Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Tag: Joe Torre (Page 1 of 2)

A long-lost moment from a crazy 1982 season

The three-way 1982 NL West race was unforgettable, but we usually hear the story from the Dodger perspective, with a touch of San Francisco. Here is a wide-ranging look from the Atlanta side, thanks to this history (written by Jason Foster for The Sporting News) of a season-long documentary being made about the team.

Included is the video above of a Dodgers-Braves controversy I had no memory of …

During a crucial game against the Dodgers, Torre went ballistic over an umpire’s decision to send a runner back to third, rather than allow him to score, after a portion of a wall in foul territory collapsed and sent fans spilling onto the field.

Torre didn’t hold back, unleashing a colorful tirade that almost certainly would get a manager ejected today, but brought no repercussions in 1982.

Diamond, listening in real time on a headset, looked to audio engineer Ken Noland with an expression that said both, “Can you believe we’re getting this?!” and “Good luck editing that.”

“We really had to bleep that out,” Diamond said with a laugh. “I remember back in the edit room, in the audio room, that took us a few days to go through that and take all the … language out.”

Do read Foster’s entire story, which among other things, introduces a surprise narrator for the documentary whom Dodger fans will appreciate.

Chase Utley suspended for two games — will appeal

By Jon Weisman

Major League Baseball tonight suspended Chase Utley for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Division Series for what it said in a statement was an “illegal slide” in Saturday’s Game 2.

Utley is appealing the suspension. The appeal is expected to be heard before Monday’s Game 3 in New York.

The Dodgers issued the following statement: “The Dodgers stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension issued tonight by Major League Baseball. The club will have no further comment at this time.”

MLB chief baseball officer Joe Torre outlined his reasons for the suspension in a statement.

Read More

A Happier 9/11

RJEvery year at Dodger Thoughts, I would run this remembrance of the September 11, 1983 game at Dodger Stadium that was, at least until 2006’s 4+1 game (four homers in the ninth, one on the 10th), the most incredible game in Dodger Stadium history. (It’s amazing to me that the story itself is now 11 years old.)

Here is a link to the story.

— Jon Weisman

Some Dodger Hall of Fame trivia

80 cey sutton

By Jon Weisman

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement of the National Baseball Hall of Fame balloting, some Dodger-related trivia from the past three decades …

In the past 10 years, only one man has been elected to the the Hall of Fame who played in a Dodger uniform: Rickey Henderson in 2009. Greg Maddux, Mike Piazza, Fred McGriff, Jeff Kent, Luis Gonzalez, Paul Lo Duca, Hideo Nomo and Eric Gagne are eligible to end that drought. (Joe Torre, whom the Expansion Era Committee elected to the Hall in December, will be the first Dodger manager entering the Hall since Tommy Lasorda.)

There were more ex-Dodger players entering the Hall of Fame in 2003 then the past 10 years combined: Eddie Murray and Gary Carter.

The last player to have a Dodger cap on his Hall of Fame plaque was Don Sutton, elected in 1998. You then have to go back to Don Drysdale in 1984 to find another longtime Dodger joining the Hall via election by the Baseball Writers Association of America, the same year that the Veterans Committee tapped Pee Wee Reese.

One late cup-of-coffee Dodger who made the Hall was Jim Bunning, chosen by the Veterans Committee in 1996. Bunning had a 3.36 ERA in nine games for the Dodgers in 1969 at age 37.

Hoyt Wilhelm, elected to the Hall in 1985, finished his career as a Dodger in 1972, 16 days shy of his 50th birthday. He was preceded by short-time Dodgers Juan Marichal in 1983 and Frank Robinson in 1982.

Swinging back to managers, the Veterans’ Committee put Walter Alston in the Hall in 1983, Leo Durocher in 1994, Ned Hanlon in 1996 and Lasorda in 1997. The Hall doors opened for former Dodger owner Walter O’Malley in 2008.

The results of this year’s BBWAA Hall of Fame balloting will be announced on MLB Network and MLB.com on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Kershaw’s winless dominance

F-18s fly over Dodger Stadium prior to the home opener. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

Some Tuesday postgame data, courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:

How Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw dominated the Pirates despite not picking up a win:
– Sixty-five of Kershaw’s 88 pitches (73.9 percent) went for strikes, the highest percentage of his career.
– Kershaw went to a three-ball count to the first hitter of the game, the only one he went to all game. The one three-ball count matches his career low in a start.
– Pirates hitters were 0 for 7 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending with Kershaw’s slider.
– With two strikes, Pirates hitters were 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts.

Kershaw held the Pirates hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position on Tuesday, continuing his dominance of hitters when getting into a jam.

Lowest BA Allowed With RISP, Starting Pitchers, Since Start of 2011 Season

Ian Kennedy .142
Jeremy Hellickson .161
Ricky Romero .173
Jhoulys Chacin .173
Clayton Kershaw .185 (0-6 on Tuesday vs Pirates)

* * *

Matt Kemp went 0-4 on Tuesday, but drove in a run for the ninth straight game. The nine straight games with a RBI ties a Dodgers’ record.

Most Consecutive Games with RBI, Dodgers History
Matt Kemp 9 (2011-12)
Roy Campanella 9 (1955)
Augie Galan 9 (1944)

* * *
Andre Ethier, on his 30th birthday, hit a game-winning home run in the eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Pirates. The last player to celebrate his 30th birthday by hitting a game-winning homer in the eighth inning or later was Jerry Mumphrey for the Yankees against Milwaukee on September 9, 1982. Mumphrey hit a 10th inning homer in that game. (Elias Sports Bureau)

* * *

  • In a story for Variety, I explore how much TV networks can justify bidding billions of dollars for the rights to broadcast baseball games. Nice to see Dee Gordon flying across the top of the paper …
  • In five games, Gordon has four steals in five tries, and replays showed he was safe on the time he was called out.
  • MIke Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness conveniently tackles a subject I was mulling myself: how Chad Billingsley does in his next start following a great outing. It might also be worth looking at how Billingsley does after a high pitch count in his most recent appearance.
  • Today in Jon SooHoo: A photo gallery from the home opener.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey has its own nice photo recap of Tuesday.
  • His Dodger shortstop predecessor, Rafael Furcal, is 10 for 23 with three doubles, two walks and two steals to start 2012: 1.045 OPS.
  • Here’s an Associated Press story on security at Dodger Stadium for the first home opener since Bryan Stow was attacked.
  • Joe Torre conceded to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com that at times, Matt Kemp was a difficult player for him to manage.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland and Dave Cameron of Fangraphs discuss the need and desire to kill the save statistic and replace it with something more useful.
  • Don Mattingly and Peter O'Malley. © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2012

    Another gem by Josh Wilker at Cardboard Gods, inspired by the hyphen.
  • A baseball card featuring Reggie Smith and Ryne Sandberg is the subject of a piece by Bruce Markusen for the Hardball Times.
  • Dixie Walker will be played by Ryan Merriman of ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars in the upcoming Jackie Robinson biopic, 42, reports Justin Kroll of Variety.
  • Eleven contract extensions have been signed by pre-arbitration-eligible players since the end of last season; Ben Nicholson-Smith of MLB Trade Rumors looks at the trend.
  • Carlos Santana became one of those players, signing a five-year, $21 million extension. Mike Axisa of Fangraphs examines the deal.
  • At the bottom of this Fangraphs post, you are asked to rate Dodger radio announcers Charley Steiner and Rick Monday.

McCourt digs in heels on parking lots

Bad, bad news. From Bill Shaikin of the Times:

Rick Caruso and former Dodgers manager Joe Torre have withdrawn a joint bid to buy the Dodgers, three people familiar with the sale process said Thursday.

Caruso cited owner Frank McCourt’s refusal to include the Dodger Stadium parking lots in the sale, according to the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the sale process.

Caruso could reenter the bidding if McCourt were to agree to sell the parking lots, the people said. McCourt has told people he has at least one bid in which the buyer would let him retain ownership of the parking lots. …

It’s extremely disappointing, though perhaps to be expected, that someone is willing to make a deal with the figurative devil in this case. This is the strongest indication yet that Dodger fans will not be free of McCourt.

“The history of the L.A. Dodgers began with people who didn’t want to move out of the parking lots. And it continues,” comments Bob Timmermann.

Torre enters Dodger ownership fray

Once a Dodger (no matter how late), always a Dodger?

Joe Torre has resigned as MLB executive vice president of baseball operations to join a group pursuing ownership of the Dodgers. ESPNLosAngeles has more.

The group Torre is joining was not immediately named, though Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweeted that it was one led by real estate developer Rick Caruso. (Update: Torre and Caruso subsequently confirmed in a joint statement, and Bill Shaikin of the Times tweeted that the banker is Byron Trott of BDT Capital in Chicago, “called by Warren Buffett ‘the only banker he trusts.'”)

Former Dodger executive Kim Ng will be part of a trio splitting Torre’s MLB duties on an interim basis. If Torre’s group prevails in acquiring the Dodgers, it’s natural to wonder if Ng would be the team’s next general manager.

App-endicitis

Pennant Preview from Steve Varga on Vimeo.

While folks are talking about the arrival of the 2011 version of the MLB At Bat mobile application, which is fairly indispensable in my world, there are other new portable treats out there.

One is the historically oriented “Pennant” for the iPad, illustrated in the clip above. If you sit through the whole demonstration, you might find it more than a little bit cool.

In addition, the Bill James Baseball IQ App has just been introduced.

What other baseball apps have you guys used? Anyone have the Fangraphs app?

* * *

  • Andre Ethier and Ivan De Jesus Jr. are the main subjects of Tony Jackson’s notebook today for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Joe Torre is expected to be named Major League Baseball’s executive vice president of baseball operations Saturday, reports The Associated Press.
  • Adrian Beltre’s Texas career is off to a sluggish start — he’ll miss a couple of weeks of Spring Training games with a calf strain, reports Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com.
  • John Kilma writes about “the new generation of pitching that is quickly accelerating college baseball’s role as fertile ground for professional pitching development “for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

* * *

The first Spring Training radio broadcast is Saturday at 12:05 p.m. Pacific on KABC 790 AM. The first Spring Training telecast is Sunday at 12:05 p.m. Pacific on Prime Ticket.

Dodger baseball is under 24 hours away …

Fried day

Thanks to everyone for their feedback Thursday ….

  • As I suggested a month ago, Tony Gwynn Jr. might end up being the best option for the current Dodger outfield. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com talked to Ned Colletti about it.
  • Joe Torre’s future employment with MLB could depend on his willingness to leave his newly adopted California home, writes Jackson. “Torre, who grew up in Brooklyn, moved his family to Los Angeles when he took over three years ago as manager of the Dodgers, and he seemed to hint to media members Wednesday that he would like to stay there even if he goes to work for the commissioner,” Jackson says. “But at least one source in the league office said earlier this week that the position of VP of operations probably can’t be done from outside the office.”
  • No expanded playoffs or instant replay will be coming in 2011, reports Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com (via Hardball Talk).
  • Kathryn Bertine writes at ESPNW about how Christina Taylor Green affected her.
  • Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports shares some chilling information about the gun culture among ballplayers in Latin America.
  • The Dodgers just released 47-year-old Pat Borders — who apparently has been on the team’s restricted list since 2006 — according to Matt Eddy of Baseball America.
  • In his discussion of the career accomplishments of Jamie Moyer, Rob Neyer of ESPN.com excerpts a piece of writing from Will Carroll talking about how legitimate it would be for the 47-year-old Moyer to use a banned substance to aid his recovery from Tommy John surgery:

    Moyer could, with a year out of baseball, take an intriguing step, one that seems out of character with his reputation on the one hand, but in line with his noted desire to return. What if Jamie Moyer started using HGH or other banned substances to return from his injury? At his age, getting prescriptions for HGH and testosterone would be easy. MLB had no problem allowing testosterone to be advertised during its playoffs last year, despite the fact that it was a substance that caused it no end of problems over the last two decades. There is a waiver policy that would allow for the use of banned substances, but as a free agent, Moyer would not need to have this waiver. Moyer is free to do anything his doctor prescribes. He might need a waiver when returning, if he’s taken any substance that would cause a positive test, but most of what is used medically has a fairly short detectable period.

    Would anyone begrudge Moyer if he decided to use a legal, effective substance to help in his return? Each week, some pitcher or another takes an injection of cortisone. The injection, usually mixed with a painkiller, is a quick fix, but a dangerous one. Corticosteroids can have an almost acidic effect on structures, doing long-term damage while allowing a player to come back in the short term. Many of these pitchers make a choice: take the spike and pitch, or don’t and don’t. Finding someone who declines takes quite the search; if someone does, they’ll often end up with a reputation or that tag of “bad teammate” or worse, “soft.” Moyer’s never been those things, so given a chance, would taking another kind of injection be wrong? Moyer fought through multiple surgeries prior to the 2010 season, including a nasty infection that could have been deadly, so he’s a fighter, a struggler … but could he go this far?

  • Tom Hoffarth of the Daily News profiles ESPNLosAngeles’ very own Brian and Andrew Kamenetzky. Nice story!

The future of remembering Joe Torre



Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Joe Torre conducted himself with a level of class and warmth that will probably be the standard future Dodger managers are measured by … until there’s a Dodger manager who succeeds in a different style.

In 2008 and 2009, he reestablished the World Series as a legitimate possibility for the Dodgers, guiding the team to the brink of the Fall Classic … unless it wasn’t so much him as the confluence of talent that had coalesced around him.

In 2010, that team fell apart, with Torre himself conceding that perhaps he was no longer the best man for this particular job … except maybe that it wasn’t the manager who blew it for the team, but the team that blew it for the manager.

If three years are long enough for an era, I suspect that the Joe Torre Era will be remembered fondly overall, even with the bad taste of this year’s team, which needs to go 9-5 for a .500 finish and at least 6-8 to avoid, as Eric Stephen points out at SB Nation Los Angeles’ The Red Carpet, saddling Torre with his 2000th career loss. If the Dodgers continue their downward trend, Torre’s Time might even be remembered as the good ol’ days. And if the Dodgers reverse their cursed ways of 2010, well then, no real harm done in this final year.

But it would be incomplete not to acknowledge that over his three seasons in Los Angeles – including even the winning years – that Torre exasperated a healthy segment of Dodger followers, whose interest in his gravitas was run over by his debatable baseball decisions on a number of fronts. Whether pro-Donnie Baseball or con, more than a few people were waiting fervently for Friday’s official announcement in a way that the Torre hagiography doesn’t quite recognize.

Torre came to Los Angeles with questions about whether the New York Yankees succeeded because of him or whether he succeeded because of the Yankees, and he leaves Los Angeles (at least as its skipper) with those same questions lingering. And so the fuzzy answer to defining Torre’s legacy in a larger sense, in and beyond Los Angeles, is a compromise: It was part him, and part everything else. How much of each? Who knows?

The practice in baseball of hiring and firing managers – the same guy who won you a title then is somehow responsible for your downfall now – dates back more than a century, and not even Torre was even able to change it. In fact, given his comments Friday about feeling young, wanting to continue to feel young and never saying never to what might come next, Torre did nothing less than extend that practice to himself. (Even if he resigned as Dodger manager for no other reason than to get away from the McCourts, it would somehow reflect his own opinion of the limits of his ability.)

For me, there will always be the Torre I liked and the Torre I didn’t. I think the Torre I liked probably stands out more, because there was more success than failure, and because I did feel warmth toward him. Others will feel differently, no doubt. Both Torres are there, and neither can be denied.

Dodgers take leap of faith with Don Mattingly


Dustin Bradford/Icon SMIDon Mattingly will be the Dodgers’ seventh manager since 1996.

The Tim Wallach bandwagon seemed to be gaining steam in recent weeks, but in the end it was as everyone foretold: The Dodgers have officially announced that Don Mattingly will manage the team in 2011, succeeding Joe Torre.

With any first-time manager, you don’t really know how it’s going to go until it goes (that’s my poor imitation of Joni Mitchell). Wallach was something of a sweetheart candidate, partly with his echoes of Mike Scioscia (even though Wallach mainly spent his career in Montreal), but more because he just seemed to have earned the job more than Mattingly had. Player reports were glowing. But unless you’ve been hanging with the Isotopes, you didn’t really see how he managed a team, and even if you were in Albuquerque, you don’t know how his strategy might change with winning a priority over player development.

Of course, Mattingly is an even bigger mystery. The Dodgers are betting that his understanding of the game and Torre’s tutelage trumps any need for having done this before, and that managing in the Arizona Fall League will seal the deal.  I wasn’t convinced all year that this was a good bet, and I’m not convinced now. I poured my thoughts out on this in June, and my take on this remains what it was:

… I don’t know of anyone, even his stanuchest supporters, who touts Torre as a brilliant tactical manager. He has had moments of strategic inspiration, but they seem more than undermined by his justifiably maligned use of his pitching staff and other odd lineup and bench moves. Some of the criticism of Torre is overblown, but there’s a layer of truth to it that dates back to his Yankee days.  …

Obviously, Mattingly’s baseball knowledge is not limited to his time by Torre’s side, but surely his tactics are going to be heavily influenced by Torre. And that, while not being the worst thing in the world, is not anything to be excited about.

Then you have to ask yourself, is Mattingly the type of person who can nurture a clubhouse, who can make a team better when the game isn’t going on?

I don’t know Mattingly at all, so I’m not qualified to answer that question. But my concern is that Mattingly is being handed this job not because of any actual qualifications, but because he’s perceived (hoped) to be Torre II. He’ll continue Torre’s winning ways just by having soaked up his innate Torreness.

If it were that simple, I don’t think Lakers fans would be concerned about Phil Jackson leaving.

As a counter-example, Tim Wallach has both coached on the major league level and managed on the minor league level for the Dodgers. He was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year in 2009. This season, he has been doing a barefoot walk across the coals, because the Dodgers’ pitching problems have absolutely burned their top affiliate in Albuquerque. In this season alone, Wallach has had to use 17 starting pitchers this season in 74 games. He has very little in the way of top-rated Triple-A prospects right now. He has had to work without the safety net of a Joe Torre and then some.

This resume doesn’t prove that Wallach will be a successful major league manager. But I can’t see how it isn’t a better resume than Mattingly’s, whose entire managerial C.V. consists of, “He’s Don Mattingly, Yankees legend and student of Joe Torre.”

As the Dodgers prepare to bid farewell to Torre, this year, next year or whenever, they have some responsibilities, some explicit, some implicit. For one thing, Major League Baseball requires the Dodgers to interview at least one minority candidate for the position. Whether you believe in this rule or not, I’d argue that the Dodgers should not make this interview a token activity, but rather at least one of a number of serious interviews, a wider exploration into whether anyone is better than Mattingly for the job. Clearly, Mattingly has impressed people in the organization, but has he done so in ways that really matter? If they pause and step back, are there not potential managers out there who would be more compelling?

By writing this piece, I risk giving this decision more importance than it deserves. The talent on the field is still more important than the talent in the dugout, and a hire of Mattingly isn’t going to ruin the Dodgers. Mattingly is not Torre, and given what happened Sunday, some might say that’s a good thing. But the Dodgers should ask themselves whether a Mattingly hire would bring continuity in all the wrong places.

I really do think the Dodgers or MLB need to answer why the minority interview requirement for the Dodgers is being bypassed for the second time in a row.

In the end, Mattingly may turn out to be the real deal as a manager, just as he was as a player. Just like Torre, in fact. Keep in mind, though, that Torre (who took over the Mets as a novice manager while still on the active playing roster) didn’t have a winning season until his seventh season.

So maybe the way to look at this is you’re giving a young prospect with great potential a quick route to the big leagues, just like, say, Clayton Kershaw. Or Matt Kemp.  Or Joel Guzman. You know, one of those.

The Big Blue Wrecked Crew: 2010-11 Dodger offseason primer


Kirby Lee/US PresswireRussell Martin: Just one of the many questions the Dodgers face this winter.

The Dodger roster heading into the 2010-11 offseason, and I don’t say this lightly, is a mess.

It’s not a hopeless mess. But it is a mess, and it’s going to take some skill from the crew in charge to clean up. It’s a goop of oil and water, an unsightly combination of having to fill holes while also figuring out which rising salaries to jettison and which to risk holding onto.

Oh, and when the 2010 season ends, the No. 5 starter on the 40-man roster, at least by major-league experience, will be someone who hasn’t pitched in a professional game in four months: Scott Elbert.

The Dodgers have one absolute jewel on the team: Clayton Kershaw. The team’s top player won’t be arbitration eligible for one more year and only figures to earn approximately $500,000 in 2011.

Then, there are a few players whose higher salaries the Dodgers won’t mind paying. Chad Billingsley, who will command somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 million, knocked down many of the questions others had about him with a resurgent 2010 season. Hong-Chih Kuo will draw low seven figures, and after the way he has persevered and performed, no one should begrudge him. Kenley Jansen will make people swoon, and only receive the major-league minimum pay and meal money in return.

So much for the good news. Now, the concerns:

  • Rafael Furcal surely remains talented, but the Dodgers have $12 million going to a player who has averaged fewer than 100 games per year since 2008.
  • Slumping reliever Jonathan Broxton’s final season before free agency is tagged with a $7 million salary.
  • Coming off an injury that ended his second straight disappointing year, arbitration-eligible Russell Martin would also get as much as $7 million if the Dodgers don’t non-tender him.
  • Andre Ethier looked like an MVP at the start of the year; by the end, his $9.25 million 2011 salary for an outfielder who struggles against lefties didn’t seem like quite as much of a bargain.
  • Lightning Rod Award-winning outfielder Matt Kemp has $6.95 million coming next year.
  • Casey Blake, game but aging, gets $5.25 million in the final chapter of his three-year deal.
  • By now, James Loney should have developed enough that the $4.5 million he is projected to earn next year should have seemed closer to a bargain than a burden, but his second-half disappearance hasn’t helped matters.
  • Incumbent second baseman Ryan Theriot and his sub-.700 OPS will bring home about $3.5 million if the Dodgers hang onto him.

In sum, that’s about $55 million committed to a series of question marks, some small, some large. In addition, Los Angeles owes approximately $17 million of its 2011 budget to (swallow hard) Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones and Jason Schmidt — the price for turning past mistakes into the playoff teams of the previous two years.

Overall, the Dodgers on paper have close to $100 million — a figure that might well be at or above their budget limit — committed before they make a single offseason move.

Now, all is not lost. The Dodgers can and probably will gain roughly $12 million in breathing room if and when they bid farewell to George Sherrill, Octavio Dotel, Scott Podsednik and Brad Ausmus (who has said he will retire). Meanwhile, free agents Jay Gibbons and Rod Barajas should start to help shore up the bench for under $2 million combined. And it should be noted that not all of the above question marks will have negative answers.

Nevertheless, that still leaves the Dodgers at about $90 million in payroll, with John Ely as their No. 3 starter and serious questions about most of their offense. As shaky as their lineup now looks, and however aggressive the Dodgers might want to be with the latest crop of prospects, the Dodgers absolutely have to add at least two more starters, whether through free agency or trade, whether Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda or outsiders.

It’s for this reason that unless the team salary budget goes up, the Dodgers almost certainly will trade or non-tender a 2011 contract to at least one from the group of Broxton, Kemp, Ethier, Loney and Martin. Loney, because he has the lowest salary, might be most likely to stay – he’s finishing the year as a disappointment at first base, but he’s not finishing the year alone as a disappointment. In any case, all of them have something to offer other teams that might be, as hard as it is for some to digest, more willing to spend than the Dodgers are.

An Ethier trade would be a shock, for example, much more than a Kemp trade, but who can say it’s out of the question now?

However this plays out, the Dodgers may well bring back many of the same players next year who boosted them to National League Championship Series appearances in 2008-09 and sunk them in 2010. In one respect, nothing will have changed: You’re always hoping players move forward, like Kershaw and Billingsley, and not backward, like Kemp and Loney and Broxton and Martin and so on. Good does sometimes follow bad, after all. But still, it’s going to be a nervous offseason for a lot of us.

Sure, BP had it tougher. But as cleanup goes, this is as thick a goop as Chavez Ravine has seen in quite some time.

Unthinkable or thinkable: A Joe Torre-Derek Jeter reunion in Los Angeles?

This is not a rumor I’m starting.  There is no evidence that this is being discussed or will ever happen. Everything I’ve heard is that the Yankee will finish his career as a Yankee.

But that sort of talk has been wrong in the past. And so I submit to you that there are far more outlandish possibilities than Joe Torre returning as Dodger manager next season and successfully recommending that the team sign free agent infielder Derek Jeter.

The 2010 Dodgers and the reinvention of lying

White lies, little and giant, have always been part of baseball — even the creation of the game is rooted in myth. But I can’t remember a year since I’ve been following the Dodgers that seems as defined by misinformation as 2010.

The tone was set last fall by Frank and Jamie McCourt as they prepared to do battle for ownership of the franchise, with the he said/she said battle positions flowering during numerous public revelations this year, leaving us with the bouquet of stinkweed at the trial that began this week. I’m not saying that someone’s been trying to pull a lot of wool over someone’s eyes, but lambs across the country are shivering in 90-degree heat.

It hasn’t only been the McCourts. Matt Kemp is held out of the starting lineup for days at a time, and the explanations richochet like bumper cars. He’s tired, he needs to get his head together, he’s in a battle with a coach, he needs to go talk to Joe Torre, Joe Torre needs to talk to him.

Manny Ramirez is finally ready to play after a painfully long absence, and yet he’s not playing. It’s matchups against the pitcher, it’s the square footage of the opposing outfield, it’s Torre playing a hunch, it’s to protect Ramirez for his waiver sendoff to the American League, it’s Ramirez’s own pigheadedness.

And then there are the media columnists who will bend and even break the truth to suit the stories they are determined to write, heedless of the facts.

This all comes on top of the game’s typical lies, such as a player hiding an injury (often to the detriment of the team), that are so familiar and yet so tedious.

It has bred a cynicism so rampant in many of us that even when a Dodger executive of unimpugned integrity like Logan White said in June with complete honesty that he drafted Zach Lee with the full intention of trying to sign him, few believed him — and most of the few who did simply believed he was lying to himself.

Baseball in general, and the Dodgers in particular, don’t necessarily owe us the truth, and I understand little white lies will always be part of the game. Baseball is a business, a culture and a family, and in all three fib to protect themselves. But this year, the cumulative effect of the lying has had a punishing effect. Last week, when Ramirez missed his final four chances to start after reaching base in his final four plate appearances as a starter, I rolled my eyes so much that they bowled a 270. It would be a bit much to pull the “have you no decency” card, but surely there doesn’t need to be such contempt for the truth to operate a baseball team in Los Angeles.

The grievances of Dodger fans are many, perhaps too many and perhaps sometimes too petty. But the feeling is almost unshakable that the Dodger organization has gone too far in insulting the intelligence of the fans. If our expectations are sometimes too high, that doesn’t mean the Dodger players, coaches, manager, executives and ownership don’t need to aim higher. In the end, winning is all that matters, but integrity goes a long way toward soothing the spirit when you’re losing.

Let’s put it this way: If you as an organization choose to espouse the heart and hustle and grit and gristle of players like Scott Podsednik and Jamey Carroll, then maybe you need to apply those values to your own, you know, values. Character in a baseball team is defined by more than how fast you run down the line. You’re telling me character matters, yet you’re not acting like it.

Someone needs to grow up

If Matt Kemp has done something that justifies his benching for the second day in a row — something more than striking out four times Sunday — he needs to get his act together.

But if Joe Torre really thinks that the reason his team scored 15 runs Tuesday was because Kemp didn’t start, and that the Dodgers are better tonight with Kemp on the bench, Torre needs to get his act together.

The Dodgers began 2010 with eight regular position players. Other than Blake DeWitt, who was platooned for much of the year, Kemp is the only one of the eight who has been held out of the lineup on consecutive days while healthy.

News flash: Kemp is not the only problem with this team. Casey Blake, for example, has had an unequivocally worse season than Kemp, yet he’s never been given three days to get his head together.

If Kemp truly merits this scapegoating, then by all means, he needs to shape up. But if he’s being held to a standard that other aren’t — a standard that Blake, James Loney, Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and Manny Ramirez all escaped even when they slumped at the plate at different times this year — it’s time to question whether the Dodgers have made Kemp into a much bigger target than he deserves to be.

Like it or not, Kemp is one of the Dodgers’ best players. Have the Dodgers gotten to the point where they can only see where he fails and are blind to where he succeeds?

Update: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com filed this report …

… Torre likened the situation to last season, when the Dodgers acquired veteran utility man Ronnie Belliard late in the season and Belliard got so hot at the end that three-time Gold Glove-winning second baseman Orlando Hudson, who would eventually win his fourth, was benched during the playoffs in favor of Belliard.

However, Torre said he was a long way from relegating Kemp — who is hitting .260 with 18 homers and 63 RBIs but has struck out 120 times in 435 at-bats — to a reserve role for the rest of the season.

“I’m not going that far down that road,” Torre said. “I’m just looking to play it a day at a time right now. You don’t just play with the same people all the time. If you want to win, everybody needs to contribute. Matty knocked in two runs [Tuesday] night. I just don’t want to go too far down the road right now.”

I still can’t believe there even is a road.

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