Friday, July 25, 2008

Hey, Joe Torre: Get Out There and Hit Five Home Runs While Throwing a Shutout or You're Fired

Seriously, people. I don't know how many different ways I can say it: Managers. Don't. Do. That. Much. They just don't. It's completely unquantifiable, of course, but if I had to guess I would say that the difference between having a good manager and a bad manager might be worth (at most) 2 or 3 games in the standings over the course of a 162 game season. So that said, here's a list of reasons the Dodgers are (allegedly) underachieving at 49-52 as of this morning:

-Injuries
-Injuries
-Joe Torre giving too much playing time to Juan Pierre*
-Injuries
-Joe Torre giving too much playing time to Andruw Jones*
-Injuries
-Jeff Kent in rapid decline
-Injuries
-They actually weren't that great to begin with, maybe an 86ish win team at most

(Note: * means this is almost definitely a result of pressure from ownership)

Does that seem fair? It should. When Brad Penny and Rafael Furcal are both hurt or ineffective for more than half a season, an 86ish win team will turn into a 80ish win team. The anchor effect of giving significant ABs to Jones and Pierre (thanks, Frank McCourt) can drop you down around 76ish wins. But don't tell any of that to FoxSports.com's Ian O'Connor. He'll have none of it. According to him and his smarmy mugshot, the NL West is Joe Torre's division to lose.

The State Farm ad, a cute one, leads you to believe Joe Torre has officially retired in his job as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He drinks wheat grass between innings, writes screenplays between pitching changes, and spends off days riding his surfboard from one welcoming wave to the next.

Extra BP? A few more pregame hours in the video room surveying a wayward pitcher's arm slot?

Who needs any of that when you're living a life of green fields, blue skies, and late-arriving crowds, and when you're working a comfortable 3,000 miles away from the angry House of Steinbrenner?

I'm pretty sure that commercial presented a fictional portrayal of what Torre's life is like. I'm pretty sure Ian knows that as well, but has cleverly used it as his intro to this piece in order to make undiscerning readers think that Joe Torre is a lazy bum who is singularly responsible for the Dodgers' struggles.

One hundred games into his fifth big-league term, Torre has settled into the Dodger way like an old man settles into his favorite spot on a park bench.

OK, and that's an even more direct accusation aimed at inducing the same conclusion. Read the following example of this "laziness" O'Connor sees, and ask yourself this question: what the fuck does it have to do with how hard Torre may or may not be working?

He says he is happy the stories about his baseball team are confined to the sports page. Whenever the cartoon character known as Alex Rodriguez is linked to the blonde of the month, Torre gets to be a disengaged observer rather than the interrogated boss charged to clean his third baseman's mess.

Being happy that one's workplace is relatively free of distractions- a surefire sign of malaise.

Only this portrait of Joe Cool, cruising on Sunset Boulevard, ignores one undeniable truth: Torre needs to win his division this year,

Because surely this portrait (which is entirely manufactured by O'Connor, of course) is one of a loser. Someone who couldn't care less about how many games his team wins. A man who may or may not even be aware that baseball is a sport in which one team wins and another loses! I mean, if you're a MLB manager and not constantly acting like Lou Pinella with ants in his pants, you might as well not show up, right?

if only because there isn't a single valid reason he shouldn't.

Least clever analysis, ever. I hate smug writing like this. Sheesh. Gag me with a racquetball. Not only are there dozens of reasons why the Dodgers (notice I didn't say Torre himself) shouldn't win the NL West this season, there are dozens more why the Diamondbacks or Rockies should.

Sure, the Dodgers have had a ton of injuries, closing in on 600 man games' worth. But Torre's been around the sport long enough to understand two things about injuries:

1.) Everybody's got 'em.

2.) Nobody wants to hear about 'em.

That's fine. No one likes bitching. At the same time, to pretend that the losses of Furcal and Penny haven't been debilitating, and to further imply that Torre himself needs to somehow compensate for those losses, is fucking ludicrous.

The Dodgers should take the National League West, wretched as it is, and Torre will have some explaining to do if they don't.

So will owner Frank McCourt and GM Ned Colletti. In fact, my quick calculations show that each of these men will have approximately 1 gazillion times more explaining to do than Torre himself.

Start with the reason he was hired on the rebound after his bitter divorce from the Yanks.

He came in to repair a fractured clubhouse. That's a laudable goal, but not necessarily one which guarantees on the field success if completed.

Grady Little wasn't just an 82-80 manager last year; he was an 82-80 manager done in by the clubhouse division between players old and young, and by the sudden availability of Torre, a candidate who'd won four World Series titles and earned a dozen consecutive trips to the postseason before the Steinbrenners and team president Randy Levine ran him out with an offer designed to be refused.

More periods. Less commas. (I could probably stand to follow that rule myself from time to time, but I'm not a contributor for FoxSports.com.)

It was unbecoming of Torre to negotiate with the Dodgers while Little still held the job, but hey, that's how big-boy business is done. Frank McCourt, Dodgers owner, had every right to want someone who could do better than 82-80. His common sense told him that someone was Joe Torre.

If his commons sense says that any manager could have won the Dodgers more than 85 games last year, it is almost definitely wrong. I don't care what their record was on August 1st, or whatever- they got steamrolled at the end of the season in part because of scheduling (7 games down the stretch against the unstoppable Rockies), in part because of age, and in part because of bad luck. The clubhouse divisions might have played a part, or they might not have. But one rule remains constant: MANAGERS DON'T DO THAT MUCH.

As it turns out, 82-80 might just win this year's West. But even as the Dodgers swear their clubhouse has become a more harmonious place, Torre's still on track to finish south of .500.

You mean the Dodgers are still on track to finish south of .500.

Little was 56-44 at this point in '07. You don't need an advanced degree in math to know that a divided 56-44 team beats a united 49-51 team eight days a week.

Well, one is 7 games better than the other. But if they face off head-to-head for eight straight days, the odds are that they'll probably either split those games or someone will win five. Just saying.

"We're going to make everybody proud of the product we put on the field," Torre said on arrival in Los Angeles.

Well, what the fuck else was he going to say? "We'll try to go out and not embarrass ourselves too much?" This is becoming a theme in my posts. Writers picking on things high-level officials say during pre-scripted press conferences (like Jemele Hill ripping the NFL spokesperson for saying the league doesn't have a gang problem) is fucking lame.

His Dodgers haven't inspired much in the way of pride, at least not yet. Fans in the market looking for a team worthy of their time, attention and disposable income would have to turn to Mike Scioscia's Angels, the club that forever haunted Torre in the Bronx. The Angels are 12 games better than the Dodgers in a tougher division of a tougher league.

I'm sure the Dodgers are really hurting for fans.

Now turn to the page in your scorebook that covers team payrolls. At $118 million, the Dodgers are spending $52 million more on wages than the Diamondbacks, and $50 million more on wages than the Rockies. No, it isn't quite the absurd advantage over the competition that Torre enjoyed with the Yankees, who took a Bob Beamon leap over the $200 million barrier.

I know the Olympics are just around the corner, but let's take it easy with the Bob Beamon references, huh? He doesn't even have the record anymore.

But still, McCourt has laid out enough cash (not to mention the $13 million he paid Torre) to expect better than what his manager has delivered.

Apparently ownership dumping money into black holes of anti-production like Pierre and Jones means a team's manager has not done his job.

For the foreseeable future, Torre won't be fleeing the kind of lava that came pouring out of Mount Steinbrenner once the parades stopped and the procession of Division Series flameouts started. Ned Colletti, general manager, is the easiest of targets; he'll be gone long before anyone has a second thought about Torre.

About halfway through the article, Ian finally identifies someone who is actually worthy of blame.

McCourt is under fire for reportedly killing a deal for CC Sabathia that would've added $7.5 million to the payroll, a charge the owner denies. And when the owner and GM aren't absorbing major hits, Andruw Jones, who somehow managed to strike out five times in one game, rightfully assumes the role of helpless punching bag.

The hits keep on comin'. Let's see how it all gets tied back to that lazy, lackadaisical, no-good bum Joe Torre.

Torre is also protected by the disabled list and his players' fabulous talent for landing on it. Rafael Furcal, Brad Penny, Nomar Garciaparra, Takashi Saito, Juan Pierre, and on and on and on.

Try to leave Pierre off that list. Some injuries are addition by subtraction.

The pitching staff has covered for the human frailty, allowing the Dodgers to stay in the race.

If you can call this a race.

More smugness. Not surprising, of course, if you look at Ian's mugshot again.

The Dodgers are due to win it, long overdue in fact. They haven't won a playoff series, never mind a championship, since Kirk Gibson did his thing against Dennis Eckersley in 1988. They've played 13 postseason games since that magical run, and lost 12 of them.

Somehow, this is probably also Torre's fault.

Torre embraced this challenge after the Yankees all but told him they no longer required his services. On his return to New York, a road trip to Shea at the end of May, Torre confirmed that he'd had it with his hometown's intensity and pace.

"I'm glad my time has come and gone as far as the high-wire act all the time," he said. "New York is great for the good times and memorable for the bad times.

"I obviously have a lot of friends here and it was a special time for 12 years. But it was time to move on and I'm glad I made the decision, not for any other reason than I'm more comfortable where I am."

Comfortable? Torre shouldn't get too comfortable.

Again, apparently we're now equating being happy that your team isn't part of a fucking media circus with doing an inadequate job.

He's not a ceremonial Dodger in the Tommy Lasorda mold. Joe Torre is the active and accountable leader of a team that has no good reason to lose a division its manager was hired to win.

Hiring a manager to win a division in which you finished the preceding season 8 games out of first place is like hiring a hypnotherapist to fix your car.



PS- MANAGERS DON'T DO THAT MUCH

8 comments:

Elliot said...

Nice one lb. managers are good for one thing: firing them can sometimes satiate the bloodthirst of fans and media after a bad season.

pnoles said...

The "shut up" label literally made me laugh out loud.

Ooh...you can click it too!

"Showing posts with label shut up."

Just this one? Darn. We've gotta increase this tally!

In other news, I am very easily amused.

ed hardiman said...

Larry,
Great scribble as always...

I wouldn't start Juan Pierre on a dare, isn't he the poster boy for worst free agent signing ever?

The Phillies proudly wear the indelible sucking chest wound trade stains of Millwood, Ashby and Garcia but they never sank to Pierre depths and that includes signing Danny Tartabull...

Has anyone ever uttered the phrase:

"All we need is Juan Pierre to put us over the top..."

cs said...

It's like in NYC, all the morons are praising the firing of Willie R as if THAT spurred the team to recapture the division lead.

Bengoodfella said...

I think anytime Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, and Nomar Garciaparra are options a manager has to put into the lineup, and it is not 2003, then it is not your fault as a manager for what the team's record is.

pnoles said...

Ed Hardiman is feeling lonely again.....perhaps I should check back over to foxsports.com and see what he's done lately?

Jack M said...

Joe Torre is not, nor will he ever be, a True Dodger.

Jack M said...

Unless the Dodgers win the World Series while he's managing them.