Don Baylor wants to manage again

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Don Baylor is the Rockies’ hitting coach. He used to be their manager. He wants to manage again:

“The last interview that I had was the one with the Phillies when Charlie Manuel took the job. So that’s a long time ago. If it’s in the cards again for me, we’ll see . . . Managing a team in the World Series is what motivates me. I played on teams that made it, and been a coach on a couple, but managing your own World Series team is that big giant carrot that you’re trying to obtain. The past is in the books, and I’m trying to focus on things in front of me. I enjoy what I do now very much and really like being here. But I know I can still manage.”

I can’t say that I’ve thought of Baylor as a managerial candidate for some time, but that’s really just because he hasn’t been named as a candidate by anyone, as he says, since 2004.  There’s a certain buzz and a political vibe around the kinds of guys who get multiple chances at manager jobs. Maybe that’s media-created, maybe it’s reflective of real politicking behind the scenes. I’m really not sure. I am sure, however, that Baylor has never given off that vibe as someone who’s out there networking his butt off to get another gig.

It’s possible that his cancer diagnosis several years ago — which he beat, by the way — has contributed to this. It would be unfair if that was the case, yes, but baseball wouldn’t be the first industry to be loathe to hire people with some medical history for high-pressure leadership positions.

And of course, more important than anything else is the fact that — let’s face it — no one ever accused Baylor of being a managerial genius. He had his supporters and he had his detractors like so many, but no one ever thought “we HAVE to get Don Baylor for the next job!”  If you’re not networked out the yingyang, you probably need to be that guy to be considered for the top job.

Baylor is perceived as a good hitting coach.  It sounds like that’s the job he’ll likely top out at going forward.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.