The Circus Continues: So Long, Trey Hillman

Well, this isn’t getting any less ugly, is it? Bill Shaikin and Jon Heyman each reported that the Dodgers have fired bench coach Trey Hillman, which is not a big surprise at all; I suggested as much would happen yesterday and heard that might happen for much longer. And I can’t really argue with it; Hillman’s role as a bench coach is to advise his manager in such things as in-game strategy, which we all agree was Mattingly’s weak point, and Hillman was generally hated by smart people when he was the manager in Kansas City.

Except… Hillman (and scout Wade Taylor, Mattingly’s former Yankee teammate who was also let go) are considered among Mattingly’s closest friends, report both Heyman and Molly Knight. And Shaikin adds that when Hillman was informed of the move, it was Ned Colletti delivering the news, without any involvement from Mattingly.

And so we’re left to wonder… just what in the hell is going on here? This is some straight-up McCourt-era chicanery in terms of public relations blunders, something this ownership group was supposed to be light years beyond. The fact that this is still not resolved — forget “still”, really, the fact that yesterday’s press conference was ever even allowed to happen with this lingering — is absurd.

You can read this in one of two ways — either swallowing a team-selected bench coach is a condition of any Mattingly extension, or firing some of his best friends is designed to put pressure on him to leave rather than have them fire him.

Either way, it’s ugly, and just not at all appropriate for a team that just came within two games of the World Series. If this isn’t resolved one way or another — and at this point, I don’t even care so much if he stays or goes than just that a decision is made — by the end of the day, this team has gone completely off the rails. And that’s not at all what I expected to be writing a mere three days ago.

Rockies 7, Dodgers 6: Something New Every Day

fowler_arms_2013-06-01Well, that was depressing. For the second day in a row, the Dodgers had a lead in the second half of the game, and for the second day in a row, they blew it to go to extra innings. Unfortunately, this time they couldn’t manage to overcome those miscues. And it wasn’t even Brandon League‘s fault!

Zack Greinke was decent but far-less-than dominant in pitching into the sixth inning, hurt mainly by a two-run homer to Carlos Gonzalez that came on an outside pitch that wasn’t really much of a mistake at all. And have I mentioned how much I hate Gonzalez in Coors Field, and that park in general?

But again, that’s far from the main story here — nor, really, is Tim Federowicz‘ first big league homer or the three runs he drove in. Carl Crawford doubled twice but pulled up lame coming into second on the latter hit, and had to be removed from the game with what the team calls “a cramp“. We don’t yet know the severity of Crawford’s injury, but it’s already had an immediate impact: Yasiel Puig was held out of tonight’s Chattanooga lineup “to ensure he doesn’t get hurt while the team determines the status of Crawford,” reports Bill Shaikin.

Overprotective? Perhaps, but Crawford and A.J. Ellis are both aching, and now we’re hearing that Hyun-jin Ryu is suddenly not even sure he can make his scheduled start tomorrow thanks to a sore left foot suffered while blocking a comebacker his last time out, reports Ken Gurnick. (A note within the same piece mentions also that Chris Capuano is dealing with a cramp in his left triceps. Will the fun never end?) Matt Magill would likely make the start if Ryu can’t go, though that’s a decision that really needs to be made today if Magill is going to get from Albuquerque to Denver in time for a 1:10pm PT start tomorrow.

Back to today’s game, Don Mattingly was ejected in the sixth inning for arguing that Greinke caught a liner that certainly did look like it bounced. That’s notable mostly because for all those who insisted when the “fire Mattingly!” furor was at its peak that literally anyone could do a better job, look no further than Trey Hillman, who removed Paco Rodriguez for Ronald Belisario in the seventh inning.

Rodriguez had retired three Rockies on 11 pitches, and hasn’t really shown much of a platoon split over his short career. Nonetheless, Hillman tried to put him in the LOOGY box and brought on the shaky Belisario to face Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer. Belisario failed to retire either, and Cuddyer’s two-run no-doubt blast tied the game at six.

It should be noted that Belisario was followed by a great outing from J.P. Howell, who struck out four of the nine Rockies he faced in 2.1 perfect innings. Unfortunately, the Dodgers could do nothing against several Colorado relievers — that’s on the whole team of course, but I’m going to mainly point at Andre Ethier, who went 0-5 and looked awful doing it — and that led to the position you always want to be in, having Matt Guerrier on the mound in the tenth.

I’m not sure if Guerrier was in rather than Kenley Jansen because Jansen had thrown in the two previous games or, as I fear, that Hillman was saving Jansen for the save situation that would never come. Either way, Guerrier wasn’t as bad as the loss would make it look, getting two quick outs before getting two simple ground balls that didn’t turn into outs. If not for some bad luck, he might not have had to face Dexter Fowler with two men on… which turned into a Colorado walk-off when Fowler singled sharply down the right field line.

So now we wait, and for all the roster confusion we talked about earlier, the new injury to Crawford complicates things even further.

This gets fun at some point, right?

Trey Hillman May Be Your New Bench Coach (Updated)

Amidst all of the rumors about the Dodger coaching staff, Ken Gurnick throws a brand-new name into the mix for bench coach, ex-Royals manager Trey Hillman:

Former Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman has emerged as the front-runner to be bench coach on Dodgers rookie manager Don Mattingly’s staff, according to baseball sources.

The 47-year-old Hillman, who managed the Royals from 2008 until he was replaced by Ned Yost on May 13, 2010, was seen with Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and assistant general manager Kim Ng watching an Arizona Fall League game Wednesday.

Hillman’s tenure as KC manager was more or less a disaster, as he lost 87 games in 2008, 97 games in 2009, and was on pace to lose over 100 this year before being fired after 35 games. Of course, the KC rosters have hardly been overflowing with talent, so it’s hard to make that judgement alone. As Gurnick notes, Hillman managed in the Yankee minor league system for 12 years, providing a link to Mattingly, and was also a well-regarded manager in Japan prior to being hired in Kansas City.

I won’t pretend I watched anywhere near enough KC games to have an idea what kind of manager Hillman was, though he’d certainly fulfill the “managerial experience” the Dodgers are looking for with his time in the minors, majors, and Japan.  But what I do know is that he was very highly thought of when he came to the Royals, and much of that luster was gone by the time he left. Let’s let quotes tell the story:

At the time of his hire in KC…

Royals Review, 10/22/07:

In the days since, we’ve had a seal of approval column from JoePo (not surprising) and lots of nice quotes from both unnamed insiders and blogosphere netizens thrown the Royals’ way. Here at Royals Review, the Hillman-is-Hired post swelled to 100+ comments, the vast majority of which were ranging from positive to giddy.

Joe Posnanski, 10/30/07:

Sunday night in Hillman’s Hangout, a whole group of Japanese people ate Texas food and watched the game on television. Waitresses wearing T-shirts with Hillman’s face on them scurried about. There wasn’t much for a Fighters fan to cheer, but when Hillman appeared on television, there was a smattering of applause. A woman at the next table asked me where I was from.

“Kansas City,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “I am Kansas City Royals fan.”

“Really?” I asked. “Since when?” She smiled and pointed at a photograph of Hillman and said, “Since him.”

At the time of his firing in KC…

Rany on the Royals, 5/9/10:

Trey Hillman has crossed the point of no return in Kansas City.

Yesterday’s game was an exhibition of managerial malpractice almost unparalleled in the history of the franchise. Hillman could hardly have damaged the Royals’ chances to win the game more if he had tried. It is exceedingly important that every Royals fan understand the extent to which Hillman hurt both his team’s chances of winning last night, and his most well-paid pitcher’s chances of earning his generous contract for well into the future.

Gil Meche, who started complaining of a tired arm after throwing 132 pitches in a complete game last June, and who has been consistently awful since throwing 121 pitches with a dead arm last July, and who wasn’t pitching well so much as pitching lucky on this night, was allowed to throw 128 pitches – the longest outing by any major league pitcher this season – on Saturday night. He was left in to complete the 8th inning, despite a fresh bullpen, and despite the fact that he allowed the first three batters to reach base safely.

Joe Posnanski, 5/13/10:

None of the reasons why the Royals hired Hillman in the first place quite worked out. He was known for his sense of the game, but his Royals consistently played clueless baseball. He was known for his deep belief in the fundamentals — “there are no little things,” was one of his mottos — but the Royals were a terrible defensive team and a terrible baserunning team on his watch. He was known as a man who related well with players and the community, but his players often didn’t seem to get him, and his appearances in public were often just bizarre.

Of course, every manager is loved when he’s hired, and hated when he’s fired, right? All in all, I’m okay with this move if it’s true. It may not have worked out for Hillman in Kansas City, but he’s still young (47), which I like, and you’d hope that he learned a lot from his trial in KC. That, plus the experience he’s gained from his years in the minors, Japan, and the bigs… well, look, I don’t think any of us would have wanted him as the manager, but as bench coach? Yeah, I can see that working out.

Update: Unrelated but worth noting, the details of Ted Lilly‘s deal have come out. Per TrueBlueLA, it’s heavily backloaded $7.5m in 2011, $12m in 2012, $13.5m in 2013. That’s great for 2011, but that could be an enormous nightmare come 2013.

Update 2: The hits keep on coming! Keith Law checks in with some news…

Scouting director Tim Hallgren is leaving the Dodgers to join the Tigers in pro scouting. Logan White will take over Tim’s duties.

Ah, better hope even more than before that White doesn’t get that Mets GM gig, right?