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.

Sandy Koufax to be honored with statue at Dodger Stadium

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Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports that Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax will be honored with a statue at Dodger Stadium, expected to be unveiled in 2020. Dodger Stadium will be undergoing major renovations, expected to cost around $100 million, after the season. Koufax’s statue will go in a new entertainment plaza beyond center field. The current statue of Jackie Robinson will be moved into the same area.

Koufax, 83, had a relatively brief career, pitching parts of 12 seasons in the majors, but they were incredible. He was a seven-time All-Star who won the National League Cy Young Award three times (1963, ’65-66) and the NL Most Valuable Player Award once (’63). He contributed greatly to the ’63 and ’65 championship teams and authored four no-hitters, including a perfect game in ’65.

Koufax was also influential in other ways. As Shaikin notes, Koufax refused to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series to observe Yom Kippur. It was an act that would attract national attention and turn Koufax into an American Jewish icon.

Ahead of the 1966 season, Koufax and Don Drysdale banded together to negotiate against the Dodgers, who were trying to pit the pitchers against each other. They sat out spring training, deciding to use their newfound free time to sign  on to the movie Warning Shot. Several weeks later, the Dodgers relented, agreeing to pay Koufax $125,000 and Drysdale $110,000, which was then a lot of money for a baseball player. It would be just a few years later that Curt Flood would challenge the reserve clause. Koufax, Drysdale, and Flood helped the MLB Players Association, founded in 1966, gain traction under the leadership of Marvin Miller.