Lost in the recent Manny Ramirez brouhaha has been the steadying influence of Joe Torre on this Dodgers team. Consider this:
- 1. Best in show. At the time of Manny's suspension, the Dodgers had the best record in the majors. This morning, they still do.
2. Staying afloat. Since Manny's suspension, the Dodgers have been playing .500 ball (5-5).
3. Effective rest. In the five games in which two or more regulars haven't started, the Dodgers are 3-2.
4. Finally, some consistency. The Dodgers still haven't lost three straight games.
5. Mannyhandling. Which Dodger official (McCourt, Colletti or Torre) do you think was most responsible for getting Manny to address his teammates?
Although we're only seven weeks into the schedule, the Dodgers' historic April and Manny's May madness have already generated a season's worth of drama. Credit Torre for addressing off-field issues as necessary, but without diminishing the focus on his team's performance. Today Dodger fans are agog about Clayton Kershaw's near no-no, the way it should be.
And if Torre's three-year, $13 million contract seems like a lot, don't underestimate the value of managerial job security—as well as a track record to back it up. Look at what rookie Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch is dealing with less than two weeks into his tenure. Think that kind of crap happens to a manager with Torre's experience?
Torre's coaching staff also deserves recognition, from Larry Bowa and Mariano Duncan, who can be as fiery as Torre is placid, to Bob Schaefer, strategic mastermind. Rick Honeycutt has guided a Kuroda-less pitching staff, and as we watch Matt Kemp starting to reach his offensive potential, remember Don Mattingly and Jeff Pentland are a big part why.
Torre will sometimes get second-guessed for his bullpen management. What manager doesn't? No skipper in the history of the game hasn't had his decisions questioned by fans. As long as our head-scratching is kept to a minimum (and you need only check other teams' blogs to know this is so), Dodger fans should appreciate that this team's success has Joe Torre's fingerprints all over it.