Random Stupid Quotes And Stupid People: Joe Torre (Part II)

In what is the second of many more times Joe Torre will make the “Random Stupid Quotes And Stupid People” feature, Torre feels that, despite it being June 23rd and having only 6 hits on the year, the Dodgers need to, and will continue to exert patience with Mark Sweeney.

From yesterday afternoon’s article from Michael Schwartz:

“The thing about players when they get older, it’s a series of adjustments,” said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. “I think that’s what Mark is going through right now.

Huh?  Let me get this straight… the reason Mark Sweeney has been an abortion of a baseball player this year is because he has to make adjustments, since he’s old.  Uh, since when is making adjustments a concept that’s exclusive to old men in the game?  Mark Sweeney has to make adjustments just like Russell Martin or Matt Kemp.  That’s like Torre saying regarding Scott Proctor: “Well, the reason Proctor has been bad is because when you get to around your early 30’s, it becomes a matter of mixing up your pitches and trying to throw strikes.  I think Scott is going through that, right now.”  Again, what the hell?

Right now, I think he’s pressing a little bit

No shit, Joe?

and it’s tough because you don’t play. You’re waiting for that one at-bat, [and] you’re never going to throw him up there in an at-bat when it doesn’t mean something.”

Say this in April, I totally get it.  May?  Alright.  But June 23rd?!  Are you kidding me?!

Just to illustrate how freaking awful Sweeney has been this year, do you remember how we all pissed and moaned about Olmedo Saenz last year, when it was obvious how cooked he was?  Here’s Saenz’s numbers through the first half of last year:

Saenz through All-Star Break 2007 (63 AB’s): .206/.333/.397, 3 HR’s, .730 OPS.

Sweeney 2008 (56 AB’s):  .107/.203/.143, 0 HR’s, .346 OPS.

Yes, that’s right, folks.  2007 first-half Olmedo Saenz is kicking the living crap out of Mark Sweeney.  THAT’S how bad he is.  For the record, even Saenz’s second half stats last year are better.  And, of course, as evidenced last year, everyone but our GM and manager noticed how washed up they were.

Still, Torre feels Sweeney has something left based on watching his body language and demeanor on the field, saying the hitter does all the right things [. . .]

Except hit the fucking ball.

“He’s certainly aware of his age, he’s certainly aware of eventually this thing’s going to be over, but I don’t sense that he’s there yet,” Torre said.

Thank You, Joe, for giving us the groundbreaking information that he’s aware of his age and knows that his career is going to eventually be over.  We were worried that he was suffering from alzheimers, but apparently not; good.  Now he’s right on his way from being aware of his age to being aware of how many outs there are in an inning!

Torre added Sweeney still has a “great swing path,”

That’s very true.  I’m sure the opposing teams feel the same way, as this deeply skilled and great swing path just flows through the strike zone and creates a nice, big cluster of… air.

The Dodgers’ organization is always looking for improvements, but Torre said it hasn’t gotten to that point with Sweeney where Los Angeles feels it could find an upgrade over him at Triple-A or through a player available in a trade.

Do you hear that, folks?  Having a .107/.203/.143 line through late June isn’t bad enough and, therefore, isn’t worth an upgrade.  That’s right… Mark Sweeney is having a season that is still good enough to keep him employed.

Don’t you wish Joe Torre was your boss?  I mean, let’s picture that Torre was, like, the head of a hospital and Sweeney was, oh, I don’t know… a surgeon.

Sweeney: Say, boss, I’m afraid I botched another surgery today.  Today, I had this guy in who was supposed to get a colonoscopy.  Instead, I gave him a sex change.  I’m really sorry, boss.  I know this is coming right after the 14 year old boy I gave a vasectomy to, but it’s just been a bad year.  I’m just getting up there now and I don’t think I can…

Torre: Mark, when is your birthday?

Sweeney: Uh, October 26th, 1969.

Torre:  And do you think you’ll be doing this forever?

Sweeney:  Well, no, boss.  But what does this have to do with anything?

Torre:  What?!  Everything, Mark.  Yes, you should have given the man… eer, woman, their colonoscopy, but you know what?  You’re aware of your age and know that this isn’t going to last forever.  You see, it’s just a matter of adjustments you have to make, that’s all.  But I’m still impressed with you.

Sweeney: Even though I have malpractice suits up the ass and my patients hate what I’ve done to them?

Torre:  Yes.  You see, the problem with all these patients is that they just pay attention to the results.  What they can’t see and fail to understand is the body language and demeanor that you put into your surgeries.  Take that Nikki Cox girl you had earlier this year.  Yes, all she was there for was to get her tonsils out, but as you were giving her plastic surgery, you put heart into it.  That shows character to me and you can’t put a price on that, you know.  So, even though I got a couple of sharp, younger doctors from Johns Hopkins I could hire, forget it; it’s not to the point where we need an upgrade.  In fact, I’m giving you a raise!

Back to reality… in terms of upgrades?  Terry Tiffee, John Lindsey, Xavier Paul and, heck, my 86 year old Grandmother are on the phone, Joe.

And, for the record: yes, that’s right.  I blame Mark Sweeney not only for his sucktitude on the Dodgers, but also for the butchery of Nikki Cox.

“There’s nobody that jumps out at us to say it’s a surefire thing,” Torre said.

Hi, Joe.  Terry Tiffee, here.  Did you know that this year at Triple-A I have been hitting .405/.446./.595, while ranking 2nd in average, 12th in OBP, and 12th in OPS in the ENTIRE minor leagues?!  Oh wait, probably not, since I was DFA’d not long after my cup of tea in L.A.

Mean, cruel bastard…

Hi, Joe.  I’m John Lindsey.  I might be 31 and still in the minor leagues, but at least I can make adjustments, this year!  This year I am hitting .314/.396/.567 with 15 HR’s in Las Vegas.  Yeah, you can’t use me…

Hello, Mr. Torre.  My name is Xavier Paul.  I’m also at Las Vegas.  This year, I’m hitting .305/.373/.444 and also have a cannon of an arm in the outfield.  Then again, what good is that?  Our body language sucks.

“Could somebody else be better? Yeah, possibly. But in order to make a decision on a guy like Sweeney you’re certainly not going to take a chance and say, ‘We think.’ You want to know that it’s a better option for you.”

And when will you figure that out, Joe?  In mid-August with more than 70% through our season gone, and he’s hitting, like, .032?  How can any alternative be any worse?  In order to make a decision on a guy like Sweeney, you ask yourself whether he’s contributing to the team.  If it’s not early in the season, which it’s not, and he has shown no signs of coming out of it, which he has not, and weigh the fact that there are younger, cheaper and superior talent in the minors, then you say: “HELL YEAH, RELEASE HIM!!”

But noooooooooo… instead, what have we learned today, kids?  We should keep Mark Sweeney on our team and be even more patient with him because:

1.  He has to make adjustments, like every other player who wants a career in the Major Leagues.

2.  Because he has a killer demeanor and body language.

3.  He knows how old he is and is aware that his career will come to an end, one day.

4.  Having a .107/.203/.143 line is, apparently, acceptable and no one would come in and be an upgrade from that.

For the record, yes, I acknowledge that Mark Sweeney is one of the all-time great pinch hitters and has been valuable most of his career, so I can understand getting some rope for the first month or two.  But when you are almost at the All-Star break and only have 6 hits the entire season, after not being that impressive with us last year, is at age 38, shows no signs of improving, with people in the minors who couldn’t do any worse, then the decision is obvious.  Yet to be defended constantly with such unrelated, vague, and fellacious reasoning is beyond ridiculous.  Which, by the way, reminds me of something: if the only thing you hear people describe a player is by their character and other things unrelated to their performance on the field (or at least greatly emphasized more than anything else): chances are?  They suck.

Body language?!  Demeanor?!  Yes, folks, this is who is running our team… God help us all…

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg

So Long, Terry Tiffee

I think I outlined the reasons for not being so thrilled with the Angel Berroa acquisition pretty clearly yesterday, so I won’t rehash them again. But what’s the only thing worse than making a bad decision? Compounding it with another bad decision:

Shortstop Angel Berroa, acquired Friday night from Kansas City, arrived in time for Saturday’s game, necessitating the removal of infielder Terry Tiffee from the roster.

Tiffee was designated for assignment, giving the Dodgers 10 days to trade, release or outright him if he clears waivers. His departure leaves the Dodgers a little thin for corner infielders, a situation that could be solved by the promotion of Andy LaRoche. That move could accompany the demotion to Triple-A of Chin-lung Hu, whose role is being taken by Berroa.

In order to get Berroa onto both the 25 and 40-man rosters, someone was going to have to go. Hey, I hate to use such a hackneyed blind comparison chart as I’m about to use, but sometimes it’s a cliche because it just works:
 

  Player 1 Player 2

Age

29

38

Hits

Switch

Left

Fields

1B/3B/LF/RF

1B/LF

2008:

.422/.464/.609 (AAA)

.130/.226/.174 (MLB)

Hey, one of those guys looks to be a little more valuable than the other, no?

Obviously, Player 1 is Tiffee and Player 2 is the utterly useless Mark Sweeney. So let me get this straight. You’ve got a younger player who can play more positions, hit from both sides of the place, and has been absolutely murdering the ball in AAA. Yet, you decide to just cut him in order to keep a player who’s 9 years older, can barely play the field, and has a OPS+ of SIX? I just can’t fathom the logic that goes into decisions like this. After dominating the PCL for two months, Tiffee got all of four at-bats in the bigs (collecting a hit, which puts him 1/6th of the way towards Sweeney’s season total). And now he’s told to hit the road so a player who’s clearly inferior in every single way can stick around. It just blows the mind sometimes.

Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

MSTI Goes to Queens

Yeah, I don’t usually do game recaps around here. That said, I don’t usually get to go to Dodger games live; so here we are.

That’d be the view from the cheap seats tonight at Shea. Looks like that’s the top of the first inning, with Juan Pierre on second and Jeff Kent hitting with one out. You can see the new CitiField rising out beyond centerfield, but this picture really doesn’t do it justice – you can’t imagine how massive this thing looks. As soon as I got off the subway I saw the Ebbets Field-inspired rotunda behind homeplate, and for a split second you nearly forget who the home team was tonight. This thing is going to be the park the Dodgers should have had. Burn in hell, Robert Moses!

I wish I’d thought to have taken a picture of this, but one highlight was the definitely the guy I saw wearing a home-made Kershaw “jersey”, by which I mean “white T-shirt with Dodgers logo and Kershaw written on it”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that after only one start his masterpiece was out of date – he had 54 on it, not knowing that Kershaw has since switched to #22. Speaking of which, Kershaw’s number change was the subject of this LA Times story, which provides us with this awesome quote from #22′s former owner, Mark Sweeney:

Sweeney said he had no problem offering Kershaw his number, noting that Kershaw is “going to be in this uniform for a long, long time. It’s something important to do from an organizational standpoint.”

Here’s how that quote should have read:

Sweeney said he had no problem offering Kershaw his number, noting that Kershaw is “going to be in this organization for a long, long time, while I will almost certainly be DFA’d within the week, as soon as Andy LaRoche is recalled, so maybe I shouldn’t be getting too comfortable with any numbers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ground out weakly to second to lower my batting average to an almost unfathomable .093 while MSTI boos me lustily, confusing every Mets fan around him.”

That said, I can only imagine how awkward this must be for Sweeney. By all accounts he’s a really good person and teammate (let me add the obvious, that I’m only on him because of his amazingly terrible on-field performance, and nothing more), but he has to know his time is short, right? When you’ve got LaRoche hitting in Vegas and getting experience at new positions and you have one hit in May (this is true), you’ve got to know that you’re not going to be around to see whatever this team is going to accomplish this year. Not an enviable position, to be sure.

As for Clayton Kershaw… not exactly what I was hoping for. There were flashes of dominance, especially striking out David Wright in the first inning. But between walking the bases loaded in the 3rd inning and giving up three hits and a walk in the 4th, it’s pretty clear he’s not going to just show up and be Cy Young right away. Though I was obviously excited to have the chance to see him live so early in his career, I’m still not exactly sure why he was called up – especially when Chan Ho Park (has yet to allow more than 2 earned runs in any of his 16 appearances) and Hong-Chih Kuo (2 runs allowed and 22 strikeouts in his last 18 innings) have been so effective, not to mention that Jason Schmidt only gets one or two more rehab starts before returning.

And hey – how about Russell Martin and Blake DeWitt? I’ve spent enough time discussing the struggles of  Kent and Sweeney lately, so I’ve got to point out how great these two were tonight. Martin with a 4-4, including a double and a triple? The fact that he’s only 4th in the All-Star voting is a crime, people (hmm.. sounds like our next cause?) Plus DeWitt.. what more can you say about this kid? I have to admit I was pretty floored when I saw on the Shea Stadium board that he was hitting .382 against lefties – before he knocked an RBI single against Pedro Feliciano. I’m not sure what’s more amazing – the fact that he got off to such a good start when no one gave him have a shot; or the fact that he’s largely kept it up.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Stats Don’t Always Tell the Whole Story

Except when they do. Here’s some numbers that will in no way cheer you up:

* The Dodgers are tied for 4th of 16 teams in the NL in batting average at .267 (good), 6th in OBP at .338 (fine), and 14th in SLG at .384 (lousy). But here’s where the real problem lies: Dodger right-handed batters vs. right-handed pitchers (which is the biggest segment of LA at-bats) are putting up a truly abysmal line of .228/.296/.310 for a .606 OPS. Worse, that’s including Russell Martin’s success vs. RHP (.312/.417/.404), so everyone else is really dragging the line down. Unfortunately, this means we can’t blame Juan Pierre for everything. (from baseball-reference)

* Mark Sweeney is the single worst player in baseball. (Shown at right, wondering what exactly he’s doing on the field, too). He doesn’t play enough to accumulate the counting stats, so let’s go with some rate stats. Actually, I don’t even need to break out anything fancy to illustrate this – a .095/.204/.119 line is nothing more than a joke. He’s got 4 hits and it’s nearly June. But let’s get back to the part where he’s the worst player in baseball. MLVr is a fancy Baseball Prospectus stat, defined as “an estimate of the additional number of runs a given player will contribute to a lineup that otherwise consists of average offensive performers. The league average MLVr is zero (0.000).” There are 411 MLB players with at least 35 at-bats in 2008 (at-bat limit done to eliminate pitchers). Mark Sweeney is… wait for it… 411th of 411. His MLVr is -.685, which basically means if we had a lineup full of completely league-average players, Mark Sweeney would cost us .685 runs every single game. And that’s just an offensive stat; some of the other players who are high (low?) on the list are at least plus defenders, like our own Chin-Lung Hu (12th). Sweeney doesn’t even contribute anything on that side of the field, either. If there’s any reason he’s still on the team other than to give Andy LaRoche a few more days to play 1B and/or 2B in Vegas, it’s simply indefensible.

* “When your rotation is average and your lineup is average, it’s no surprise that your team’s record is average.” That would be the take-home quote from yesterday’s Baseball Prospectus preview of the Mets game last night.

Reasons for the Mets’ mediocrity have been covered in this space before, so now it’s the Dodgers turn to explain their .500 record. First, we have a team that isn’t playing good defense: they rank 22nd in the majors in Defensive Efficiency, converting 69.6 percent of batted-balls into outs. Though the bullpen hasn’t suffered much—they rank fourth in the NL in WXRL as a unit—that defense has contributed to the rotation’s ranking only in the middle of the pack via SNLVAR. The offense is hitting .268/.340/.383, which boils down to an EqA of .257. When your rotation is average and your lineup is average, it’s no surprise that your team’s record is average.

The bullpen has helped them out in one-run contests (8-5) and extra innings (3-1) during the first two months of the season, but they are going to need improvement in one of the three areas—pitching, fielding, or offense—if they are to rise above their current position and give the Diamondbacks a scare. Losing Andruw Jones to surgery should help the offense out, as his .165/.273/.271 line was the source of more headaches than runs. Another of the lineup’s old men, Jeff Kent, has issues of his own. He’s hitting the ball on the ground more often—43 percent grounders versus last year’s 38 percent and his career rate of 35—and has lost a bit on his power as well, dropping his HR/FB from 10.2 to 7.4 percent. Kent is also swinging at more pitches—with many of those offerings out of the strike zone—but he’s making contact less often and has seen his walk rate cut in half. Almost 40 percent of his batted balls have been grounders that were weakly pulled as well. Without some switching around—Blake DeWitt to second when Andy LaRoche gets called up, perhaps?—the Dodgers offense is not going to see the vast improvement it needs to keep up with their rivals out.

* What the hell is going on with Brad Penny? He hasn’t given up less than 3 earned runs in a game in over a month, since April 21st at Cincinnati when he gave up one run in six innings. Since then he’s given up 3, 3, 10, 5, 5, and 4 runs. His ERA in May is a robust 8.48. I wish I had a better answer for “why”, but if our erstwhile “ace” can’t turn it around, this team is in big trouble.

* Might Jeff Kent be turning it around? After quite some time as the worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years, going 5-9 with a homer in his last two games has pushed his OPS+ to 76, which merely makes him the third-worst cleanup hitter of the last 50 years. Still, that’s the right direction.

* Okay, sometimes stats don’t tell the whole story: Also via Baseball Prospectus (yeah, they’re practically the lifeblood of this blog lately) news on some young Dodger catchers.

Last year at Low-A Great Lakes, catcher Carlos Santana hit just .223/.318/.370–not the kind of numbers that generate any kind of attention. Even so, scouts saw something in his raw tools, and those are starting to show some promise this year at High-A Inland Empire, as the 22-year-old Dominican switch-hitter is off to a .306/.421/.513 start in 47 games, with more walks (32) than strikeouts (24) in 160 at-bats. One West Coast scout who recently saw the 66ers walked away impressed: “For me, that’s an everyday catcher,” said the scout. “He’s a good hitter from both sides and he’s strong–there’s some juice in his bat.” Defensively, Santana also earns high marks: “The arm is great, and will be even better with some improved mechanics. He’s a little raw behind the dish, but he certainly has the athleticism to get better.”

Meanwhile, this year’s catcher at Great Lakes is also putting up unimpressive numbers, but is nevertheless intriguing scouts. A native of Curacao, 20-year-old Kenley Jansen is batting just .198/.270/.376, but also has five home runs in 101 at-bats. “He’s listed at 6-2, 220, but he’s even bigger than that,” said another scout. “He can really throw and has tremendous raw power. I know the numbers are pretty bad, but he’s pretty interesting.”

* But there’s reason to watch the game tonight: because I’ll be in the upper deck at Shea. Oh, and the second start of mega-prospect Clayton Kershaw or something, I don’t know. At this point he’s going to have to throw a complete game shutout and hit 3 home runs. No pressure, though.

Update, AKA, I love the people who read this blog: After I finished writing this, I went to go get some lunch. While replaying the post in my mind, the thought occurred to me: “if Kershaw pitches a shutout, he won’t really have to hit three homers, will he? Bah, no one will catch that.”

Commenter Scott?

I understand the use of hyperbole in writing, but technically if Clayton pitches a complete game shutout, he only needs to hit one home run to win it.

I love it.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg

Yet Somehow, the Dodgers Are Only 3.5 Out of First

Quick hits to wrap up a holiday weekend:

* Baseball Tonight on Kershaw: 100% positive reviews. I’m not totally sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. 

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* Cubs blog Wrigleyville23 linked here and to the other usual suspects (SOSG, 6-4-2, DodgerThoughts) as part of their series preview, along with the note,

By and large, the Dodgers blogs are of a much higher quality and quantity than others we’ve seen lately (I’m looking at you, Houston).

I couldn’t help but wonder about their distaste for Houston, so I went back to their Astros preview post:

It’s hard to play Around The Blogs when opposing team’s blogs aren’t doing their part – namely not blogging. Such is the case with the Houston Astros. Nobody seems to be following them (cyberly).

There’s an SBN blog, an MVN blog, and a place called Spikes ‘n Stars, which doesn’t seem to like interleague play too much.

Other than that, I found a few blogs that haven’t been updated in months. Am I missing others?

You know what? With all of the quality Dodger blogs out there, maybe I picked the wrong team to follow (20 years ago…) Stay tuned for the relaunch of Jeff Bagwell’s Tragic Illness.

* As excited as I was to watch Kershaw’s debut, I got about 150% more pumped when I realized that a standard 5-day schedule would put him in Shea Stadium against the Mets on Friday night… which, not so coincidentally, is where I will be on Friday night. Score!

* Re: today’s loss to the Cubs. I was keeping an eye on this one while at holiday festivities, and its not hard to say that I had a few “issues” with Torre’s game management today. That said, Rob at 6-4-2 beat me to most of them:

  • Why didn’t Chad Billingsley attempt a suicide squeeze in the fifth with one out and runners on the corners? The Dodgers have been having trouble scoring runs; it seems like smallball is eminently called for in that circumstance.
  • Why was Chin-Lung Hu held at third on Kemp’s double? It would have taken a perfect throw to get him.
  • Why did Mark Sweeney get the start at first? Loney may be scuffling, but … c’mon…
  • To which I would add, why did Loney pinch hit for Luis Maza in the 8th? Maza’s only hitting .438 since his recall. I’m certainly not suggesting that Maza’s a better hitter than Loney, just that Maza’s not a guy who needs to be hit for right now. Had Torre held onto Loney (or had him hit for the next batter, Park, rather than sending up Delwyn Young) then either Loney or Young would have been available to hit for Chin-Lung Hu with 2 outs in the 9th as the tying run at the plate, rather than letting Hu go up looking completely overmatched, and have him predictably strike out to end the game.

    * By the way, Mark Sweeney? Yeah, he’s now hitting a solid .100. Come on; this is getting embarrassing. Why is he still taking a place on this team? He can’t hit; he can’t field. He serves zero purpose whatsoever. I know there’s injury issues right now – I get that. But still. You can’t tell me there’s no one better to take up a roster spot right now. Like, oh, I don’t know: Andy LaRoche?!

    * Which brings us to our newest cause up top, with Andruw Jones out of sight and out of mind. It’s time to get Andy LaRoche up here. (Westsidedodger the first to point this out). Make no mistake, this is not a criticism of Blake DeWitt, who deserves to keep his job. But this team has been struggling on offense for quite a while, and it’s starting to not look like a slump anymore. It’s really time to get the best bats available up in the bigs. And guys who are OPS’ing .932 and getting on base almost half the time (.476 OBP) in AAA count as “best bats available.” In terms of the 25-man roster, it’s simple. Less Sweeney, more LaRoche. As for playing time, it wouldn’t kill DeWitt to only start five days a week, and it’s not like we couldn’t use another third baseman when Russell Martin is still in the conversation for getting time there. Usually I’m staunchly against in support of the  ”don’t bring up a young guy if he may not see a ton of time because it’d hurt his development” theory, but LaRoche really has absolutely nothing to prove in the minors any more. Get him up, let him hit. He can play 3B once or twice a week and get some on-the-job training at 2B. Risky? Hell yeah. But I really believe it’d be worth it.

    - Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg