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.
Tyler Kepner checks in with info on Brian Bruney’s injury. Bruney injured his foot on Tuesday, and the Yanks fear he has two torn ligaments. With the general consensus being that Kyle Farnsworth’s elbow will push him to the DL as well, this trip to Chicago was not a good one for the Yankee bullpen. Expect some roster moves later today. · (52) ·
Man, Phil was dealing in the early innings tonight, eh? After 23 pitches in two innings, Hughes looked like he was on a roll. According to Gameday — the only reliable gun in town these days — he was hitting 94 in the first inning, and that fastball looked bee-yoo-tee-full.
But then the rains came, and they came for just long enough to ruin the flow. Joe Girardi had to take out the young gun; there’s no way to second-guess this move. After a lengthy rain delay, Phil Hughes just had to come out. And that, folks, was bad luck. Phil seem calm and poised on the mound. It’s a sign of things to come.
When the bullpen took over, things went a bit south. Staked to a 3-0 lead, Ross Ohlendorf threw one good inning and one heinously bad inning. When the dust settled, Ohlendorf had probably punched his temporary ticket to Scranton by giving up 5 runs in short order. With Brian Bruney out and the bullpen overworked, Ohlendorf may get sent down for a little while just so the Yanks can call up some arms. Tough break for the kid right now.
But the going got worse next inning. LaTroy Hawkins served up a meatball to Jim Thome, and Thome, as he had done 512 times prior, deposited the ball over the fence. If Hawkins — Wednesday night’s sacrificial lamb — does his job, the Yanks take a 6-5 lead into the ninth.
The game though ended with Joba Chamberlain‘s recording his first career regular season loss. Chamberlain just didn’t have his best breaking pitches tonight, and in the 9th, he was hit hard by A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Quentin. One of those balls went for an out while the other went for a double. A liner into centerfield off the bat of Joe Crede sent the Yankees off to Cleveland, losers tonight but winners of three of four.
For Joba, tonight’s game simply shows that, yes, he’s fallible. He won’t be perfect forever coming out of the pen. While I’m sure the pro-bullpen contingent will claim that Joba’s faltering in his second inning of work tonight means that he is not suited for the rotation, that is laughably far from the truth. As a pitcher is wont to do now and then, Joba just didn’t have his best stuff. It happens. Just like Jason Giambi‘s fouling out with the two outs and the bases loaded. Just like Jorge Posada hitting into a pinch-hit double play.
Bad luck, bad bullpen, bad breaking balls. We’ll get ‘em in Cleveland tonight.
The combined line for the starters today: 25.1 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 25 K. Wow.
Triple-A Scranton (3-1 win over Buffalo)
Brett Gardner: 1 for 4, 1 R, 1 K
Shelley Duncan & Greg Porter: both 2 for 3 – Shelley homered, had 3 RBI and walked … Porter K’ed
rest of lineup: combined 0 for 18, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K
Dan Giese: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K – who needs Alan Horne?
Heath Phillips: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K – only the second & third hits he’s allowed this year
Scott Patterson & Jose Veras: both 1 IP, zeroes, 1 K
Every five or six days, for better or worse, it will be a big start for Phil Hughes. While that might be unfair, it’s reality. With every poor start, the detractors grow in numbers and increase in rabidity. Phil can’t make them go away with a quality outing, but he can certainly piss on their fire.
As noted earlier, Johnny Damon has something of a hot streak brewing, as he’s 7 for his last 14, with a pair of doubles and a pair of dingers. The guy hitting behind him has six fewer hits in his last 14 at bats. But if they get going at the same time, whoo-boy, we’re in for an offensive explosion — not that we’ve been lacking over the past three games.
After a stellar night, Jorge sits. It seems like a good idea at this point to give him some rest. You don’t want to risk anything with his shoulder. So Hava Molina gets the start behind the dish. One has to wonder how much longer Chad Moeller will hang around, especially since the Yanks face two lefties this weekend. Shelley Duncan could prove useful.
A-Rod is with the team. Not sure what his status is, though. Maybe he could pinch hit?
And on the mound, number thirty-four, Phil Hughes
Joe Posnanski has taken the Internet’s recent obsession with retired numbers to an extreme. A few days after berating Yankee fans over their booing of LaTroy Hawkins, Posnanski has written a diatribe on every single retired number in Major League Baseball. The piece is amusing, and Posnanski thinks the Yankees have gone a bit overboard with the sentimentality lately. · (8) ·
Bidding on the infamous David Ortiz jersey once buried under the new Yankee Stadium ended today, and the winner will pay $175,100 for the tattered remains of the shirt. The money will go to the Jimmy Fund. Meanwhile, Red Sox fans are wondering exactly who was cursed by this jersey. David Ortiz, who was hitting .070/.231/.140 before the Yanks uncovered the jersey, has hit .310/.396/.500 since the day his shirt was unearthed. · (10) ·
“When I go, this team goes a lot smoother.” so said Johnny Damon almost three weeks ago. They had yet to score more than four runs in a game at that point, though the team was heading into just the sixth contest of the season. For his part, Damon had been on the interstate since the second game of the year. Considering his sluggish start in 2007, you could tell he knew the critics were breathing down his neck.
He’s had some good games since then, but it’s not until the past three games that he’s really put everything together. He’s 7 for 14 with a walk in those contests, blasting two doubles and two home runs. He’s picked up is average to .253 and his OBP to .360 — if nothing else, a testament to the fact that it’s still early, and that anyone can turn it around.
It’s easy to write off Damon’s accomplishments as a small sample size. And if someone wants to do so, it’s tough to argue. But I can absolutely see this being a prelude to a solid season by Damon. And we’re going to need it. Because what he said about the team going smoother when he goes is visible in the team’s past three games.
Lost in all the hullabaloo over Hank Steinbrenner’s Joba comments was a piece from the tireless Ken Rosenthal. Kenny thinks that Brian Cashman should leave the Yankees after his contract is up this season because Hank Steinbrenner is too aggravating. Besides the fact that Cashman, a 22-year Yankee vet, is fiercely loyal to the Bombers, besides the fact that Hank is just one part of the Hank-and-Hal team leading the Yankees, Rosenthal misses the point. He’s simply validating Steinbrenner’s outbursts while Cashman’s handling of it this week was, in a word, masterful. Despite his flaws as GM, Cashman is and will remain the right man for the job. Hank knows this and so should Rosenthal. · (24) ·