With the Dodgers sitting at 72-75, 11 games out of the NL West leading and facing an elimination number of only 5, it’s safe to say that their season is over. Now along with that, Joe Torre’s managerial tenure in Chavez Ravine has also come to an end. Replacing Torre will be longtime bench companion and former Yankee Don Mattingly, who will get his long-awaited chance to manage.
Torre has seen his fair share of criticism of late, particularly in regard to his bullpen management (Scott Proctor immediately comes to mind) and his lineup construction. However, Torre’s teams have done fantastically well, as the last time a Torre led team failed to reach the postseason was in 1995, when the Cardinals finished 4th in their division and missed the playoffs in a strike-shortened season. Every single one of Torre’s Yankee squads reached the postseason, winning six AL championships and four world series titles, and Torre’s first two Dodger teams won the NL West.
Of course, the immediate counterpoint to the performance of Torre’s teams is the fact that they were, at least in New York, ridiculously talented. His Dodgers teams, too, at least relative to their division, were quite good. It brings up the question of how much we can credit a manager for winning with supreme talent. It’s easy to give credit to Buck Showalter when his relatively talent-less Orioles go on a winning streak; it’s not as simple when Joe Maddon has the deepest stock of position players on the continent or when Tony La Russa has the best player on the planet.
The question of whether or not Torre will take another managing job is purely based on his personal life. The question of whether or not another team should offer him a job is something different entirely. At 70, Torre’s age is a bit of a question mark and he certainly made some questionable decisions with the Dodgers: ruining Scott Proctor’s arm, batting Matt Kemp eight for a majority of 2009, and benching Manny Ramirez during the Dodgers’ last gasp this season are just a few. However, every manager is prone to these types of decisions, and although it’s easy for us on the outside to sit back and cry foul on them. Whether or not Torre is fit to manage is a decision that is much better left to those inside baseball than to us outsiders, even though on the surface it can seem apparent that Torre is hurting the team more than he is helping.
Now, Don Mattingly will take over a Dodgers team that is undoubtedly on the decline and is mired in an extremely ugly divorce case. This isn’t going to be an easy first situation for Mattingly, but at the very least it should serve as a decent test of his ability in the clubhouse.
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