Dodgers losing another good man

LOS ANGELES -- For the Los Angeles Dodgers, a franchise that for so many decades was known as much for its stability as for its success, one could argue the only constant during the Frank McCourt era has been change.

Still, even during a time of bankruptcy and anticipated upheaval in the coming months, this organization does have its immovable fixtures, most of them with names such as Scully and Jarrin.

In the eight seasons I have spent covering the team, I had always assumed there was at least one more. I found out about four hours before Monday night's game, a 7-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks before 30,616 at Dodger Stadium, that I had assumed incorrectly.

In an organization in which almost every head seemed a heartbeat away from the chopping block, Josh Rawitch seemed as entrenched as a person without a Hall of Fame plaque could be around here. His title was vice president of communications, and if you don't know exactly what that means, well, that's OK, because Rawitch knew exactly what it meant and carried out his responsibilities exactly the way they were laid out.

He was unfailingly loyal to McCourt, even as an entire city seemed ready to torch the castle, and he relentlessly defended McCourt against all critics. It might seem like an affront to one's credibility, but it was Rawitch's job, and he did it well. For those of us who considered him a close friend as well as a colleague, we privately worried this might result in him sinking along with the rest of what appears to be the baseball equivalent of the Edmund Fitzgerald. But instead, we all were pleasantly surprised to learn on the day the Dodgers began their final homestand of a season mercifully drawing to a close that Rawitch is leaving the ship well before it capsizes, and doing it on his own terms.

Rawitch's new position as senior vice president for communications with the Diamondbacks will begin -- barring a monumental collapse -- in the National League playoffs. Until then, he will stick around through the end of the regular season, which is two weeks away. He will be reunited with Derrick Hall, the Diamondbacks chief executive and former Dodgers communications chief who brought Rawitch from marketing to public relations more than a decade ago, and he will be working for a franchise where the employees seem happy, the atmosphere at the ballpark is upbeat and the ownership appears stable.

Rawitch might be heading for the desert. But unlike a lot of former Dodgers employees, he won't be left wandering in it.

"Clearly, this wasn't an easy decision," he told me, with a straight face.

I went on to ask him a question that, hypothetical though it might have been, simply had to be asked: Would Rawitch, a lifelong Southern California resident except for his undergraduate years at the University of Indiana and one year covering the San Francisco Giants for MLB.com, be making this move if the Dodgers weren't in such a state of chaos?

Understandably, he didn't want to answer it, at least not for public consumption. He did say he had been talking with Hall for an extended period of time and that McCourt had been good enough to give him permission to do so, and it's apparent the Diamondbacks made him an offer that would have been extremely difficult to pass up.

All that aside, though, there is no denying the Dodgers are losing another good man. And for many of us who cover the team on a regular basis, we are losing a good friend. Well, maybe not losing him, exactly. Baseball is a close-knit community, and besides, Rawitch is moving to the city where I make my primary residence anyway, so I'm sure I'll see plenty of him, his wife, Erin, and their young family in the years to come.

Still, I will miss working with him on an everyday basis. The seat to the immediate left of mine in the Dodger Stadium press box is unassigned and usually vacant, and Rawitch often would pull up a chair in the second or third inning and eat his dinner. I always enjoyed seeing him coming, because I knew the monotony of the early innings of a midsummer baseball game were about to be broken by interesting, stimulating and often intellectually challenging conversation, and it wasn't always about baseball or the state of the franchise.

Rawitch also had his job to do, and as a result, we occasionally clashed. I remember more than one heated argument and a few calmer but no-less-spirited debates. That is the nature of the relationship between a team's chief publicist and the reporters who cover that team, and those things inevitably are going to happen from time to time.

But in the end, and above all else, Josh is a friend. A friend who is about to singlehandedly gain 13 games in the NL West standings. A friend who was unrelentingly loyal to his boss, but in the end, smartly, made a decision he absolutely had to make for himself, his family and his career.

A friend I couldn't be happier for. Congratulations.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.