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.

Brewers fans gave Josh Hader a standing ovation after he apologized for offensive tweets

Josh Hader
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Brewers reliever Josh Hader received a standing ovation from the crowd at Miller Park during Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Dodgers. In the seventh inning, the 24-year-old southpaw took the mound for the first time since Major League Baseball discovered a slew of racist, homophobic, and misogynistic tweets the player had posted in 2011-12. He was given a protracted round of applause from the home crowd, many of whom stood to loudly cheer before, during, and after the pitcher’s two innings of relief.

The appearance — and the overwhelmingly positive reaction it inspired — followed another apology from Hader after he met with his teammates and coaches and underwent his first round of sensitivity training on Friday. When asked to explain how his beliefs had evolved over the last seven years, he told reporters, “They were never my beliefs. I was young. I was saying stuff out of just ignorance and that’s just not what I meant.” He also revealed that he apologized to his teammates in private and hoped they realize he’s not the same person now, though he failed to publicly address any specific ways in which he had changed his thinking and behavior for the better.

It goes without saying that the response to Hader’s return on Saturday wasn’t a good look for the Brewers or their fans. The fact that the pitcher had some old, vile tweets exposed doesn’t make him a victim deserving of sympathy, nor does an ambiguous apology merit a pat on the back (let alone something as enthusiastic and approving as a standing ovation). Over the last week, there seems to have been a few missed opportunities to speak out about the importance of inclusivity and support for minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community; instead, far more emphasis has been placed on reassuring Hader’s teammates and Major League Baseball at large that the tweets “don’t resemble the person [he] is now.”

It’s certainly possible that the fans in attendance on Saturday were both excited to see Hader return to the mound and cognizant of the long road he has ahead of him as he continues to make amends for his past actions. But that kind of nuanced reaction gets easily misconstrued, and it’s clear that Hader took the applause as a sign that Milwaukee’s fans had forgiven him for the tweets and were ready to move past them.

“It means a lot,” Hader told the media after his performance. “Having Milwaukee’s support, just knowing that they know my true character. Just forgiving me for my past, because that’s not who I am today.” He added that he’s not entirely sure he’ll receive such a quick and generous understanding from fans once the team hits the road on Thursday. Hopefully, he’s right.