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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Joe Torre Doesn’t Look Like Such a Genius Anymore

It bothered me that Joe Torre got so much credit for the Dodgers making it to the playoffs, and even more after they swept the Cubs. The amounts of praise he received was nauseating. There was talk about what a calming influence he provided, how he was able to tie together the two groups of the team — the veterans and youngsters — in a way that Grady Little couldn’t. All this talk was about the same manager who presided over an eight-game losing streak that included sweeps by the Phillies and Nationals at the end of August that all but had the Dodgers eliminated from the playoffs. To me, the Dodgers surging and making the playoffs was about two factors more than anything else: the acquisition of Manny Ramirez and the collapse of the Diamondbacks. People forget that it wasn’t so much about the Dodgers playing fantastic ball at the end of the season so much as it was about Arizona’s inability to win; the Dodgers didn’t even have to do anything on their part to clinch. Additionally, it became painfully evident how dependent the Dodgers’ offense was on Manny to score runs in the five-game series loss to the Phillies.

So let me ask this: what changed from the Cubs series to the Phillies series for the Dodgers? Did the roster change outside of Saito’s deactivation and Kuo’s activation? Were there any significant injuries? Were there any changes to the coaching staff? Were the Phillies a better team than the Cubs? It’s pretty safe to answer “no” to all those questions. The only thing that changed from the NLDS against the Cubs to the NLCS against the Phillies was the performance of the players. It’s pretty hard to win when Chad Billingsley pitches you out of the game by the 3rd inning on two occasions. It’s pretty hard to win when Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton give up long balls in relief. It’s pretty hard to win when the bats of Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and Blake DeWitt go invisible for the most part.

Look, I’d love to place some blame on Joe Torre and make him accountable for the NLCS loss. About the only thing I can say I disagree with was his move of Kemp to 7th in the lineup and then a subsequent benching in the following game — that to me is a display of panic when you’re benching one of your best players. Outside of that, what could Torre really have done to make a difference in the series? Not a whole lot. The bottom line is that the manager is at the mercy of his players with his success tied to their performance. Torre never should have received the credit he did for the Dodgers’ surge to the playoffs and their sweep of the Cubs. At the same time, he shouldn’t receive the blame for the team’s horrid performance against the Phillies. In the end, it all comes down to the performance of the players.

And just for kicks, our man and resident Philly fan Hop-a-Long was at Dodger Stadium for the clincher and was able to capture the moment on video.

Nothing quite like celebrating when your team has reached the World Series. OK, I take that back. Celebrating a World Series win is even sweeter.



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