Not a Good Night For Management

Geez, where to start? For all the blame we’ve heaped on guys like Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Manny Ramirez, and Jonathan Broxton – much of it deserved, some of it less so - last night was the culimination of about twenty different poor management decisions.

Perhaps we’ll go with the obvious, and that’s that the Octavio Dotel deal looks more horrific with every terrible Dotel appearance and every quality James McDonald start for the Pirates. I hated this deal from the moment it was made, but that was because I thought the pricetag was far too high. I’ll admit that I thought that Dotel would be a decent addition to the pen, yet he’s been horrendous; last night’s meltdown was painful to watch, made bearable only by the knowledge that the playoff hunt is over and one more brutal loss doesn’t make much of a difference at this point.

FanGraphs sums up my frustrations:

Ned Coletti and Joe Torre are living in a world where James McDonald (20 K, 4 BB, 0 HR in 17.2 IP with Pittsburgh) and Andrew Lambo are an acceptable price to add a middling reliever to a team six games out of the playoffs and then turn him into the relief ace over two superior pitchers. The Dodgers are now 12 games out of the NL West lead and 8 games out of the Wild Card. I don’t know what the Dodgers’ endgame was with Octavio Dotel, but there’s no doubt that Coletti and the Los Angeles front office missed big on this one.

Basically, yes. I still can’t believe there were people who liked that deal at the time. In fact, let’s take a quick comparison at the performance of the veterans the Dodgers acquired at the deadline as compared to those who were shipped out. Yes, I know that three weeks is hardly a fair sample size, but this will be a useful comparison tool when I repeat this exercise in the months and years to come.

Coming to LA:
Scott Podsednik – .724 OPS, and surprisingly lousy defense.
Ryan Theriot – .663 OPS, which doesn’t make up for surprisingly good D.
Octavio Dotel – 1.765 WHIP, 7 BB in 5 IP, 2 blown games.
Ted Lilly – 4 ER in 19 IP. No argument that he’s been excellent, but it hasn’t mattered.

Leaving LA:
Blake DeWitt – .783 OPS, 120 points higher than Theriot, and who could have predicted that?
James McDonald – 20/4 K/BB in three Pirate starts.
Andrew Lambo – .904 OPS in 61 PA for AA Altoona.
Brett Wallach – 13/9 K/BB in 3 games for A Peoria.
Kyle Smit – 9/3 K/BB in 8.1 IP for AA Tennessee.
Lucas May – .848 OPS and 4 HR in 62 PA for AAA Omaha.
Elisaul Pimentel – 2.053 WHIP in 4 games for A Burlington.

So the only Dodger who’s really done well is Lilly, but he was added to the part of the team that needed a boost less than anywhere else, and the only prospects who haven’t gotten off to a good start are the two still in Low-A ball. That’s without even considering the implications in salary (Theriot, for example, costs far more than DeWitt) or team control (about 40 years out the window).

This team would have been so much better off making zero of those three trades that it’s scary.

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Front office issue #2: not having a backup catcher should Martin get hurt, which he did. A.J. Ellis had another oh-fer last night (including looking horrible on a suicide squeeze, and more on that in a second). Ellis is down to a .440 OPS on the season, which is laughable only in that it’s somehow better than Ausmus’ .433. To put that in perspective, Garret Anderson was at least at .475. Chad at MOKM did a good job recently of pointing out just how good these two are making Martin look, but I don’t consider this a new issue.

Really, how was going into the season with a guy we all knew couldn’t hit (Ellis) and a guy we knew couldn’t hit and was over 40 (Ausmus) a smart idea? Back on March 7, when Martin was injured in camp and Ellis looked like he’d be the Opening Day catcher, I looked at Ellis and said that his total lack of offense meant I had no hopes for him as a major leaguer. In December, I said the idea of getting into a bidding war over Ausmus was ludicrous.

In fact, this goes all the way back to last October, and my 2010 plan, where I was resigned to the fact that you had to stick with Martin (look for a repeat of that in the 2011 plan), but that you had to sign a better backup. I suggested Ramon Hernandez. All he ended up doing this year is hit  .303/.367/.437/.804 for the Reds.

This shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone, and now the team is paying for it.

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Speaking of the Ellis bunt, I never thought he’d figure out a way to look worse at the plate than he usually does, but he sure did it. I actually didn’t hate the idea of bunting in that situation, because Ellis isn’t any better of a hitter than your average pitcher; but why did Torre need to wait until there were two strikes to make the call?

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I’ve said this before, and I’ll keep saying it: there is no rational reason that Ryan Theriot should be hitting higher in the lineup than Jamey Carroll. Carroll gets on base more often, and even hits for a bit more power. I said it before last night’s game, and look what happened: Carroll got on twice, Theriot just once. There’s no question that this offense needs a shake-up; isn’t this an easy and obvious way to do it?

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Finally, we have the game-ending play where Reed Johnson tried to score from first on a bloop single. Yes, read that again, because it actually happened. What in the world Larry Bowa was thinking was beyond me, but for someone who’s not shy about talking about Kemp in the paper, we need to realize that he played a pretty large role in this loss as well. I can’t even accurately express to you in words how much Johnson was out by, so I’ll let Chad from MOKM‘s animated .gif do it for me:

I mean, that’s not even close to being close. I realize with a punchless offense you try to take chances where you can, but good lord, give the runner a chance there, Larry.

The worst part? Torre was completely on board:

Torre, on Bowa sending Reed Johnson: “That’s certainly what I would have done”

Of course it is. I have a lot of respect for the years Torre, Bowa, & Bob Schaefer have spent in the game, but I hardly think I’m alone when I say I can’t wait for a new regime. And I’m not…

ESPN’s Rob Neyer:

Maybe the solution here is to keep Kemp and find a new coaching staff. Because the old staff doesn’t seem to have accomplished much this summer.

LA Times’ Bill Shaikin:

But, by keeping Kemp out of the lineup until he begged forgiveness, the old-school manager and his old-school coaching staff played by old-school rules that no longer fly. If Kemp had sinned for the Angels, Mike Scioscia would have summoned him to the office, immediately after the game or before the next one, read him the riot act and moved on.

Scioscia also checks in with his players during batting practice. On the day Kemp snapped, Torre never set foot on the field during batting practice. He held court with the media, then visited with some Hollywood friends.

Torre says he won’t make his decision on 2011 until the team is eliminated from playoff contention. That ought to be any day now; I know which choice I’m hoping for.

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  1. [...] more a concern about management than it is about Carroll himself, and in fact by August I was wondering why Carroll wasn’t hitting higher in the lineup to take advantage of his high OBP: I’ve said [...]

  2. [...] more the fault of Larry Bowa than it was of Johnson, but I absolutely have to start with this, from mid-August: Finally, we have the game-ending play where Reed Johnson tried to score from first on a bloop [...]