After some initial hilarity at the idea that Preston Mattingly (Don’s son and failed Dodger prospect) was breaking major news on Twitter, the news is finally official: Joe Torre will not be returning as Dodger manager next season, and Don Mattingly will be taking over.
Just like many of you, I’m pretty disappointed by this. I want to caution against being too hard on Mattingly, because none of us really know what he’ll be like as manager, but I’m not at all happy about how this went down. Did Tim Wallach even get an interview? Did anyone? It certainly doesn’t seem like it, and it’s hard to think that Wallach will be back. The jury is still out on Mattingly as manager, to say the least, but his lack of experience plus the hope many of us had to completely turn the page on this coaching staff makes this hard to swallow.
As for Torre not returning, you know me well enough by now to know that I’m thrilled by this news, because Torre’s time in LA had clearly passed. Honestly, I could go for weeks about the issues I’ve had with his management – you know, things like incorrectly playing the matchups, generally overworking the bullpen, bringing in George Sherrill against a righty in the 9th inning of a tie game, letting Jonathan Broxton throw 95 pitches in five days (which he still hasn’t recovered from), sitting Matt Kemp in favor of Juan Pierre, continuous usage of clearly busted veterans like Garret Anderson & Mark Sweeney, running Russell Martin into the ground (in addition to his ridiculous “third base days off“, batting Juan Pierre leadoff every goddamn day, tempting the fates of both Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda by using them before and after long rain delays, and finally, the most ridiculous quote anyone’s ever given:
“I tried to reason who was going to give me the better at-bat – Berroa or Loney,” Torre said.
…which I’m still reeling from, even though it was two years ago. I’ve barely scratched the surface there, but I’m not going to go any further. Partially, that’s because I don’t have the time to clear my schedule for two solid weeks to dig up every stupid thing he’s done, but mostly because the last three years of this blog provide a pretty solid record of it.
Besides, it’s unfair to not at least recognize his accomplishments, and the team did make it to the NLCS twice in his three years. While I haven’t always agreed with the way he ran the clubhouse, the off-field drama this team has had to deal with since arrival – the divorce and Manny’s suspension, just to name two - could have easily led to a complete collapse under a lesser manager. It hasn’t been smooth, but Torre mostly avoided that, and he deserves credit for it.
Mostly, I’m just glad he’s moving on. Torre may have been the right fit for the 2008 and 2009 teams, talented outfits that were trying to heal from the “veterans-vs-kids” split of the Grady Little years. Clearly, he’s not the right fit for the 2010 club, and I can’t see his “old-school” style working as this team moves forward.
Finally, at least I can say I was consistent on Torre. Back in October of 2007, we first started to hear the Torre-to-LA rumors. While I mistakenly dismissed them as being unrealistic, I did put down my feelings on Torre coming to Dodger Stadium at the time.
Second of all, much as we really, really, don’t like Grady Little, I really didn’t want to see Torre in Blue either. Torre and Little are actually very similar types – pretty good at managing people, and pretty rotten at managing baseball lineups. It’s pretty common knowledge that Torre ruins bullpen arms by picking the 1 or 2 guys he trusts and using them 8 days a week – what do you think would happen if he got his hands on Broxton? No thanks. We’ve already got a laid-back, players’ manager who makes questionable lineup decisions. No need to make a lateral move.
Besides, all due respect for what Torre’s accomplished in New York, it’s pretty obvious that he was helped out just a little by all the, you know, talent. People forget now, but he was regarded as a pretty mediocre manager in his stops with the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals – St. Louis actually fired him in mid-1995, before he took the Yankees job. You know why? Those teams sucked. Do you remember the late-70′s Mets? Of course you don’t, because the reason the mid-80s Mets were so good was because they were able to take players like Strawberry and Gooden in the first round, thanks to their terrible finishes under Torre. This is a guy, who in 15 opportunities before going to the Bronx, finished in first exactly once – and he just happened to have the best player in the league on his 1982 Atlanta team, 26-year-old NL MVP Dale Murphy. Then he goes to a team who just happens to have Jeter, Rivera, Posada, etc. etc. entering their primes and look at that, all of a sudden he can manage. Amazing what talent can do, isn’t it?
That was just about three years ago, and while I’ve had my share of poor opinions, I can’t really find a thing to quibble with there.