• HaroldHecuba: Mike Mussina is EASTERN EUROPEAN, not Italian....

Rumors were flying all over the baseball world last night that the Dodgers have all but decided to fire manager Grady Little and replace him with Joe Torre.

little.jpgAs a Dodgers fan I would have mixed feelings if this whole thing actually goes through. On one hand, I have no particular love for Grady Little, who in two years at the helm of the Boys in Blue proved himself to be a borderline incompetent in-game manager, but even worse, completely lost control of his clubhouse down the stretch this year.

In this day and age of high-salaried, high-maintenance ballplayers, a manager’s biggest job has become managing the egos in the clubhouse (second biggest job: dealing with the media), and Grady decisively proved that he couldn’t do that.

So I’m not sad to see Grady go at all.

But on the other hand, Joe Torre is a supremely overrated manager. Granted, he was adept at performing what I just said were a manager’s top two jobs of managing the egos and managing the press, so credit where credit is due, but where the overrated part comes in is all the additional credit he gets for all the World Series titles that the Yankees won.

The fact is that Joe Torre was blessed with supremely talented teams for all twelve years he was with the Yankees. All twelve of those teams were the best team on paper heading into the season, and all twelve would have been expected to go far into the playoffs, no matter who was managing.

torre.jpgJoe Torre lived up to what we would have expected from any manager under those circumstances. He did an okay job. In the first five years (with no small amount of luck – Jeffrey Maier, anyone?), he won four World Series, but in the last seven years he didn’t win any.

Moreover, any sort of close examination of Torre’s in-game managing calls reveals that he was a less than stellar tactician, extremely rigid in his use of the bullpen and the bench, abusive with his star relievers to the verge of ruining careers, and prone to irrationally overplaying personal favorites.

Look, I’m not trying to say that Torre was a terrible manager by any stretch of the imagination. As I already said, he was good at PR, and he also brought a sense of dignity to the team and was popular with his players and the fans. And those are all good things.

But what it boils down is, are Joe Torre’s managerial skills really worth between $15 to $20 million over the next three years? I mean how many extra wins a year was Torre worth to the Yankees? 1? Maybe 2 at most? How many wins did he cost by playing Miguel Cairo at first base? Wouldn’t the Dodgers be better off spending all those millions on a starting pitcher, or three stud relievers, or a third baseman?

To me this is just more evidence that Frank McCourt and Ned Colletti really have no idea what they are doing and continue to be afflicted by one of the worst cases of big-name-itis in the majors.

I would much rather see the Dodgers spend big money on actual ballplayers, or scouting, or player development, than on a big-name manager. There are lots of baseball guys out there who could make players feel good and not say stupid shit to the press, but there are decidedly fewer guys who can hit 30 homers a year or throw 95 mph with movement.

20 Responses to “Just when Scott Proctor thought he was safe…”

  1. I thought God was busy with the NFL curing concussions?

    Re: Dice-K

    Definitely a good sign. Much better than I expected. He still was not dominant. His 0-2 and 1-2 pitches outside the strikezone weren’t fooling many people, but he was willing to challenge guys like Hafner, which is a good sign. He was also inducing outs, which kept his pitch count down. Another good sign. His previous start he spent way too much time deep in the counts.

    PS. Who was the new guy wearing #7 in Game 6?

  2. Sarah Green says:

    Rich, I think #7 was a translator.

    Also, Nick, while I have no doubt that the Indians will be back again over the next couple of years, I think you are overstating the “intactness” of their team. Yes, they have some of their very best core guys locked down, but as you know, in baseball it’s not about having a few core guys. It’s about fielding an entire team that can contribute, and that is deep enough to withstand the 162-game grind of the regular season, not to mention a full month of playoff ball. The Indians have a lot of guys whose contracts are up at the end of this year, and they will have to do some real work in the offseason to not only plug holes, but hopefully to upgrade.

  3. Alejandro Leal says:

    Nick, it’s game 7 of the ALCS. Joel Skinner had to know Manny Ramirez was playing left field. Even if it were Vladimir Guerrero, you send Lofton home.

    And I’ll take exception to the notion that the Indians are here to stay. In case anyone hasn’t noticed, the last three ALCS have been disputed by members of the AL Central.

    If anything, the Tigers or my dear ol’ White Sox will step it up again next year. You do recall that both of those teams kept their entire rosters, almost to the bullpen catcher (not entirely true, but you get the point) *and*upgraded (Sox added Javier Vazquez and Jim Thome; Tigers added Sheffield) after their respective World Series appearances.

    Yet the Sox had a 72-90 record this year and the Tigers missed the playoffs by a mile. Who knows, maybe it’s the Twinkies turn.

    I will, however, add Sizemore and Hafner to my fantasy team next year.

  4. Nick Kapur says:

    Sarah, this is the second time you’ve suggested that the Indians are going to be losing a lot of key players to free agency!

    But that is simply not true at all!

    Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Out of 25 guys, the Indians only have 3 true free agents – Kenny Lofton, Trot Nixon, and Chris Gomez.

    Lofton was a 2 month rental, Nixon is an aging 4th outfielder who has almost nothing left, and Gomez was a non-entity.

    Even if the Indians sign nobody at all (although of course they will), these three guys could be easily replaced from within.

    Byrd and Borowski have team options at very reasonable prices, so they can be kept, and if they are let go, it’s only because the Indians *want* to let them go!

    And besides, Borowski was only the 5th best player in that ‘pen this year and Byrd might be facing a suspension, so the Indians might actually want to just let them walk.

    But all in all, the Indians really only have to lose 2(!) guys out of 25. That’s amazingly few, and probably means the Indians have the least work cut out for them this offseason of any team.

    Mark Shapiro has really done an amazing job.

  5. Sarah Green says:

    Nick, I know Shapiro has done an amazing job on his core players. But he needs to pay attention this offseason to the “role player” guys. October is where depth counts.

    Other UmpBumpers, offline, Nick has been bashing my brain in with the utterly amazing, ridiculously talented, unspeakably orgasmic players that the Indians have coming up in their farm system. Plus, he’s shown me a much more comprehensive website for tracking player contracts than the hodgepodge of sources I was using before. So, uncle. I give in! Yes, the Indians are going into winter already in good shape for next year. Nonetheless, they just wasted a year of C.C. Sabathia’s prime. They’ll never get it back. And 2008 is currently the last year on his contract. It’s not like C.C. Sabathias just grow on trees. So I think my point about “they need to win now” still holds, only doubly so for next year.

  6. Nick Kapur says:

    Alejandro, the White Sox played way above their heads by any and all statistical measures in 2005, when they essentially captured lightning in a bottle, so we knew they were due for a decline and were pretty much a one-year wonder.

    I don’t deny that the Tigers are good, but the Indians are really set up for the long haul in a really brilliant way. Almost everyone except C.C. is signed at rock-bottom prices for years to come.

    The Twinkies are pretty much out of it in the near term, in my estimation. Both Santana and Nathan are free agents after next season, and they’ll need a few years to develop Garza and Co.

  7. Sarah Green says:

    Oh, and plus, I submit that if Nixon gets more playing time in this series, there’s a chance that the Indians are going to the World Series this morning. Gutierrez hit .207 in the postseason, while Nixon hit .455. But despite giving Nixon a couple of starts, Eric Wedge pretty much stuck with the floundering Gutierrez, who had 29 at-bats verus Nixon’s 11. So yeah, maybe he’s old. Maybe he has nothing left. But maybe he could have been the difference-maker in this ALCS.

  8. Nick Kapur says:

    Hehe, well maybe, although the Indians were outscored by the Red Sox 40-8 in four games the Red Sox won.

    Trot would have needed to have added between 7 and 11 runs all by his lonesome in one of those four games, depending on which one you imagine he would have won for the Tribe, in order to have been a difference-maker.

  9. Hmm, we need a post dissecting management choices in this series. Did Wedge leave Betancourt in too long, or was he already finished? Did Wedge’s choice of “doing what we done all season” (which looked brilliant after Byrd’s start) lead to his lineup woes later in the series? Did Francona’s willingness to play with his lineup contribute to the success (see Article 1: Kielty vs. Sabathia. Article 2: Crisp as Defensive Replacement to Center, leading to his and Ellsbury’s Web Gems)?Should Okajima have been finished after the seventh?

    Also, the most infuriating commentary of the series was the repeated statement that Paps never had a six-out save. While technically correct, he pitched 2 shutout innings in Game 2. It’s not like his arm falls off after 5 outs.

    @Sarah
    The Indians didn’t exactly waste a year of Sabathia’s prime, as he didn’t exactly do much to help himself out either. His two starts in the ALCS were simply not good. Had he made Beckett-like starts and lost, then I would say the year was wasted.

  10. Sarah Green says:

    Rich, they wasted him all season long. The reason he’s going to win the Cy Young this year, somewhat tragically in hindsight, is that he blew Beckett away in terms of innings pitched. He had what, 5 complete games? (I am too lazy to look this up, but I think it was five.) But in the postseason, he just looked finished. Done. Like he had nothing left. Beckett just barely met the 200 innings mark during the regular season and has been not only lighting up the radar guns (they must be off, because I swear Josh Beckett doesn’t hit 97/98, much less that one reported pitch of 101 mph) but doing so with surgical precision.

    Now, I’ve gone on the record many a time saying that I’d like to see more complete games and that I think all this anxiety over pitch-counts is stupid. But watching and comparing the performances of Sabathia and Beckett this season and this postseason has made me seriously reconsider my own beliefs.

    And Nick, come on. You’re just being silly! With all the many moments in this series when the game could have gone either way (and you yourself admit that the final score of last night’s game does not accurately reflect how close it was) I think it’s obvious that a timely hit by Nixon could have provided the necessary spark to keep innings alive and momentum going. He had gone 2-for-3 just the night before!

  11. Alejandro Leal says:

    Nick

    One-year-wonders??!!! I don’t think winning 96 games (like they did in 2006) is systematic of a fluke. Yes, the White Sox were able to put it together in 2005, something they haven’t been able to replicate any other year since 2001 (when the Williams reign began), but you have to take into account that the division became the best in baseball in a manner of two or three years.

    That said, I’m not excusing the team’s poor play this year.

    Oh and I will ask my main man Phil Rogers to further debunk your one-year-wonder theory. How about I pull a 2006 article, titled Williams has (Chi)Sox loaded for years to come, in which, as you may imagine, the point is made that the Sox can and will contend for years to come.

    The only prospect mentioned in that article that isn’t with the White Sox today is Brandon McCarthy, and well all know how well his season fared in Texas.

    Coincidentally, that same article can serve as a talking point to argue that the Indians will not be back in the ALCS next year.

    (In the court of law, isn’t that against the rules? Using one argument to show guilt, but then using the same argument to show innocence in another tort?)

  12. Nick Kapur says:

    I really don’t want to harsh on the White Sox too much, Alejandro. They definitely had a good team in 2005, but it is also true that they had a lot of players put up career years all at once, and they also outperformed their win-expectancy by a large margin, so it was not a surprise that they didn’t do as well the next season, despite returning the team intact (although it’s pretty hard to win a World Series under any circumstances!).

    But I am also not sold on the White Sox as a perennial contender in the next few years ahead. I think they are on the edge – ie in the 85 win range. Which means if things break right they can win 93 or something and make the dance, but when things break wrong, like they did this year, they’ll be back in the 70s.

    The White Sox do have some good prospects, but they also have a lot of holes to fill – bullpen, second base, outfield, rotation. Meanwhile, the established players are aging and Garland and Thome are going to be free agents after next season.

  13. Nick Kapur says:

    If I were Kenny Williams I actually probably would have blown up this aging team, trading Dye, Buehrle, Thome, and Garland for everything I could get. But I understand how it can be hard to part with aging but beloved veterans, especially the ones who brought home a World Series title.

    Also, that article you cited was written 2 years ago, right after the White Sox had just won the World Series, so naturally everything looked rosy back then to a Chicago-based writer like Phil Rogers.

  14. Paul Moro says:

    Wow. I didn’t even think about the potential Proctor-Torre reunion until this. Well done, Nick.

  15. Nick,
    You are probably right with your thinking that the Dodgers’ money could be better spent than on Joe Torre. Don’t the Dodgers have plenty of money to spend on a better manager as well as the rest of their ball club? If not Torre then who?

  16. Nick Kapur says:

    melissa, I think paying an extra premium to get a “name” manager is an even worse idea than paying extra for a big-name player.

    I guarantee you there are tons of very capable managers in the minor leagues who can succeed at the major league level. But someone has to give them a shot. How did Joe Torre or any of the other famous managers first get hired?

    I’d rather see the Dodgers try to find the next Joe Torre, whom they could hire for a fraction of the cost, rather than hiring the actual Joe Torre. To me hiring Torre at an exorbitant price just reeks of desperation and a desire to be thought well of by the press and the fans rather than being a smart baseball move.

  17. Third most important job: dealing with management. Torre is quite good at that as well.

  18. Sarah Green says:

    Bwahaha. Poor Joe Torre. He may be destined for an early grave if he goes from dealing with crazy George Steinbrenner to dealing with crazy Frank McCourt.

  19. Nick,
    Even if the Dodgers overpaid Torre they still have plenty of money to get whatever players they would want, it’s not an either or proposition. Say they pay him $6 million/year, that won’t limit their payroll. I agree that young managers can come in and do a sufficient job. I think Ozzie Guillen was an example of a young manager that came in and helped an organization get to and win a Series. I also believe that there are veteran managers that are difference makers such as Tony LaRussa, Lou Piniella, and Bobby Cox, all worth “over-paying.” Don’t you think a ball club would be better off bringing in a great manager than a great player such as A-Rod?

  20. Nick Kapur says:

    melissa,

    I completely disagree. I would MUCH rather have A-Rod than Joe Torre. A-Rod was worth 14 extra wins to his team last year above an average third baseman. How many extra wins was Joe Torre worth to his team above an average manager? Maybe 1 or 2, if any.

    Having a good manager is great, but ultimately it’s the players on the field who win or lose. Managers can lose games for their team by making stupid moves, but it’s pretty hard for a manager alone to add a lot of extra wins.

    Sure, Joe Torre won some championships in New York, but he had great, GREAT players. And he still didn’t win 7 out of 12 years. And Joe Torre managed for 14 years in the majors before he came to the Yankees, and didn’t win a thing.

    It all starts with great players. The Dodgers are much more likely to improve their record next season by signing A-Rod and not Joe Torre, than by signing Joe Torre and not A-Rod.

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