Mr. Insignificant

Everyone's favorite manager snaked his way into October this year for the 14th straight season, once again choosing a big job with a prestigious organization and stepping in poop. Two years after latching his legacy to the Dodgers, Joe Torre and a wonderful young team are two-time NL West champs.

It's not this easy for everyone. For some managers the poop really is poop. Manny Acta? Christian Guzman, Elijah Dukes and John Lannan. Joe Torre I stepped in a bed or roses. Young Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. JT II? Only the future will decide exactly. But the budding core of Matt Kemp, Andre Eithier, James Loney and Clayton Kershaw is a good place to start. Torre's timing in Hollywood was impeccable.

Anyway, you know Torre's around again, hogging postseason face-time, because, well, TBS won't let you forget it, sticking Torre on commercials rather than his 25-year-old MVP candidate (Kemp). If you argue Kemp won't give the folks pennant fever, fine. Two words: Manny Ramirez. Where's he?

But this is no Torre story. I began this rip on Ol' Man Joe not to chastise him. Nope. Nice man. Successful. Enterprising. More power to him. But this importance fans and media saddle baseball managers with is absurd. Torre just happens to represent this love-in/hate-in better than anyone.

Case in point: Game 4 of the NLCS. Dodgers lose 5-4 on a daggerous two-out hit in the last of the ninth. So what one difference from his bygone days in the Bronx caused Torre's charges to lose, fall into a 3-games-to-1 hole (instead of evening the series) and basically lose their chance to reach the Fall Classic? The closer. Compared to the Yankees, the Dodgers don't quite have the Mo-Joe.

Torre, playing his role as puppetmaster, pulled the right strings in Game 4, calling on his Fozzie the Bear, the great Jonathan Broxton. Few guys at the back of a bullpen can chuck it like Broxton, but closers are typically fallible. As it were, Broxton fed Jimmy Rollins a seed and he planted off the RCF wall. Pitch, game, series — all history. Mariano Rivera would've thrown nine pitches and had Torre a cup-deep in Bigelow before the park cleared out.

Blown saves happened so seldom to Torre with the Yankees you can name them: 1997 ALDS vs. Cleveland; 2001 WS vs. Arizona; and 2004 ALCS vs. Boston. Rivera has been simply perfect otherwise. But Torre never made him so. He never made the cutter cut. Never made the tense ninths seem like Fort Myers in February. Rivera did. He's the legend, not Torre — the innocent man along for the ride.

As Tony G. pointed out earlier, managers of great clubs can only ruin them. Joe Girardi figured out how earlier in the day, running relievers to the mound on a whim knowing CC Sabathia would pitch next on short rest. Que?

Torre, coincidentally channeled his inner-John McNamara for much of the season, batting Kemp — second on his team in OPS — in all nine spots, but mostly seventh (174 ABs). Orlando Hudson (.774 OPS) batted second or third almost all season (390 ABs combined). Now he doesn't play. Doughboy himself — Ronnie Belliard — plays second now, though most L.A. writers and Torre apologists would argue Papa Joe simply rides the hot hand, and rides it right on through October.

You cannot make this stuff up.

No comments:

Post a Comment