November 26, 2014

And the Opening Day Starter for the Dodgers is…Vicente Padilla?

 

By all accounts this is a puzzling choice, but it’s really not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things.

Let’s look at the numbers: Padilla was 4-0 down the stretch last year and the club’s most consistent starter when they needed one.  He’s also been solid in Spring Training.  Does this qualify him to be the Opening Day starter when he’s also the team’s #4 starter when lining them up one through five?  That’s a tough one to argue if you take this stuff seriously (which I do not), but I think it’s safe to say that Padilla will pitch well when he gets the ball on April 5 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Jon Weisman argues that Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda would be more logical choices due to the magnitude of what they’ve contributed to the club and even for sentimental reasons.

That said, I think it’s clear that how Joe Torre selects his Opening Day starter is different than how most of us would.  Per Ken Gurnick:

 “We just had to pick somebody and he was the one,” Torre said. “Am I saying he’s better than the other guys? I’m not saying that. We decided to line them up that way. The fact [is] that we don’t have a No. 1, we have four guys who have pitched important games for us.”

Here are a few more quotes from Torre per Josh Rawitch:

Joe Torre’s reasoning: “We just decided to line them up that way.”

That means the second game will be Kershaw in Pittsburgh, then Billingsley and then Kuroda.

More from Joe: “We have 4 guys you could put their names in a hat. I had no problem with Clayton starting the Home Opener.”

Torre doesn’t seem to think the whole Opening Day starter thing is that big a deal, but I’m going to assume the real reason has something to do with the way the pitchers line up before the home opener at Dodger Stadium.

Personally, I think the whole “who starts Opening Day” thing is something that the fans (and maybe the players) care about more than management does.  I’m fine with Padilla having the honor – he’s been a solid pitcher for the Dodgers and he does have a great comeback story after being released by the Texas Rangers in the middle of last season. 

Now let’s get to Opening Day, already!

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010

Does Padilla Bring the Dodgers Closer to the World Series?

So here we are, January 21, 2010, and the Dodgers have finally signed their #4 starter, Vicente Padilla.  As Eric Stephen over at True Blue LA accurately points out, Padilla was money in the bank for the Dodgers down the stretch and for the majority of the post-season.  But the question is, in 2010 will we get the clutch Padilla that pitched so well in big games for LA, or the Padilla with the attitude issues that was released by the Rangers?

On December 23, 2009, Dodgers’ President Dennis Mannion said the following to the Times’ Bill Shaikin:

Ned has demonstrated a fantastic ability to read the talent market. We made back-to-back NLCS appearances for the first time in three decades as a result of Ned’s ability to make the right acquisitions at the right time. We want the same thing our fans want, a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out, and we’ve been in that position for the last two seasons. We expect that to continue.

From the Dodgers’ official press release:

“Vicente did a tremendous job for us down the stretch and his continued success in the postseason proved that he can pitch when there’s a lot at stake,” said Colletti.

The 32-year-old Padilla has won 14 or more games in four of the last eight seasons, joining Andy Pettitte as the only two pitchers to accomplish that feat among a free-agent pitching market that has included John Lackey, Randy Wolf, Joel Pineiro, Brett Myers, Jason Marquis and Jon Garland, among others.

That’s an interesting statistic, but is losing Wolf and bringing pack Padilla to be the veteran presence among the Dodgers’ starting pitchers a step in the right direction for “a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out?”  Call me skeptical.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that top to bottom, the Dodgers are in an excellent position to make another deep run in the 2010 post-season – no matter who the Dodgers plug in as the 5th starter.  But is this a team that has the starting pitching to truly and legitimately compete for a World Series by getting by a Phillies team that’s bolstered their starting rotation with the likes of Roy Halladay?  Time will tell, as we see Kershaw, Bills and Kuroda continue to develop into strong veteran starters.

The 32-year-old Padilla has won 14 or more games in four of the last eight seasons, joining Andy Pettitte as the only two pitchers to accomplish that feat among a free-agent pitching market that has included John Lackey, Randy Wolf, Joel Pineiro, Brett Myers, Jason Marquis and Jon Garland, among others.

Now I wasn’t expecting the Dodgers to really make a run at the guys looking for $8-$10 million per year, so the Padilla signing makes sense, especially after looking at the remaining starters on the market and the bargain price of $5 million that Ned was able to negotiate.  Plus he was clutch down the stretch.  I get it.  If he pitches like he did last year, Padilla would be a bargain for a solid #4 starter.

But from an emotional standpoint as a fan of this team, I’ve been hoping since October that the Dodgers would make an impact signing to put this club over the top for the coming year, rather than just filling the remaining holes with less commanding options.  In my opinion, that didn’t happen.  Call me frustrated, but that’s how I feel right now.  I’m sure I’ll come around once Spring Training arrives though!

Photo credit: AP Photo/Tom Gannam