Returning to some topics we covered in yesterday’s chat:
Cliff and I were asked where Joe Torre would best fit in if he sought another managerial position. Cliff said, "I don't have a ton of confidence in Torre as a manager in any location at this point." Among the reasons we were both skeptical is that Torre is a poor in-game tactitian whose main strength was interpersonal relationship. But what if he can’t even do that anymore? Enter James Loney, Dodgers first baseman. Why did the Dodgers have a disappointing season?
At times, teams played harder than us. I think we want to win. We want to finish it. We want to win the World Series. But the other teams are trying to do that, too. It's not necessarily that if you have good players you're going to win. You have to play as a team. Guys, hopefully, they see what we've gone through this year and people don't want to be in this position next year.
The Dodgers had several key players regress offensively, their closer fall apart to the point that he lost his job, and in addition apparently weren’t all on the same page as far as the winning effort. If Torre is still a great leader of men, where was he in all this? In fairness to Torre, he might have been all over it and still lost the team. Sometimes a manager can do everything right and still lose his clubhouse. Having Manny Ramirez around probably makes it twice as hard for a manager to maintain his credibility, because it seems likely that he would have to have two sets of rules at that point, one for Manny and one for everyone else.
Still, Loney’s comments don’t speak highly of Torre’s remaining abilities as a motivator and uniting force. As I said on Wednesday, it’s hard to be 70 and still relate to the 22-year-olds. It may not so much be a lack of empathy as a lack of patience. Whatever the cause, if Torre can no longer connect, there really isn’t a good reason for any team to bring him out of retirement.
We were also asked if "Jon Albaladejo is still alive." Cliff said, "The Yankees have buried Albaladejo all season… It’s inexplicable to me, and frustrating." I said, "You really have no choice but to infer that they have something against him, whether it's a perception of his stuff in spite of the Triple-A results, a personality issue, or just the way he pitched last year."
Naturally, the 27-year-old righty got his first chance to pitch in 10 days last night and had no command whatsoever; a bad loss only got worse. Despite the bad timing, our remarks still stand. Whatever Albaladejo’s faults, his career line at Scranton, spanning parts of three seasons, includes 88 games and 106.1 innings, 68 hits, eight home runs, 25 walks, 113 strikeouts, and an ERA of 1.52. Throw in his Triple-A work with the Nations, in 2007 and you get a career ERA of 1.45 at Triple-A. He’s not a trick pitcher. He’s not a sidearmer where you might have some doubts about the big-league lefties killing him. His fastball is a serviceable 92 mph. He doesn’t weigh 600 pounds. There is just no reason to think of Albaladejo as a Quadruple-A, can-only-get-it-done in the minors pitcher (as John Sterling speculated last night).
Albaladejo is a moot point as far as this season and postseason are concerned, but despite last night’s results, it remains very odd that the Yankees had this potential asset and chose not to take advantage of him, particularly in a season in which the back end of the bullpen has been all but useless. It’s not that Albaladejo has any star potential, but he carried in him the possibility of being better than Sergio Mitre or Chad Gaudin. That should have been enough.
Update: More on the Torre as leader of men thing, as David Wells slags Torre in an interview.
That's what Joe Torre is to me, a coward... I don't like him at all. As a manager, I think he's terrible. He wasn't a fair manager. He didn't treat people the same. He definitely didn't treat me the same. [...] If he tells you anything else, he's a liar.
It's a podcast interview, definitely worth listening to the whole thing. Before you conclude, "This cracks the myth of Joe Torre wide open!" keep in mind that in no office does everyone love the boss. As Casey Stengel said, the manager's job is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five guys who are undecided. Wells was clearly in the former group for Torre, but that doesn't mean he didn't have his fierce partisans as well. Parenthetically, one of Wells' complaints is that Torre sat him for the 1997 ALDS. Wells did win 16 games that year, but he wasn't great, particularly down the stretch. Though he did finish the season with two strong starts, his ERA in August-September was over 5.00. David Cone and Andy Pettitte had better years and started the first two games. Wells started and won Game 3, so I'm not sure what he's upset about.
(H/T to the increasingly indispensable Hardball Talk).