What's next, Dodgers?
Torre's hiring hardly solves all of team's problems
Posted: Monday November 5, 2007 9:44PM; Updated: Tuesday November 6, 2007 12:34AM
Whether your regard for new Dodger manager Joe Torre elevates him to sainthood or renders him a commoner, know that his arrival in Los Angeles doesn't end the tug-o-war fundamental to the Dodger organization in 2007.
It raises the questions of how much tug will Torre have and which way he'll yank.
It's true that Dodger fans have every right to expect a more peaceful clubhouse in 2008 after they were blindsided in September by the revelation that it had become a hotbed of bitterness and resignation under then-manager Grady Little. Torre commands the kind of respect that no player is likely to rebel against -- successfully.
But the disagreement at the heart of the crisis precipitating Little's departure and Torre's arrival still festers: How much should the Dodgers expect from older or younger players? Who should be on the roster itself?
Monday's introductory news conference yielded few clues in that direction, in no small part because Torre confessed to having less insight into his new club than a fourth-grader getting his first set of baseball cards.
"I don't know my team, obviously," Torre said. "I've been in the American League for the past 12 years."
To back up his statement of relative ignorance (which may have been a bluff, for all we know), Torre offered that his greatest knowledge of Brad Penny, the ace of the Dodgers in 2007, was as the guy who gave the Yankees a hard time back in the '03 World Series when Penny was a Florida Marlin. Torre added that his closest personal dealing with 16-year veteran Jeff Kent was the phone message Kent left with Torre over the weekend.
With Monday's confab out of the way, Torre can begin getting up to speed on the organization -- blessed with a to-die-for core of talented 25-and-under players, as well as one of the largest payrolls in the National League -- and weighing in on who should come, stay and go.
It has still been only 3½ months since Los Angeles, 100 games into the 2007 season, stood atop the National League West with a 56-44 record, trailing the New York Mets by .001 in winning percentage for the best record in the NL.
But two things -- neither occurring in the clubhouse but rather out on the field for everyone to see -- caused the team to lose 15 of 19 games and fall into fourth place. Under the weight of injuries, the Dodgers' pitching began to fall apart. The team also went into a prodigious batting slump with runners in scoring position.
Revisionist history tells us that by this time, the clubhouse bickering that would become so infamous had already begun. Yet as Little struggled to field a lineup that would make everyone happy, the Dodgers actually went on a 19-9 run to move within striking distance of the playoffs. As late as Sept. 15, with two weeks to go in the season, Los Angeles was only 1½ games out of the NL wild-card lead.