Off Base
Torre Distinguishes Himself...

June 23, 2008, 6:41 p.m. just another Dodger manager. Just one in what is now a long line of successors to Tommy Lasorda, not a one of whom has been able to do a thing with what he's been given.

Look, it's not his fault, per se, but whatever it was that Torre was supposed to possess that was going to work in Los Angeles, it very clearly hasn't.

And if it were physically possible to body-switch Torre with Grady Little, so that Torre had gone secretly pod-like inside Little's frame, without the managerial change having occurred, and all things being equal, the Dodgers skipper(s) would probably be gone by the All-Star break.

Of course there have been injuries, Rafael Furcal in particular. Of course there are more minor leaguers on the roster than a Dodgers manager should ever have to muddle through with. But Torre is doing some dumb things, and some careless things, and he's already shown himself to be no better at working with his general manager than any of his recent L.A. predecessors were with theirs.

Trotting Brad Penny out there start after start, with what should have been an obvious-to-a-manager health slash ineffectiveness issue? Clueless. Communication breakdown leaving Torre the last to know about Hiroki Kuroda's arm problems? Extremely clueless.

Using Scott Proctor (or Mike Sweeney, take your pick) over and over again, with not so much as a snowball's chance in Chavez Ravine of converting? Lame.

Presiding over the alleged rehabs of Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Schmidt to the degree that he has even involved himself, the serial overuse of Russell Martin, the inability to coax serviceable replacements out of Ned Colletti? Disheartening.

In what seems like ancient history now, maybe because it's so forgettable, is Torre's insistence that Andruw Jones would come around offensively eventually, despite all evidence to the contrary, and his lack of insistence that Jones get into major league playing shape.

During the 12 weeks between the start of Spring Training and the day Jones went on the disabled list, May 25, would a loss of 15-20 pounds have been too much to ask? I don't think so. In fact, while Jones wouldn't have been able to partake, it would've been a piece of cake. A professional athlete can lose a pound or so a week. You just have to require him to.

None of this takes away from Torre's accomplishments as a manager - he's a first ballot Hall of Famer - nor is the point to second guess his hiring. I commended the club's decision then, and I'll stand by it now.

It's good that Torre is man enough to take responsibility for his errors, and in complete contrast to both Little and Jim Tracy, but actions speak louder than words. Torre needs to change the way he uses certain players, and in so doing distinguish himself from the last two Dodger managers.

Last year, Little had a thing for Brett Tomko. Those on the outside looking in were baffled as to what Little could possibly see in his guy Tomko (the "he has good stuff" line being the most commonly used explanation), but the skipper kept right on losing games with him, every which way imaginable. This year with Torre, it's Scott Proctor. Same thing exactly.

Tracy had an inexplicable thing for Jason Grabowski in 2005, giving him what seemed like hundreds of chances to hit in the pinch, to the tune of a .161 batting average. Maybe it was a man-crush; it was that stunning. With Torre now, it's Mark Sweeney. Same thing exactly.

Fortunately for the Dodgers, and much to the chagrin of Major League Baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks are a complete mess, and will no doubt be under .500 within days. That means a mediocre Dodgers club can win the division, and once there, as Don Drysdale would say, "it's Katie bar the door."

Thankfully, the Dodgers aspire to more than mediocrity, and it serves them well going forward. If Furcal comes back, anything's possible, even with the roster otherwise mostly unchanged. If Furcal comes back, and Colletti tinkers with his weakest links, Torre's decisions get a whole lot easier. And no, we're not talking about mortgaging the farm, or breaking up the young nucleus.

Comparisons between this year's National League West with the 2005 version are as rampant as bat shards across America, with the 2005-best San Diego Padres 82-80 record being the thing most mentioned. That and a three-and-out. The 2006 St. Louis Cardinals are as apt a comparison. The Cards squeaked by with an 83-79 record, and ended up making history. I'm just saying.

If Furcal doesn't come back, well, the rest of the season is about preparing for future campaigns...

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Pancakes, Not Baseball Bats: The maple tree is a beautiful thing. It's nice to look at, helps create shady Norman Rockwell-like streets, and is especially good on pancakes. Waffles too.

When harvested, the maple can be used to produce fine furniture. But swing that furniture at a fast-moving baseball at your peril. That's where we part company.

If the threat of serious injury to players and fans isn't motivation enough, and it should be, you'd think the rising total of easy outs being recorded would be cause for alarm. For every broken maple bat there is a corresponding little ground ball to the second baseman. That's one less possible home run, one less RBI opportunity, and one less chance to increase the dollars in that next contract, or via arbitration.

What's so complicated? You don't need meetings convened and studies commissioned. Just stop using the maple bats. Shoot, why not have players autograph the remaining stockpile and auction the bats off for charity. Not Mark Sweeney, but the rest of the guys. Call it "Maple Cure" or something…

Russell Martin Day Off-Oh-Meter: As of June 23, Russell Martin has played in 73 of the Dodgers 75 games. He's started five games at third base and 61 behind the plate, while finishing seven others at catcher after pinch hitting for Gary Bennett or Danny Andoin. And started as designated hitter once, finishing the game behind the plate.

Numbers include day games after night games, day games after extra inning night games, and back-to-back day games in 100 degree heat. Stay tuned…

Media Savvy: From Rotoworld: "Scott Proctor's ERA is up to 6.62 after he allowed four runs without retiring a batter Saturday against the Indians.  
Dodgers fans don't deserve this, but at least Joe Torre is being punished for doing his best to ruin Proctor while both were with the Yankees. Unfortunately, if Proctor is done, he'll end his career having made only about $2 million. He was a late bloomer, and once he finally did emerge, the Yankees worked him mercilessly from day one."

Also from Rotoworld: "Royals released RHP Brett Tomko. Let the bidding war begin."

Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….







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