The Dodgers’ Blues have Jay Jaffe seeing red. While Manny Ramirez has been getting killed for his final days, in particular his last at-bat, which was classic Manny, Jay takes aim at Joe Torre:
Torre hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory elsewhere this season. He’s made a hash of the bullpen at times, failing to get closer Jonathan Broxton save opportunities early in the year, then overusing him in non-save situations. Worse, he quickly burned out his top setup men, a tale that will be all too familiar to Yankee fans. Righty Ramon Troncoso and lefty George Sherrill made a combined 28 appearances in April and another 25 in May, a pace that comes out to 168 combined appearances over the course of the season; not coincidentally, that not-so-dynamic duo has combined for an 8.06 Fair Run Average while each facing demotions to the minors. To be fair, the Dodger bullpen ranks third in the league by BP’s advanced metrics, but those quality arms may be in Proctorville by the time the season is all said and done.
Worse, the young, homegrown players on whom so much of the Dodgers’ present and future depends have regressed on Torre’s watch. Catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney and center field Matt Kemp have played mediocre ball for most of the season. The production of Martin, who once looked to be the Dodgers’ answer to Derek Jeter — a face-of-the-franchise leader — declined for the third straight season before it ended abruptly due to a hip injury earlier this month. Torre’s overuse — starting him behind the plate 271 games in 2008-2009, the third highest total in the majors, and using him in 298 overall, the highest — can’t help but be implicated in that decline; as a former catcher himself, he should have known better, particularly as Martin’s production flagged. After earning All-Star honors last year, the still-raw Kemp has at times suffered from braindead play at the plate, in the field and on the basepaths. After some heavy-handed benching by Torre which was accompanied by unsubtle comments from henchman Larry Bowa, Kemp appears to want to talk his way out of town if he can’t play his way out.
Finally, there’s Torre’s handling of Ramirez, who at .311/.405/.510 still rates among the game’s top hitters; his .328 True Average would rank third in the league given enough plate appearances to qualify. Around his injuries, he started just 54 games out of the 72 games for which he was active, meaning that Torre didn’t start him a whopping 25 percent of the time — about double what you might expect for an aging player of his caliber. The Dodgers went 32-22 in his starts, scoring 5.3 runs per game, and 35-42 in games he didn’t start, averaging 3.7 runs. Four of those non-starts came in the days immediately after Ramirez hit the waiver wire, three of them against the Rockies, the team directly above them in the NL West standings.
And for an even more lively take-down, head on over to Futility Infielder.
[Photo Credit: Zimbio]