Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Today at Pinstriped Bible, I’ve got a more refined take of yesterday’s rant regarding distinguished Yankee alumnus Joe Torre, cataloging his litany of sins and looking at the possibility that he may not return for another year at the helm of the Dodgers:

Torre, who let a one-year contract extension offer dangle in the face of this mishegoss, may have privately seethed, but he’s publicly bitten his tongue, a wise move if he wished to ingratiate himself to his employers but not one that’s served the team’s competitive interests. A Hall of Fame-bound manager of his stature could and probably should have thrown his weight around by vocalizing, say, the Dodgers’ need for another proven starting pitcher.

Torre hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory elsewhere this season. He’s made a hash of the bullpen at times, failing to get closer Jonathan Broxton save opportunities early in the year, then overusing him in non-save situations. Worse, he quickly burned out his top setup men, a tale that will be all too familiar to Yankee fans. Righty Ramon Troncoso and lefty George Sherrill made a combined 28 appearances in April and another 25 in May, a pace that comes out to 168 combined appearances over the course of the season; not coincidentally, that not-so-dynamic duo has combined for an 8.06 Fair Run Average while each facing demotions to the minors. To be fair, the Dodger bullpen ranks third in the league by BP’s advanced metrics, but those quality arms may be in Proctorville by the time the season is all said and done.

Worse, the young, homegrown players on whom so much of the Dodgers’ present and future depends have regressed on Torre’s watch. Catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and center field Matt Kemp have played mediocre ball for most of the season. The production of Martin, who once looked to be the Dodgers’ answer to Derek Jeter — a face-of-the-franchise leader — declined for the third straight season before it ended abruptly due to a hip injury earlier this month. Torre’s overuse — starting him behind the plate 271 games in 2008-2009, the third highest total in the majors, and using him in 298 overall, the highest — can’t help but be implicated in that decline; as a former catcher himself, he should have known better, particularly as Martin’s production flagged. After earning All-Star honors last year, the still-raw Kemp has at times suffered from braindead play at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths. After some heavy-handed benching by Torre which was accompanied by unsubtle comments from henchman Larry Bowa, Kemp appears to want to talk his way out of town if he can’t play his way out.

Finally, there’s Torre’s handling of Ramirez…

And you know the rest on that score. With the 70-year-old skipper’s contract up at season’s end, I think the above are signs that he’s lost interest in the day-to-day rigamarole required to run a ballclub. I’m also not sure heir apparent Don Mattingly’s ascendancy is as likely as was once thought to be given his lack of managerial experience, which showed during the infamous double-dip mound visit debacle; the buzz now favors Triple-A Albuquerque manager Tim Wallach. Check it out.


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