October 25, 2014

Our Vote for NL Manager of the Year

Jim Tracy

Jim Tracy

As I sit here on one of Maui’s amazing beaches, I got to thinking about the manager of the year voting, and who I would vote for if given an opportunity.  There are certainly a number of worthy candidates with the favorites falling into two camps: the managers leading upstart teams on surprising runs, and those whose teams consistently deliver year after year.  I tend to favor the former category in MOY voting…there’s something to be said for teams that defy expectations and go on incredible runs deep into the regular season, but you can’t ignore managers that deliver contenders seemingly every year.

Finally, since I’ve tried to write this with minimal computer time, please excuse the lack of numbers…gotta get back to the beach and continue working on my playoff tan!  With that said, here are my votes:

3rd Place: Tony La Russa

Sure, La Russa has the best player in the game in Albert Pujols and a stacked lineup.  But once the Cardinals added Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and others, he deftly put the pieces in place (including moving Skip Schumaker to second base from the outfield) to lock up the division early.  They did struggle down the stretch, but the competition was non-existent.  He deserves third place.

2nd Place: Joe Torre

Like La Russa, I feel Joe Torre had a very strong lineup to start the season, but in my opinion, Joe deserves consideration for manager of the year due to how he handled the Manny Ramirez situation, and specifically his use of Juan Pierre.  In addition, he managed a shaky starting pitching roster that had to overcome numerous hurdles.  In the end, they finished with some on the best numbers in the National League.  And like Toy La Russa, Torre has proven he can deliver a contender year after year, seemingly with ease.

NL Manager of the Year: Jim Tracy

Jim Tracy gets our vote, as he literally turned this team around the Colorado Rockies after taking the reins following Clint Hurdle’s firing on May 29.  Consider the numbers: The Rockies were last in the NL West with a record of 18-28. After taking over as manager, he led them to a Wild Card playoff appearance and very nearly a division title.  Most importantly, Tracy gave his players (especially his bullpen) clear roles, and let them know how he intended to use them.  This in turn gave them confidence and the turnaround began.  Pretty incredible stuff.

So there are our votes…let us know what you think about our picks, or feel free to make a compelling argument for another manager.

Dodgers Schedule About to Get a Whole Lot Easier

Joe Torre should sleep a little easier at night knowing that the scheduling gods have given him a fantastic end to the season – now all he has to do is get through August.  Check out the remaining teams and records the Dodgers face in August (a combined one game under.500):

3 games at Arizona (52-63)

3 games vs. St. Louis (64-52)

4 games vs. Chicago (58-54)

3 games at Colorado (63-51)

3 games at Cincinnati (49-64)

1 game vs. Arizona (52-63)

Not so bad, right?  Now let’s look at September and early October:

3 games vs. Arizona (52-63)

3 games vs. San Diego (49-66)

3 games at Arizona (52-63)

3 games at San Francisco (62-52)

3 games vs. Pittsburgh (46-67)

3 games vs. San Francisco (62-52)

3 games at Washington (40-74)

3 games at Pittsburgh (46-67)

2 games at San Diego (49-66)

3 games vs. Colorado (63-51)

That’s 283 combined games under .500.  Yes, that’s right, 283 games under .500, thanks to two sets with the Pirates, one with the Nationals and one with the Padres.  Seems almost unbelievable, doesn’t it?  Hopefully the Dodgers will use this time to get healthy and have their starting pitching develop some much needed confidence as they learn to go deep into each game, preserving the bullpen for the postseason.

Notes from the Couch…

This week was a pretty busy week…had to prepare for a garage sale we had on Saturday and Sunday, therefore, not much time was available to catch the Dodger games on TV…I did, however, see a few things…

Joe Torre is amazing…
Last Thursday…2 outs, bottom of the 8th in St. Louis…game tied, 3-3…man on 3rd…Hong-Chih Kuo on the mound…he just struck out Ryan Ludwick…the fastball was working…next batter, Albert Pujols…Joe Torre comes to the mound…usually, Joe makes a pitching change, but instead, there was a conversation…pitch to Pujols or walk him intentionally?…we got our answer 4 pitches later – the intentional walk…so, up steps Matt Holliday – probably the hottest hitter in the NL since his trade from Oakland…I was thinking that you pitch around one great hitter to face a hot hitter?…interesting…

…then I was amazed…Kuo walked Holliday intentionally to load the bases!…this setup a lefty-lefty matchup with Rick Ankiel…in a classic battle, Ankiel swung at all 3 pitches he saw…all 3 of them were fastballs…and he didn’t make contact on ANY of them!…the Dodgers escaped and eventually won the game in 10 innings…wow!

Joe Torre is amazing, part 2…
In Atlanta on Sunday, Chad Billingsley was pitching a great game…he had 9 strikeouts in 5 innings while holding the Braves to just 2 hits and no runs…a freak hyperextension of Billingsley’s left knee led to Joe Torre pulling him after the 5th for precautionary reasons…I don’t blame him…why risk further injury at this point of the season?…our goal is to win in October, so let’s take care of our guys…

Billingsley was slated to lead off the top of the 6th inning…because the Dodgers were short of bench players (only 3 hitters were available on Sunday), Joe went to power hitting pitcher, Jason Schmidt, to pinch hit…Schmidt has 7 career home runs…what did Torre have to lose?…anyway, Jason lined a 1-1 pitch back up the middle for a single and eventually came home to score the 5th run of the game…the Dodgers went on to win, 9-1.

George Sherrill Trade
Have you guys fallen in love with George Sherrill yet?…as I mentioned in a previous post, he’ll be great out of the bullpen for us and gives us another strong lefty for matchup situations (ie – the Phillies lineup) or be the 8th inning setup guy for Broxton in the 9th…in just 2 appearances (1.1 innings), he has 3 strikeouts, 1 hold, 0 hits and 0 runs allowed…of course, we’ve only seen him twice…sooner or later, he’ll get touched up for a hit, maybe even a run…until then, the Dodgers got the better end of this trade…

Vin Scully’s Farewell Tour
The LA Times published an article last week challenging the Dodgers to send out the great Vin Scully in style…Vin announced he will come back for one more year in the booth before retiring after an incredible career…here’s my 2 cents on what should be done…#1 – Dodgers win the World Series this year and next year!…win it for Vin!…#2 – next season, let Vin choose 81 Dodger greats (1 for each home game) from his days of broadcasting and have that player, manager, coach or Dodger employee take part in throwing out the first pitch and then come up to the booth so Vin can share some great memories with that person…let VIN choose the 81, not the Dodgers…simulcast all 81 of those home games so fans can take part in the farewell – whether you are watching on TV or listening in your car on the radio…that would be awesome…

Joe Torre, Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw Post-Game Comments

What a game!  Ethier’s three home-runs are the most since Hee-Seop Choi on June 12, 2005 and his six RBI are a career high.  Looks like the Dodgers got a little extra motivation from having Pau Gasol in the stands!  Mota’s also been “rebounding” (pun intended) pitching two scoreless innings.  That means shutout baseball in 13 of his last 14 games for a 0.52 ERA.  Since May 17, he’s lowered his ERA from 9.00 to 4.50.

Great post-game comments from Torre, Kershaw and Ethier.  Definitely don’t miss Kershaw’s take on his developing pitching style.

First up is Joe Torre:

On Ethier: “That’s the guy we all know is in there.”

On Kershaw:  “As far as Kershaw, he grew a little bit at his last outing on Sunday and tonight was just an add-on.  Any time you can put two or three back to back like that, that means you’re making some progress.”

More on Kershaw: “Early in the game he’s not trying to overthrow the ball.  He’s so agressive, and sometimes it works against him because he goes out there and just tries to throw the ball by people and you can’t do it at this level…not on a consistent basis.  I saw him using his pitches the last time out and he used all his pitches tonight.  I thought his curveball was better and we told him he was done after six and he had these big wide eyes and said, ‘Really? Is that it?’  We’re gonna try and get as much good out of this thing as we can.”

On Never Having a Three-Game Losing Streak This Season: “People told me that, and it’s great.  Streaks are great, but you certainly want the good ones to outnumber the bad ones.  I remember ’96 when I had the Yankees, we never lost more than five in a row and we never won more than five in a row.  There’s no question that if you keep going the rest of the year without losing more than two in a row, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Clayton Kershaw’s Post-Game Comments:

On Andre Ethier: “He’s so tough when he’s hot.  There’s really no right way to pitch him; maybe walk him is the best idea.  He’s just got so much power and he;s got power to all fields.  When he’s seeing the ball well like he was tonight, you saw what happened – there’s no one way to get him out.”

On His Developing Pitching Style: “I think that’s the key for me – trying to incorporate all my pitches.  Sometimes when I get into trouble I just want to go hard, hard, hard and get people out.  Sometimes the best way to do that is just by backing off.  When you’re in certain situations, like whether it was the Angels and the bases loaded or tonight with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, you’re really just trying to make quality pitches.  Sometimes soft is the way to go.  Brad and Russell have both been great.  They’ve both started calling the pitches that I need to throw.  Instead of shaking off like I have done in the past, I trust them and trust myself a little bit more.”

Andre Ethier speaks:

On Having ‘Quick Hands’ Tonight: “I just went in there and worked with Donnie and worked on some stuff and got back to where I need to be. So I guess not to expect that that’s what happen after you work with Donnie, but I’m relaxed, more comfortable up there and ready to go.”

On Hitting Seventh in the Lineup: “We have a good lineup.  You should be honored just to be in the lineup.  We’re now in a situation coming in a couple weeks where we’ve got a guy that will definitely be in the lineup and everyone’s got to fit in where they can and have their opportunities.  It just shows you that you should be happy to be in this lineup because it;s so good and deep from our bench to our starting eight.”

On Attending Wakamatsu’s Baseball Camp as a Youth: “I remember going to Don’s hitting and fielding camps in the winter there in Phoenix.  I’m surprised he remembers me.  I was probably 11…12 years old at that time.  I don’t know if he knew at that time that I’d be his opponent on the major league level.”

On His Home Run Power: “I was never a home run hitter.  I didn’t hit my first home run until I was 13 years old.  Not even Little League.  I didn’t hit one until I was a seventh grader in junior high. So I can say, never three in a game.”

Dodgers-Mariners Pre-Game Notes

Following are a few pre-game quotes from Joe Torre:

On Manny Ramirez in Albuquerque: “He got through it and he didn’t get hurt…he’ll play the next five days, four days and be ready for us next week.  I’m not concerned about statistics.  I’m more interested in having him compete in some games.”

On Juan Pierre’s Upcoming Return to the Bench: “Juan certainly seized the opportunity and made the most out of it.  We’ll just go back and, our original plan coming out of Spring Training was to give Juan a day or two a week in center field and rest Ethier or rest Kemp.  We did it, I think three times, before Manny was suspended, so we’ll continue to do that.  It’s just one of those things.  When you have Kemp in center field, obviously getting better.  Ethier’s been such a big part of our offense. with this National league baseball, there’s not much we can do about it.

On the Dodgers Not Losing Three Games in a Row All Season: “We’ve been lucky a lot.  Our record in close games has been very good.  It just so happens, a lot of those close games were played at home…our bullpen has been doing an amazing job.  And that’s something that when we left Spring Training, we weren’t sure what it was all about.  So I’ve got to credit the bullpen and just the resiliency of this team.  They’ve been fighting and biting and going after things on an everyday basis and we’ve got to keep doing it.”

On Jason Schmidt: “Schmidt’s pitching tonight with no pitch count so we’ll see what that’s like.”

On Jeff Weaver: “Weaver gave us a courageous outing yesterday.  He pitched his tail off, especially that last inning.”

On His First Impressions of Ichiro Suzuki: “Usually people don’t live up to the expectations but he certainly, when we saw him after what we were told about him, he was scary (for the opposition).  He looked like he had a great deal of control over what he was doing.  Defensively, it looked so easy for him.  He’d be under every ball and make a throw right on the money, running fast after two steps, steal a base when he wanted to, and then when you watched him in batting practice you knew he could hit home runs when he wanted to…he’s about as complete a player as you want to find.”