Torre pushes all the right buttons in Dodgers sweep

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Two future Hall of Fame managers matched up in the NLDS, and the end result was a no contest. Everything Joe Torre touched this week turned to gold. Tony La Russa, who had more options with his flexible roster, opted to stay the course and came up well short.
Torre’s biggest successes:
1. Going to closer Jonathan Broxton early and often.
With his team down 2-1, Torre called on Broxton to begin the top of the eighth in Thursday’s Game 2. He saw Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday due up and knew Broxton was his best hope to keep the game close. Broxton responded with a perfect eighth, George Sherrill followed with a scoreless inning and the Dodgers came back to win in the bottom of the ninth.
2. Choosing Vicente Padilla to start Saturday’s Game 3
A healthy Hiroki Kuroda likely would have gotten the call, but the Dodgers didn’t have that option. Torre had Padilla, Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland to pick from. Padilla was 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance for the Dodgers, while Garland was 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA. Billingsley, of course, had struggled throughout the second half, but he did rebound with back-to-back quality starts to end the regular season. Padilla proved to be the choice, and he responded with seven scoreless innings, his longest outing as a Dodger.
3. Using Ronnie Belliard over Orlando Hudson at second base
Torre chose to sacrifice some defense and start the hot-hitting Belliard in all three games against St. Louis. Belliard responded by going 3-for-11 with two RBI and two walks. He drove in the tying run in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday.
La Russa, on the other hand, will look back with regrets. Pulling Adam Wainwright after eight innings in Game 2 was a defensible decision. Sticking with Ryan Franklin until he lost the game in the ninth wasn’t. Going to Jason LaRue as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of a 5-0 game on Saturday was terribly foolish. The idea was to save Troy Glaus for a bigger situation, but the Cardinals’ best hope of putting themselves in a position to win the game was to get someone on base to lead off the eighth and Glaus was a lot more likely than LaRue to make that happen.
Of course, it’s not La Russa’s fault that his team didn’t hit. The Cardinals never scored multiple runs in an inning in the three games against the Dodgers. Their defense was shaky as well. Besides the dropped liner from Matt Holliday that cost them Game 2, they had two miscues in Game 3. Joel Pineiro made an error, and Brendan Ryan failed to handle a grounder from Casey Blake that was wrongly ruled an infield single. It was two bad games and one unlucky one at the wrong time for a team that seemed about as good of a bet as any to come out of the NL.

Two great Mariano Rivera stories

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In addition to getting unanimous support from Hall of Fame voters, Mariano Rivera’s election is getting universal praise from fans and the baseball community. I mean, at least it seems so. If you see someone out there in the wild really mad that Rivera was elected, please, let me know. But don’t approach such people. They’re probably dangerously imbalanced and might cause harm to you.

From what we’ve seen, anyway, there is no one who doesn’t love Rivera and his election. That love has come out in the form of anecdotes people are sharing this morning. I’ve seen two that made me particularly happy. One “ha ha” happy, the other “aww” happy.

The “ha ha” comes from Michael Young, who shared the ballot with Rivera this year and whose Rangers actually beat Rivera’s Yankees in the 2010 ALCS. Not that they had much success against Mo:

Now the “aww.” It comes from Danny Burawa, who had a few major league cups of coffee after coming up in the Yankees system. From his Instagram last night:

In 2012, in the middle of my first big league spring training, I tore my oblique during a game (I wound up missing the whole season). First cuts hadn’t been made and the Yankees let me stick around to rehab with the big leaguers for a few days. The next day, after finishing my rehab, I returned to the locker room which was totally empty. I’m sitting at my locker getting ready to go home when in walks Mariano Rivera. Considering I was a nobody A-baller, I kept my eyes down on my feet and minded my own business. Next thing I know, he’s in the chair next to me, telling me his story, about failing as a starter, about an injury he had when he was younger, about how the setbacks we think are fatal usually end up as speed bumps on a longer, grander road. This is the greatest of all time, taking the time to cheer up a nobody, for no other reason than he thought it was the right thing to do. Great pitcher, greater human, congratulations Mo!

People use that “great player, better person” construction a lot. I often roll my eyes when I hear it because it’s pretty subjective and, I suspect, the “better person” part can’t be vouched for outside the subject’s friend or peer group. Doesn’t sound that way with Rivera, though. He simply sounds like a prince of a guy.