Is his AOL Sports column this week, columnist Jim Armstrong heaps praise over Grady Little and how it is because of him, his shrewdness and his ability to take “has beens, never-weres and might-bes” why the Dodgers are sitting on top of the NL West. Let’s take a look…
“They don’t have a legit middle-of-the-order hitter, their closer has a bum shoulder and their would-be No. 1 starter is gone for the season with one lonely W to his credit.”
All true. Although Saito’s shoulder problems didn’t surface until a week ago, and his MRI results were negative and showed no structural damage. He’ll probably be back within the next couple of days. Did it help us? No, and it was certainly a big worry when it happened, but Saito has already reported a significant improvement.
“So how are they doing it?”
By Brad Penny pitching a Cy Young caliber season (he has the highest VORP in the NL at 45.2 and second only in baseball to Dan Haren), by having Derek Lowe pitch well, by having an All-Star catcher who is the best catcher offensively and defensively in the NL (Martin), having arguably the best closer in the game (Creaky Shoulder Saito), along with one of the better setup men in the game (Jonathan Broxton), having Matt Kemp and James Loney put up EqA’s of .329 and .324 since they’ve been called up, a solid Luis Gonzalez, the gradual emergence of Chad Billingsley, etc., etc.
“Smog and mirrors are the first things that come to mind, but it’s more than that. I’m thinking, as much as it must pain Red Sox Nation to hear it, Grady Little deserves much of the credit.”
Oh God. Now here it comes… Grady, Red Sox… please, Jim, please don’t bring it up again. I’m begging you, please… PLEASE!! NO!!
“You remember our man Grady. He left Pedro Martinez in a playoff game for one too many pitches and suddenly became the village idiot in Boston, going down in Sawx lore with the likes of Bill Buckers, Bucky ‘‘Freakin’ ’’ Dent and Harry Frazee, the owner who sold Babe Ruth to the Evil Empire for a lousy $125,000, a.k.a. table-dance money for Alex Rodriguez.”
Yeah, stick it to those Red Sox fans, Jim… obviously those fans and the Red Sox front office are still trying to pick up the pieces since they fired Grady Little after the 2003 ALCS. In fact, there are swirling rumors flying around Boston that Theo Epstein still has trouble living with that move. In fact, it’s now time for another episode of…
MSTI Presents: A Night At Theo’s
(wailing saxophone begins in the backround)
Narrator: It was a Friday night. The weather was cold and damp and the Red Sox just came home to Fenway Park to begin a 10 game homestand, starting with the Yankees. After losing the first game 9-2, Theo went back into his condo to relax and unwind. After walking in, he then slowly walks into his bedroom, locks the door, turns off the lights and brings a Smiths album with him. He then puts on the song “I Know It’s Over,” then he climbs on to his bed and gently grabs the framed Grady Little photo that he keeps under his pillow. Finally, like he has on so many other nights, his emotions let loose…
Theo: “WHHHHHHHYYYYY??!! Why did I ever fire you, Gumppy?! Our team has been floundering ever since… I’m so sorry… I didn’t mean it… John and Larry made me do it! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!! The truth is… I CAN’T QUIT YOU!! Grady… I…”
Narrator: Unfortunately, Theo stops midway in his sentence, as the photo drops, because his hand can no longer handle the extra weight that his shiny 2004 World Series ring already carries.
“Little’s .567 career winning percentage is among the highest in baseball history, considerably better than Joe Torre’s .537.”
Oh. My. God.
Excuse me, I have to make a telephone call…
(calls Joe Torre)
Me: Hey, Joe, how are ya?
Joe: Hey! Oh, pretty good. thanks, My Yankees are playing better, so George finally untied me. What’s up?
Me: I just wanted to call you and say that compared to Grady Little, you SUCK as a manager!
Joe: Grady Little… ah, good memories… just to check, you mean the guy who left Pedr…
Me: (interrupts) YES!! Him.
Joe: Wait… that guy’s better than me?!
Me: Yes, substantially.
Joe: But I have four rings!
Me: Rings don’t matter, silly, you have a lower winning percentage!
Joe: But every year I’ve managed the Yankees, I’ve reached the playoffs!
Me: You still have a lower winning percentage.
Joe: But, look, I managed some really bad Mets teams back in the 1980′s, and the Cardinals weren’t all that good either.
Me: So you ain’t all the way good and have treated and managed the other teams differently.
Joe: Huh? But… but… what about…
Me: Look, Joe, I don’t care if you’ve managed about a gazillion more years to Grady’s three and a half. It doesn’t matter if you had crap teams with the Mets, and not so good teams with the Cardinals which lowered that total… Grady Little has a better winning percentage and therefore is a better manager. You suck, Joe! Grady is better. Jim Armstrong of AOL Sports says so and he’s a rational person!
Before I dig up the corpse of Walter Alston, so I could yell at him and say how much he sucked too, as his winning percentage was inferior to Little’s, I first have to make another call later to Vern Benson. You’ve never heard of him? Well, shame on you, readers, because he’s only the greatest manager to ever live. He has a 1.000 winning percentage. Does it matter that he only managed 1 game in 1977? No, his winning percentage speaks for itself. Stengel, McGraw, Mack, Sparky… you all WISH you were as good as Vernie!
“If you’ve seen the Dodgers, you already know who the National League manager of the year is. Hint: It isn’t Milwaukee’s Ned Yost, who has an MVP candidate (Prince Fielder) and rookie of the year hopeful (Ryan Braun) in the middle of his batting order.”
Hint: Grady Little has arguably the leading Cy Young candidate (Brad Penny), a potential MVP candidate (Russell Martin), and probably the best closer in the NL (Saito).
Another hint: it IS Ned Yost who deserves Manager Of The Year. The Brewers have sucked for like 150 years and have completely turned it around to lead the NL Central for pretty
much the entire season.
“How puny is their attack? Consider this: The Performer Formerly Known as Nomar Garciaparra spent the first half of the season hitting cleanup. He had two home runs in 300-plus at-bats before being dropped in the order.”
Even better, consider this: Nomar hasn’t batted clean up ALL YEAR!! In fact, in his entire Dodger career, he’s only had nine at-bats in that spot, all in 2006. He has hit third for most of this year – 269 at-bats, which is not 300+ – then was flipped in the order with Russell Martin and dropped to the six spot.
“Truth is, the Dodgers don’t own a cleanup hitter, just a bunch of guys being paid like one. And, while we’re on the subject, they don’t have a No. 3 hitter, either. At the moment, Russell Martin is hitting third, with Jeff Kent behind him. A catcher and second baseman in the middle of the order. Only in America, and only at Dodger Stadium.”
They don’t have a #3 hitter? Martin has been the team’s best hitter for most of the year, leads the team in VORP with 33.6, has a WARP3 of 9.1, has an EqA of .294 and – even though I hate using this statistic, but it might be something Armstrong understands – leads the team with 66 RBI’s, after hitting sixth in the order for most of the year.
Oh yeah, and that second baseman hitting in the middle of the order? He’s only the guy who has MORE HOME RUNS THAN EVERY SECOND BASEMAN IN HISTORY, YOU BLITHERING IDIOT!! O.K., true, that isn’t relevant to 2007. So, what HAS he done in 2007? He has an EqA of .295, 14 HR’s, 125 OPS+, a VORP of 25, and is having an insane July. Is he what he used to be? No. Can he still hit? Hell yeah.
In fact, make that 15 HR’s, as he obliterates one off one of the steel poles at Minute Maid Park, as I type this.
“Kent is the only Dodgers hitter on pace for 20 home runs, and Martin, the best catcher you’ve barely heard of, is their only candidate to reach 100 RBIs.”
But wait a minute… I thought their offensive attack was so puny, that was why they had to put the then-two HR Nomar into the clean up spot where he never hit at? And I thought it was crazy to put a catcher and second baseman in the middle of the order?! So wait… first Little isn’t strategically-challenged, then it was him who left Nomar in a spot in which he never batted in for 300 at-bats, then he’s the Manager Of The Year, then it was “only at Dodger Stadium” where a catcher and second baseman would be in the middle of the order… now it’s a good move because one is on pace for 20 HR’s and the other for 100 RBI’s… but yet I thought they had no options outside of Nomar because their attack is so puny? Which is it, Jimmy?!
“Which reminds me. Instead of firing hitting coach Eddie Murray, maybe they should have stuck him in the five hole.”
Ha ha. Except that wouldn’t work, you dipshit, because they’ve had a very solid and productive Luis Gonzalez hitting there. Instead of wasting my time reiterating the obvious, see the “Real Men Of Genius Presents: Luis Gonzalez” article below.
“There are only two logical explanations for why the Dodgers are winning the West.”
Great pitching – at least for the first two and a half months – and once that started going south, they have had a great offensive surge that took off around the time Bill Mueller was hired as hitting coach. In fact, this “puny attack” has improved so much that they now rank 2nd in the NL (6th in MLB) in OBP at .345. Also, since the All-Star break, they have jumped from 19th to 13th in runs across all of MLB and have had one of the best offenses in baseball post-All Star break. An offensive force? No. Hitting A LOT better? Yeah.
But who am I to say this? I’m sure Armstrong provides the REAL reasons to the Dodgers’ success…
“First, their manager has done a great job of making up his lineup card as he goes along.”
You see, that explains their success right there. You hear that, Martin, Kent, Loney, Ethier, Gonzo and Kemp? You’re not doing well because you’ve hit the crap out of the ball… no, it’s lineup placement! And you hear that, Kansas City? You don’t suck because most of your hitters are worthless… it’s because your manager can’t put up a great lineup!
Ironically, one of Grady’s biggest weaknesses has been his inability to put out a competent lineup. He left Nomar, who just barely passed Juan Pierre in slugging percentage, in the three – not four – spot for the first two and a half months. He has left Pierre, a man with a .314 OBP, in the two spot for most of the year, although, to Pierre’s credit, he has been performing much better in the second half. Not to mention that two of the team’s hottest hitters, James Loney and Matt Kemp – another possible source of much-needed power – continue to hit 7th and 8th (after the inferior Nomar), as does Andre Ethier when he starts. Wilson Betemit, one of four players on the team with more than 10 HR’s – and in a third of the at-bats – also rots on the bench.
Now due to baseball politics and salaries, a lot of this isn’t necessarily Little’s fault, but still… great lineups my ass.
I’m FAR from a Little fan, but can it be said that some of his moves have worked this season? Sure… but is he the main reason behind why Brad Penny is pitching like a madman? Or why the offense has been on fire for the past month? Probably not.
Armstrong then goes on to mention the pitching and how Cy Young candidate Brad Penny has stepped up with the loss of Schmidt. O.K., fair point, but wait a minute… did he just say…
“Cy Young candidate Brad Penny”
Oh no, he did say it… CY YOUNG candidate? I thought a Manager Of The Year winner can’t have one?
“Normally, a team would fold the tent when its top starter goes down for the year. Not the Dodgers. Enter Chad Billingsley, who has stepped into the fray and reeled off seven straight decisions.”
And OH MY GOD… young kids have been part of the success too? That’s it, someone better take Grady Little’s name out of consideration for Manager Of The Year. Don’t you know that, according to Armstrong’s logic, you can’t have any MVP candidates, rookie sensations and probably not any Cy Young candidates to be Manager Of The Year? No, you know why? Because a REAL manager doesn’t win that way. No… a real manager has no use for player’s contending for awards, nor do they need that overrated elite talent. Dang nab it, dontcha know that a real manager can take a bunch of AA players and pep talk them, build their confidence, give them that sheer grit and propel them to achieve greatness? THAT’S what makes Manager Of The Year candidates.
On a kinda unrelated but still kinda related sidenote: don’t you just hate how in order for someone to be a great manager/coach, some people judge them based on how they would do in the most God-awful circumstances or how they’d do if their actual talent was taken away? Although a different sport, it’s the same crap people give Phil Jackson, because he had Jordan/Pippen and then Shaq/Kobe. Sure, it helped A LOT, but then you have idiots say: “Well, if he’s such a good coach, let’s see what he’d do with the Knicks!”
It’s also like saying: “Well, if Babe Ruth is so good, let’s see if he could have turned the Royals into a World Series team if he were alive today.”
Give me a freaking break.
And just for the record: four of Billingsley’s seven wins came out of the bullpen. While generally pretty good out of the rotation this year, he’s been somewhat inconsistent at times, but he has shown progress lately, as evidenced by his comp
lete game a couple of days ago. Nitpicky? Yeah… but get it right.
“The question these days in Chavez Ravine is who’s closing.”
No, it’s not. It’s more: “Ned, can you please get us some more starting pitching, if not maybe an extra bullpen arm, as suddenly most of our starters can’t go deep in the games and it’s causing our entire bullpen to implode?!” Also, Saito should return in a couple of days and, even if not, the answer would be very simple: Jonathan Broxton who, ironically, is being groomed for the closer’s role in the future.
“The Dodgers? The best thing to be said for their lineup is that none of their players has masterminded any dogfights lately.”
The best thing to say about your sportswriting is that it’s a pity you haven’t been apart of any.