Off Base
Torre's First Week a Mixed Bag

April 7, 2008

We're a week in, and all things considered, the Dodgers look good.

Back-to-back series victories, including a nice brushing aside of the alleged competition in beat-LA-land, and a humbling of San Diego's Hall of Fame closer. A fine beginning, thank you very much. Dodger fans will take it.

Dodger pitching is better than advertised, the defense has made a bunch of highlight reel plays already, adding a full complement of equally-as-important heads-up conversions, and there's an air of confidence about.

Contributions from 24 men.

Look, I'm glad Joe Torre is here, OK. I am. He's brought a professionalism and an approach to serious hardball with him from the Bronx. He's getting aggressive base running from unexpected sources, like Andre Ethier and James Loney. Having Ethier take grounders just in case while saving able first baseman Mark Sweeney for pinch-hitting is a creative idea. Give the skipper credit.

Like his Yankees teams, Torre's Dodgers are showing they can make opposing pitchers work, to the tune of 200 pitches thrown by the Pads Saturday. 200! If they can keep it up, that's a huge development for the Dodgers.

Credit the manager with a heads-up play as well. In besting the umpires on something they should've called as it occurred – Josh Bard leaving the field of play to catch a foul ball – Torre essentially plated a run himself. That was the only way they were going to score against Jake Peavy, but Torre showed his team something last year's manager just might not have. It registered.

With the exception of his handling of Chad Billingsley in the rain Wednesday, Torre's managed his pitchers perfectly. Let's chalk up the rain game to climate change. That is, Torre's used to East Coast climate. It never rains in California, after all. He'll learn.

But come on. What's with all this Juan Pierre? In-the-know Dodgers fans (not in-the-know Dodgers fans too) spent the entire spring hoping against hope that Torre would see the light, install Ethier in left, and just plain leave him there. Who knew Torre would betray the faithful by benching Matt Kemp, and start Pierre in three of six games, actually batting him leadoff one time? Not in Spring Training, but in a real game?!

Who knew Torre would send Pierre up to bat in another game, a run down, leadoff man on in the ninth, in an obvious sacrifice situation? Who except Torre wouldn't see Pierre's lame bunt into a force play, followed by an out stealing to end the game coming a mile away?

Really, really, really, really disappointing.

If this continues, look for opposing managers to maneuver on-the-spot situations for Pierre, essentially forcing Torre into repeated tactical errors, at least until the Dodgers manager gets it with the guy.

Torre admits to concern about the Dodgers bats in the first week, but it's only a big a deal if he makes it one. Just put together a lineup that makes sense, like say, one which includes only a very rare appearance by Juan Pierre. Let Kemp play, keep James Loney and Russell Martin higher up in the order, with Andruw Jones down a bit. Mix up the lefties with the righties.

And for God's sake, pinch hit Brad Penny in pretty much any situation you can, instead of Pierre. Fill out the lineup card correctly and let the boys play. It's not that complicated…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Media Savvy: It's a mystery to me where this almost-universal praise of Larry Bowa is coming from. Bowa is small-man's complex personified. Or, psycho. Take your pick. If Bowa can play bad cop to Torre's good, and teach his players a thing or two about the game, then fine. Just as long as never gets the chance to manage again. Ever.

From Jim Reeves, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

"He's lurking out there in the shadows, as patient as a predator, quiet, alert, biding his time. Barry Bonds hasn't gone away. He's just waiting...
Waiting to come to a ballpark near you.

Waiting, because he knows that somewhere there's a baseball owner with the same mind-set as the NFL's Jerry Jones, an owner who will do anything, sign any scumbag, if he thinks for even one millisecond that it will help his team win."

Yes, but tell us how you really feel, Jim.

And a nice piece from Journalist Bill Dwyre, in Sunday's Los Angeles Times…

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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