Torre and 9-13 Dodgers enjoying each other in LA

Nothing will bug the Yanks in Cleveland this time
How bad is John Sterling?

Billy Witz checks in with Joe Torre in The Times today and finds that Torre does not miss the circus back east.

After his less-than-amicable departure from the Yankees, Torre is settling into a new reality, attempting to restore credibility to a franchise that has won one playoff game in 20 seasons.

There is no fishbowl, no calls from Boss & Sons and no suggestions from above for lineup changes.

On the other hand, there is no $200 million payroll. The Dodgers constitute the Little Engine That Could.

“This is more reminiscent of my first year there,” Torre said of the 1996 Yankees, who won the World Series. “We were underdogs. I remember George telling me in June, ‘Are you doing this with mirrors?’ We didn’t have home run hitters. It drove him nuts because he liked to beat everybody by 10 runs, but we were playing solid baseball.”

Of course, the problem is that the 2008 Dodgers are nothing at all like the 1996 Yankees. The Dodgers right now find themselves treading water at 9-13. They’re in fourth place, seven games behind the Diamondbacks. In 1996, the Yanks were 12-10 after 22 games and found themselves in first place for the first time. They would remain there all season.

Right now, the Dodgers are playing a bit below their run differential. They probably should be 12-10, and in that regard, they are similar to the 1996 Yankees. But Torre in Los Angeles is still doing the things that Torre in New York did that drove us all crazy. Joe Beimel has appeared in 13 games already this season; Scott Proctor, of course, has pitched in 11; and Jonathan Broxton has thrown in nine games.

When Torre took the Dodger job, it seemed like a moment of hubris for the former Yankee skipper. He wanted to prove to the baseball world and his critics that he could win without a $200 million payroll. He wanted to prove that he had what it took to lead a baseball club that needed managing instead of one that could operate fairly well on auto-pilot. Right now, this gambit isn’t working, and I have to wonder if Torre’s legacy would have been better off had he just called it a career after his less-than-friendly divorce from the Yanks in October.

One thing though is for certain: The 2008 Dodgers are not the 1996 Yankees.

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Nothing will bug the Yanks in Cleveland this time
How bad is John Sterling?
  • http://www.thebronxzoo.wordpress.com iYankees

    nice post. the diamondbacks have been somewhat surprising, although they do have a lot of great young talent (jackson, drew, etc.). their pitching will probably take them to the playoffs, especially if that max scherzer kid gets called up. the dodgers are a great team, and i’d really like to see them do well. they’re pitching is solid enough, but martin, ethier, kemp, jones (he’s done), they’re all struggling though, so we’ll see what happens (james loney is the man).

  • Ivan

    Hey it is early in the season and to me the Dodgers have one more talented teams in the NL and baseball.

  • Frank

    Torre will flounder as the year goes on and he has to start relying on those rookies more. And once he has to start thinking about NL pitching changes, line-up changes, etc. late in the year (after he has a lot of tired arms), the Dodgers will fall apart.

    But it will be fun to watch him try and pretend like he can do it.

  • E-ROC

    LOL @ the Andruw Jones contract. Probably the worst in MLB history. Torre already demoted him to the 7th and 8th spot in the order.

    I hope Broxton and Beimel survive Torre.

  • mike

    He is also not going to get an overpaid superstar like Big Daddy Fielder mid-season to pick up his offense in 1996- like the article concluded its a long way from the Bronx. Need some bats in 2000 – get Glenallen Hill and Canseco. How ’bout ’97 – go get me Stanley back! Hey I need an outfielder after I embarass Enrique Wilson during the Mets series – presto! one shows up. Mondesi? Abreu? Leiter? Duqe? Neagle? The list of overpaid stars brought in to help Torre mid-way through the season ( mostly brought upon himself by not fighting for a deeper bench or a bullpen which wore out by Mid-May because of his desire to whip 3 pitchers to death) is endless – and he will find that out when he wins 72 games this year.

  • LC

    Considering that the Dodgers play in a huge market and have the third highest payroll in the NL, I fail to see how they constitute the “Little Engine that Could.”

    • ceciguante

      exactly.

    • http://www.mokers.org/blog Mokers

      I really don’t get why he thinks his team is an underdog.

      • steve (different one)

        thank you.

        i was waiting for someone to bring that up.

        there is a $40M gap between the next highest team in the division, and that team is the Giants, who are terrible.

        they have $50M on the D-Backs.

  • ceciguante

    so it was hubris for torre to take the dodgers job, typically among the top 5 payrolls in MLB? what? you tend to bristle at judgments of the yanks at this point in the season as premature doomsaying, but you suggest that torre’s “gambit” to join LA “isn’t working?” that doesn’t seem very consistent or fair. 12-11 yanks isn’t so far ahead of 9-13 dodgers. let’s give him a chance.

    • mike

      Agreed, to a point – i think the issue with Torre is a) his comp with the ’96 Yanks, and b) his use of their roster. Initially his comp is flawed on a few levels, including the fact that the 95 Yanks were a Game 3 matchup of kaminecki vs. Unit rather than McDowell vs Unit from playing Cleveland for the pennant – while the Dodgers have won nothing in a generation. This is typical Torre, and he is misjudging the capabilities of his roster – thus necessitating a mid-season move to rectify the roster. He continues to speak of “trust” like DiNero, but that relegates his “untrusted” players to worthless roster spots, good for neither fodder nor trade-bait. This also murders the 3 guys he goes-to on a regular basis. On the Yanks that was great because for every Quantrill there is a Sturtze or Proctor – the Yanks will get some arms to put out there for him. However, the Dodgers will not make those moves for him – and therein lies the quandry. Pitchiong Proctor so much and playing Nomar sopeaks of a “win-now” approach reminiscent of the Yanks, but the Dodgers are more of a “compete now- win maybe in a few years” roster. So his hubris on taking a big name team in a big-league town, and his hubris for bringing a nmanagerial style to a team which does not have the ponies for those tactics, reflects poorly on his situation.

      • ceciguante

        if you’re saying he over-relies on certain bullpen pitchers, and leans too heavily on certain players, i can’t argue with that. but it’s 22 games in, and being called hubristic for daring to manage the LA dodgers is wrong. he didn’t want to stand for an incentivized contract with the yanks, so he got another job. let’s just extend him more than 22 games before we roast him on a spit, whether you like his managerial style or not. especially when any mention of criticism of a young yankee pitcher on this blog is met with howls of protest and qualifications (i.e. “cold weather”), and the requisite “small sample size” response.

        the dodgers are 9-13. small sample size.

        • mike

          True enough, but for me its always “where’s the beef” with him – we cannot criticize his in-game managerial style, or his use of the pen, or inability to use younger or more talented players instead of vets, but we are trated to his Phil Jackson svengali-like juggling of the modern ego as a reason to pay him an extraordinary salary. Fine, although when 40% of his 2000 team is taking steroids, he couldn’t deal with Hayes/Boggs, or Fielder/Martinez, David Wells Nellie, Lloyd….plus he is 4-whatever in the playoffs because he cannot sit veteran Giambi or Sheffield during the Detroit series to get Melky at-bats, he rats out A-Rod, or we see Bernie DHing because of “trust” I want to blow my brains out – how does he manage the modern athlete so well??

    • bill73083

      I have to agree. Its still early in the season. They have some very good young talent. Their pythag record is pretty good, and I see no reason that they can’t reach those numbers in actuality.

      Also, for all the talk of Torre abusing relief pitchers; Beimel is on track to pitch 56 innings, Proctor is on track to pitch 77 and Broxton is on track to pitch 74. I don’t really think that those are absurd innings for an entire season.

      • mike

        Remember it isnt the actual innings they throw – he seems to get them up in the pen 150 nights a year, so its not the amount of innings they throw, its likely the total throws they make in a season which kills these guys!!

  • keith

    Isn’t the Dodger’s payroll 40-50million higher than the rest of their division? Stupid writers sucks.

  • LiveFromNewYork

    How is Scottie doing? I wish he was back in the Bronx. I bet he does too.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      His 7.20 ERA out of the pen would make him better than only LaTroy Hawkins on the 2008 Yankees.

      • LiveFromNewYork

        Maybe he’s just trying to keep Torre from using him. He was once a helluva pitcher.

  • Mike P

    Why all the hate for Torre? He’s achieved enough in the game that he can retire on his own terms. If those terms include managing the Dodgers for a while, that’s fine by me. I wish him all the best.

    He didn’t have the greatest end to his Yankee career and had habits that piss a lot of people off. But hey given the start to his Yankee career I can forgive him now it’s over and done with. Maybe some people here should do that too. Remember how you felt in ’99?