November 24, 2014

Surprise! Torre to Announce Decision on 2011 Season Soon

In the aftermath of the debacle that was last night’s Dodger game, one piece of news seemed to not get the coverage it deserved: Joe Torre said that he would make his decision within the next month or so on whether or not he would return as manager in 2011. 

The timing was a bit of a surprise, as Torre had previously said that he would wait until the end of the season to make this decision.  Why the change of heart?  It’s not like there is a pressing need to make the decision in the middle if the season.  Well, if I were Joe, I’m sure I’d be frustrated by the McCourt’s lack of willingness to loosen the purse strings and bring in top-tier starter and some veteran relievers that can help this club.  And coming over from the Yankees, he’s got to be a little bit spoiled by the resources he had available to him in New York.  The guy wants to win, and knows this team is built to win now.  It’s pretty clear that Torre only trusts a few arms in his bullpen, and he’s going to ride those guys into the ground if they don’t get some more help. 

And, for the record, I generally really like the moves Ned Colletti has been able to pull off at the trading deadline over the past few years.  Outside of Manny Ramirez, none have been blockbusters, but he’s been able to consistently help the club without adding a lot to the payroll. Colletti and Kim Ng are a crafty team, and I’m confident they will bring in some solid, unspectacular pitchers to help this team between now and the playoffs.

I’m not saying Torre’s announcement should be interpreted as an ultimatum to the Dodgers front office (or the players for that matter), but it shouldn’t be completely ignored.  Think of it as a warning shot across the bow of the good ship Dodgers.

Torre, Mattingly Share Thoughts on the Passing of George Steinbrenner

The death of George Steinbrenner (1930-2010) this morning at the age of 80 made me reflect on how great an owner he was for the New York Yankees.  Yes, he was controversal in more ways than one, but he delivered results, restored glory to the Yankee organization and changed the way baseball was run with the introduction of revenue sharing.

As the McCourt divorce continues to slowly (and excrutiatingly) plays out, I’m reminded of how great ownership can truly shape the direction of a franchise.

Following are quotes from those within the Dodgers organization that knew George Steinbrenner best (quotes courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers PR staff):

“George was a friend who I admired very much.  He was a giant in our game and he built an empire.  All he was was a winner.  He wanted to give the fans a winner, and that’s exactly what he did.” 

– Dodger Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda

“I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, a great humanitarian and a dear friend.  I will be forever grateful that he trusted me with his Yankees for 12 years. My heart goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed in New York, Tampa and throughout the world of baseball. It’s only fitting that he went out as a world champ.”

– Dodger Manager Joe Torre

“I am deeply saddened to hear the news of George Steinbrenner’s passing.  His vision, passion and commitment to winning, recharged the New York Yankees and revolutionized the game.

I remember a man driven to succeed.   He was the owner, “The Boss” and number one fan of the Yankees.  Our relationship was built on mutual respect.  I will never forget and always be grateful for how he treated me and my family both during my playing days and after I retired.

I will miss him very much and extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Joan, and all the members of the Steinbrenner family.”           

– Dodger Hitting Coach Don Mattingly

“George Steinbrenner was the first owner to contact me to congratulate me when I purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers.  From that day forward we built a strong and meaningful friendship.  He was a larger than life owner who cared deeply about winning.  George helped shape the game of baseball during his incredible stewardship of the Yankees.  My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Joan and his four children, Hal, Hank, Jennifer and Jessica and the entire Steinbrenner family.”

– Dodger Owner Frank McCourt

Rest in Peace, George Steinbrenner!

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Enjoying the Hype of the Dodgers and the Yankees

I have to say, I’m pretty psyched for this weekend’s Dodgers-Yankees series at Dodger Stadium, and all the hype that goes along with it.  It’s only the second time the two clubs have faced each other in the regular season, and the Dodgers have won 10 of 14 games played at Chavez Ravine.  Overall, the Dodgers are 31-38 against New York.

And the big series couldn’t come at a better time.  After losing 11 of their last 13 games, the Dodgers’ bats came alive last night in a critical win.  Plus, the club could use a distraction, and this weekend will be all about Joe Torre – the perfect way to take some of the pressure off of the team’s players.  I’ve got to admit, there are some intriguing story lines with Joe Torre and Don Mattingly facing their old team, to say nothing of Manny Ramirez playing against one of his former rivals.

According to the Dodgers pre-game notes, Ramirez has the fourth best batting average against the Yankees in the regular season, going .321 with 55 home runs in 200 games.  Oddly, Garret Anderson has the fifth best average against the Yankees at .310.  Something tells me that the surging Manny has a MUCH better chance to come through in the clutch this weekend than GA does.  Prove me wrong GA, prove me wrong.

On the surface, the Yankee influence on the Dodger coaching staff reminds me a lot of Mike Scioscia and the Dodgers influence on the Angels coaching staff (the big difference being that Scioscia has delivered a championship and is in place for the next 10 years, while Torre could retire as soon as the end of this season).

One of my earliest Dodger moments was being 11 years old and listening to the Dodgers-Yankees play during the 1981 World Series while my mom drove us to soccer practice.  This is the baseball equivalent of the Lakers and the Celtics, and cold only be topped if the two clubs met in the World Series later this season.

And just to wrap up, following are a few interesting notes in how this series, and some of it’s sideshows, are being painted by the New York and national media:

The New York Post looks at Alex Rodriguez’s frosty take on Joe Torre, while Derek Jeter says “He has been like a father figure to me.”

The New York Daily Newsparticipates in Joe Torre’s pre-game media session yesterday, where the skipper shared his thoughts about the weekend series against his former team.

Lee Jenkins at SI.com looks at “Joe Torre vs. Joe Torre.”

Photo credit: Fantasysportsday.com

Post-Game Comments from Torre, Martin, Broxton, Kuroda (June 8)

Joe Torre:

On the game as a whole:

“It was a classic.  That’s post-season baseball right there.  Great pitching on both sides.  Carpenter did an amazing job at getting out of jams.  They made plays.  Kuroda, that’s as good as you want to see him right there.  It was a great game.  If they had beaten us, I’d still have to say it was a great game, just the way things played out.”

On Kuroda:

“It looks like he was very aggressive.  It looked like he was pretty much doing what he wanted to.  It looked like the ball was really alive, movement wise, and he was locating it.  I think that he had as good of command as he’s had since early in the season.”

On Ethier:

“It is just a matter of timing for me.  You saw him hit that ball the other way with two strikes from the left-hander, you know he is back and comfortable.”

On Manny:

“It looked like he tried to pull.  He was hitting the ball on the ground.  Stayed inside the ball that last time and hit the ball hard to right field.”

Hiroki Kuroda (through his interpreter):

On his pitching overall:

“Most of my key pitches were moving. The sinker, slider and also splitter…were all good today.”

On facing Chris Carpenter:

“Before the game I didn’t really have the time to think about the other pitcher.  I just was worried about how I was going to pitch today and how to get outs on other hitters.”

Russell Martin:

On Kuroda:

“His command was great today.  Good velocity on his fastball and good movement on it too.  His two-seamer was working well for him.  He really had all his pitches tonight: his two-seamer, his slider working well, his splitty as well and also using his cutter.

From the first inning, he was throwing 95 and getting that good sink.  Just with that pitch alone, he can get away with just having that pitch.  Today’s the day where he had everything. So you know when you have all those weapons that you can use, that there’s a lot of different things you can use to get the hitters off balance.

On hearing that the surgery for the little girl who fractured her skull during batting practice on Monday was going to be ok:

“Earlier today, I heard the news, and definitely felt a bit better. It definitely was on my mind yesterday, the whole day, and it was good to hear the good news.”

On playing 0-0 games:

“It means that you’re doing things well, playing good defense and pitching well.  The hitting part, you’ve got an ace on the other side.  You get a win against him, you’re happy, no matter how you get it.”

On Chris Carpenter:

“He had his good stuff today.  Good curveball, command.  Not really leaving anything over the middle of the plate.  Every time you’re up there, it’s a battle against him.”

On Manny’s big hit:

“I don’t know how he hit that ball – it seems like he got jammed a little bit.  That’s a good sign when he’s able to stay inside the ball like that and drive it the other way.  That’s when he’s at his best, so it’s good to see that.”

On Broxton’s 11 pitch battle with Pujols:

“When you get in those situations, the great hitters just get even better.  And you could tell right there, he was fighting off some really good pitches.  Good thing we had one of the best closers in the game out there.  That’s what Pujols does, he’ll just wear you out until you make a mistake and then capitalize on that, but fortunately Broxton just came through, kept making good pitches.”

Jonathan Broxton:

On the ninth inning:

The heart of the order coming up.  I just had to go out there and make pitches…I did.”

On his battle with Pujols:

“I was just out there trying to go pitch for pitch…trying to see what he’s doing with the ball.  He kept fouling off some good pitches.  I finally just had to bury one.”

“It felt like it was a long time.  I had to keep going with good pitches and good location.  I couldn’t make a mistake.”

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010

Pre-Game Comments from Joe Torre (June 8)

Following are the highlights from Joe Torre’s pre-game media session.  A casual day with lots of discussion about two-sport athletes (like Dodgers first round draft pick Zach Lee), but not too much news to report:

On George Sherrill Starting Fresh Now that He’s Back from the DL:

“You’re certainly not going to be able to change the stats.  You’re just going to have to go out there, and I’m sure he’s going to be in that mindset anyway.  He’s not much to concern himself about how pretty it is, it’s just about getting it done.”

On Carlos Monasterios:

“Last night was good for us. We’ve had all those one run games. It was a good opportunity to rest our bullpen for one. Monasterios gave us a heck of a job.  A heck of a job.  He got himself in a bit of a jam there in the fifth inning, and then got himself out of it in a hurry.”

“To me, the fact that he’s pitched this well, I think he could do the job out of the bullpen too. I think all this stuff has done nothing but increase his confidence, and increased our confidence in him.  He doesn’t seem to be bothered by who he pitches against, and that’s a big get for me, is just to watch his demeanor out there.  After the first few times, he’s been pretty good.”

On Rafael Furcal:

“There’s a lot of life in his body right now.  He was sort of fooled on that ground-rule double that he hit, but he kept his bat in the zone a long time.  He’s staying back a lot better.  I thought a few days ago he was swinging out of his shoes, but he had much more controlled at bats, I felt, last night.”

On Washington Nationals Pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s Debut Today:

I’ll tell you one thing, from what I’ve seen in the inning and two thirds I watched him pitch, the ball comes out of his hand pretty good.  He’s got that one that sinks a little bit, and with that arm speed, he’s got a great curveball…so quick.  You have to be more than perfect to live up to the expectations…he certainly appears to be pretty special.  I don’t think there’s any question.”

On Who Strasburg Reminds Him of:

“When you think of someone young, coming up and pitching, I think of Doc Gooden.  He’d cross your eyes with that breaking ball and throw that fastball.  He’d say ‘Here, I dare you.’ And that’s what you’re seeing with this kid.”

On Possibly Being Asked to Talk to Zach Lee:

“Whatever they ask me to do…I’m only here to serve.”

Photo Credit: Chris Volk/2010 dodgerfan.net