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.
As 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.
Joe 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.