.
Good for him. It’s all about reinventing one’s self in this day age, and at 65, Colletti has done just that.
The former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers is returning to a sport he loves. He told Boomskie on Baseball in an exclusive interview Wednesday that he missed the competition.
Colletti was fired by the Dodgers after the 2014 season and since then has been a baseball analyst on the club’s regional sports network telecasts and taught classes in sports administration at Pepperdine University. He will continue to fulfill both roles even in his new position, even as the postseasons for both sports overlap with the regular seasons.
“Over the years it kind of walked this way to this,” Colletti said. “I root for the Dodgers all the time, but I missed the competition. I missed the opportunity to compete, to have a team you’re truly vested in. You have skin in the game, so to speak.
“That, and my love for hockey, were prominent in my decision-making process.”
After nine productive seasons, Colletti was replaced as the head of baseball operations of the Dodgers by Andrew Friedman. The Los Angeles club won its seventh consecutive National League West title this week and is poised again to win the World Series for the first time since 1988.
The Dodgers lost in the Fall Classic to the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox the past two postseasons.
With a tip of the cap to Colletti, many of the players on the current Dodger roster either were drafted or obtained under Collett’s tenure.
“The last two years I rooted all the time,” he reiterated. “I did TV for them. And rooted for a lot of the players there, the group I was with, that we drafted, developed and signed. But it’s different to root than compete.”
During his tenure, he had to weather the battle between MLB and former owner Frank McCourt, who took the team into bankruptcy protection and then sold it to Guggenheim Baseball Management for $2.15 billion.
Colletti didn’t have the advantage and the solace of working with the current ownership for long. When the Dodgers lost a 2014 NL Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, Colletti was replaced in the wave of analytic baseball executives sweeping across the sport. This despite the fact that the Dodgers had won the division two years in a row and had been as far as the NL Championship Series three times during his tenure.
He interviewed last year for the top baseball position with the Baltimore Orioles, but decided not to take the job. He didn’t need the tsuris (trouble in Yiddish) of a rebuilding organization. He proved to be right. The Orioles have lost 98 games.
It’s not as if there are a lot of baseball front office jobs for guys of his generation. This is a week in which the Red Sox fired veteran general manager Dave Dombrowski because the team flopped a year after his club resoundingly won the World Series. The Red Sox are over .500 and had won the American League East three years running. Until now.
It’s a tough business, and like Colletti, it will be hard for Dombrowski to obtain another head baseball job.
“It wasn’t just baseball, part of it was me too. I like where I live. I like what I do,” said Colletti, who splits his time in Los Angeles and Phoenix. “I loved to take a breath for a minute because I never had the chance. Nothing ever came easy to me, so I had to work and compete harder and smarter than the competition.
“It was OK to take a breath, but I see where the game’s going. That’s the game’s business. That’s not my business. My business is how I spend my days and how my life goes. I can’t take responsibility for what anybody else thinks. I can only take responsibility for me. Baseball is going where it’s going.”
And Colletti is going where he’s going. He parlayed his expertise in hockey and good friendship with San Jose general manager Doug Wilson into his new job.
Colletti has his roots as a beat writer covering the Philadelphia Flyers for the old Philadelphia Journal. Colletti is from Chicago. When the newspaper folded in 1981, newly-married and with a baby to support, he wanted to return home, his father dying of lung cancer.
He was offered one of two jobs by the Chicago Cubs in media relations or publications. The salary for either was $13,000, a pittance for a young family even in those days. Colletti asked for a couple of thousand more and some moving expenses. Just minted general manager Dallas Green said, no. He didn’t have the money.
Colletti had the solution. He’d take $15,000 and do both jobs. Green relented and that’s the way Colletti broke into the business.
As he says, nothing comes easy.
That began his years with the Cubs, then as assistant to San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean, to the Dodgers, and now on to the Sharks.
He’ll scout the NHL’s Metropolitan Division, plus two other teams – and the AHL affiliates for all of them – out of Los Angeles, Anaheim and Phoenix, with some excursions back east.
Both sides took a season feeling each other out before coming to this decision, which is certainly out of the box.
“I have a lot of respect for Doug Wilson – senior, junior – Joe Will, and the organization,” said Colletti speaking about the GM, his son – the scouting director – and the assistant GM. “I wouldn’t have just did it anywhere. I had to do it with people I really respect and trust.
“I’m passionate about it. I’m honored to be doing it for them.”
They’re fortunate to have him. Another tip of the cap to the Sharks for taking the leap.