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Joe Torre: Goat or Scapegoat?

Oh, they're having a great time ripping good 'ol Joe out in L.A. today.

The only knock on Torre as a manager is that, in New York, he never had to manage.

Manage people, oh, yes. And it's possible that nobody has ever been better. Huge egos and, in his whole time there, not one ever got out of line and stayed out of line for long. This guy got along with Jeter AND A-Rod. That's tough. Strictly at the personal level, if you like one of them (Jeter), the other one almost has to make your skin crawl (lets see, that would be....Cindy, help me here.)

Manage the press? There, he is No. 1 in the history of baseball. He knew what every media outlet needed and wanted and gave it to them. He took heat off the team and attracted it to himself when the tension got high. He used his quotes to shape the team's view of itself and, sometimes, to repremand players. He prevented (or delayed) public panic a hundred times. Manage his owner? Yes, as much as anybody could.

But actually manage the game? With the DH, he had fewer decisions to make. With a $200-million payroll, the lineup made itself out. When somebody got injured, substitute the next highest salary. (OK, not really, but I liked the line.) Juggle the rotation? "Buy me a pitcher quick! Or trade our best prospects for a pitcher!" Manage the 9th inning? That would be Mariano Whatshisname.

So, what's the verdict out there in Expert Land? I'm having a little trouble with this one. The knee-jerk concensus, with which we all love to disagree, may actully have it right this time.

The articles of indictment:

*In Game 4, he took out Derek Lowe after five innings, including a 1-2-3 5th, with less than 75 pitches, because he was pitching on three days rest. And who does he bring in? A 20-year-old lefthanded phenom (Clayton Kershaw) with a control problem (52 walks in 107 innings) who has only been used in relief in 21 of his 22 games. Kershaw faces only three hitters __walk, single, sacriifice bunt, leading to a Phils run to tie at 3.

*Also in Game Three, Torre has three relievers with ERAs of 2.02 (Beimel), 2.14 (Kuo) and 2.27 (Wade). He uses them all but only milks six outs from all of them combined, forcing him to use closer Broxton in the eighth when he usually only works the ninth. Broxton falls behind 3-1 on the first hitter, throws a fastball down the pipe and 40-year-old Matt Stairs hits it 440 feet to win the game.

*Game Two: Leaves rookie Chad Billingsley in to allow eight (8) earned runs. Who leaves a starter in that long in post-season? Ten of the last 12 men to face Billingsley reach base, including two first-pitch hits by the opposing pitcher to drive in three runs. L.A. loses 8-5. Earth to Joe, why the slow hook? Was it because...

*In Game One, you we criticized for leaving Lowe in too long, allowing homers to Utley and Burrell for all the runs in a Philly comeback from 0-2 to a 3-2 win.

Oh, there's more. When you fall behind 3-1 in an LCS there always is. How much of this is pure cheap-shot second guessing? (I'd certainly have let Lowe stay in to face Burrell in Game One.) And how much is "Joe's Great L.A. Adventure" turning into "Nightmare in Chavez Ravine."

By Thomas Boswell  |  October 14, 2008; 11:49 AM ET
 
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Comments

From September 21, 2007 chat...

D.C.: Hey Boz,

How foolish are the Mets looking now considering their reluctance to give up Milledge for a reliever?

If Minaya could do things over, do you think he'd have made a Milledge-Cordero deal?

Is there any way that Bowden could pry Victorino away from the Phillies? They rarely play him anymore! Thanks.

Tom Boswell: I'm a Cordero fan, though he sure makes you nervous because you know his command has to be razor sharp to avoid the Dreaded Lang Ball. Like so many teams on so many trades, I suspect the Mets would like to rewind the clock and see if they could do that deal. (However, there was never a day when I would have made it, from the Nationals point of view.)

I wouldn't give two cents for Victorino, especially playing in the Phillies bandbox. How can you afford the "luxury" (waste) of giving 440 at bats to an outfielder with 11 homers and an OPS of .773? If Church or Kearns had those at bats in Philly, they'd have 20-25 homers. Partly because of the distance to fences, but also because a cozy part lends confidence, helps initial hot streaks.

The Phils are a lot of fun right now. I'm pulling for them, either as a wild card or in the East, though I think their starting pitching is just too weak to make it. Manuel, underrated IMO as I've said before, has done a good job. But not nearly as good as Acta. I was amazed to read an MLB.com analysis of potential Manager of the Year candidates this week. There were SEVEN in the N.L. and Acta wasn't mentioned! Talk about a snub. Many should instantly be on the short list __THEN figure out who the others are.


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wow Boz, not 2 cents for Victorino? How about now?

Posted by: Thank you Google | October 14, 2008 1:19 PM | Report abuse

One thing that I'll say for the Flyin' (or Cryin' depending on your preference) Hawaiian, he is stylin' with that Willie Harris two-flap batting helmet.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 14, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Torre's biggest gaffe last night was lifting Kuo with one out in the 7th (or 8th?). Kuo was throwing darts and the Phils looked clueless against him. He gave up the single to Howard, but that was pure good hitting on Howard's part. Bringing in the righty (Wade) made sense on paper with Burrell coming up. BUT, Kuo was looking sharp and Victorino is a switch hitter coming up behind Burrell. He should have stuck with Kuo, possibly to finish out the game, or at least until the Phils started to figure him out.
Also, lets forget about the managing moves and just give it up for the Phillies' hitters. They got it done when it counted. Ruiz getting on base in front of stairs to keep the inning alive was huge. He is having a nice little post season. Way to go Chooch!

Posted by: PhilliePhan | October 14, 2008 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm no expert but armchair second-guessing is always fun, particularly for NL fans. I am no fan of the Yankees but Torre has always struck me as a stand-up guy. I was hoping that his guys would win (and I don't have it in me to root for the Phillies). Re. the knock on Torre's game managing abilities in light of his AL stint, did he not put in many years as an NL manager before going to the Yankees? I suspect that he has forgotten about the game than many fans (most assuredly this one) will ever know. hmm, that may not have come out right.

Posted by: natsfan1a | October 14, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

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