Off Base
Nice Guys Finish Fourth

November 5, 2007

First things first. Grady Little has been replaced, and that's a good thing.

How the Dodgers came to make the switch, with whatever went on behind the curtain, who knew what when, and which candidates were discussed in what manner, is completely irrelevant. There was nothing inherently mean-spirited or unprofessional about the way the club did what it did during the last couple of weeks. Joe Torre is the manager, and the club has improved its standing in so many ways it's nearly incalculable.

Were Grady's feelings hurt? His feelings? Probably not. He's a big boy.
These are the big leagues, this is monumentally big business, and Little got at least a year's pay for his trouble, without having to show up a single day to earn his keep. None of that stuff matters in the slightest.

Next, this BS about how many games per year a manager may be worth to his team is as lame as can possibly be. It's retarded, is what is. When punching bags like Kevin Towers says "a good manager is probably worth a game or two," he's either talking about what a good Padres manager is worth, or is just trotting out the handiest cliché. And baseball has a climate-controlled-closet-in-Colorado-full of handy but meaningless clichés.

A good manager is worth a game or two? Please. For your fill of what a manager can mean to a club, and to a single season, read my 2007 Post Mortem again, will you.

With Little's September use of Jonathan Broxton alone, he cost his club half a dozen ballgames, and in the end, literally the entire season. Little's revolving-door use of Brett Tomko and Mark Hendrickson, which had less of a chance of success than a Dennis Kucinich run for president, and which caused the postponement of Chad Billingsley's promotion to full-time starter, cost the Dodgers six or seven games. OK, ten.

(By the way, I understand Tomko and Hendrickson appeared together at a job fair slash Halloween party, hosted by the player's union, whose expressed goal was to lift the spirits of members facing a long stretch of unemployment. You guessed it – they both masqueraded as starting pitchers.)

Grady Little was a nice guy, and an improvement over Jim Tracy in a variety of ways, none the least of which was the stringing together of coherent sentences in a post-game interview. No small thing. He was closer to being the leader of men required in the profession than any of his recent predecessors.

But when Little says he's "never lost a clubhouse in his life," I say, "what, out of four? Four whole clubhouses?!" It's minor league clubhouses that Little is referring to.

Next. Can we dispense with all the crap about Joe Torre's pre-Yankees record being substandard now please? Please? It doesn't mean squat.

Torre may have been a strange selection for New York in 1996, and in fact was a prime example of what was known at the time as a "retread," but no manager in baseball history ever made such a statement with an extra opportunity.

Every fine thing being said about Torre on two coasts and everywhere in between is true. He will improve the Dodgers in every way that is being suggested, and in others. He's a million times better a selection than Joe Girardi would've been, and no, it doesn't matter that the Dodgers might've tabbed Girardi as its first choice.

Outside of Mike Scioscia, who as I suggested three weeks ago, with just a thimble full of initiative, might've been the Dodgers manager, and just might be the next one instead of Don Mattingly, Torre is a Dodger-blue print of what the team needs. Absolutely, totally, completely.

Little's last two teams played well early and collapsed in the second half. Torre's last club played poorly early and turned it around. Which would you rather have? Torre had to deal with the Steinbrenners, plural, in his last job. All he has to worry about now are the McCourts. Which do you think he'd rather have? Never mind; don't answer that.

And please, people; don't gimme even one word about the players Torre was given, the money he had to work with, or anything even remotely resembling that line of thinking. Not a bleeping peep.

The Yanks made one postseason appearance in the thirteen years prior to Torre's arrival in the Bronx, and that was in a losing effort as a wild card entry. Sound familiar? The Bombers went 17 years between rings. Sound familiar? Torre took over and they won championships in four of the next five seasons.

Will Torre be "the face of the franchise?" Sure, why the hell not. The man's face hasn't changed since 1965. He looked 45 at 25 and he looked 45 at 65, which makes him the Lee J. Cobb of baseball.

But more importantly than being the face of the franchise, he'll be its steward. Torre will pass along some element of baseball acumen to each and every Dodger he comes in contact with, from the owners all the way down to Chad Moeller, and quite possibly even Juan Pierre.

Complain about the way management handled Little's adiosing all you like. Knock yourself out. The club did the right thing, and the best thing imaginable. So they said Little would be back next year, and now he won't be. BFD. They changed their mind, and took a giant leap forward in doing so.

It didn't matter that they came to fire Paul DePodesta later than they might have, and it doesn’t matter that Little's exit came a whole month after season's end. The point is, it happened. They made it happen. High fives all around.

Pitchers and catchers report in 105 days. With Joe Torre at the helm, I'm guessing, Dodgers catchers, and one in particular, will last more than the ensuing 105 before his legs fall off…

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