September 2009

Big John

So…you still want Ramon Troncoso or George Sherrill to save games for your Dodgers down the stretch? Raise your hand if you were one of the many who have questioned whether or not Jonathan Broxton should have the job? Not only last month but all of you who have had your doubts ever since Sammy Saito got hurt last year.
Broxton has been brilliant!
He’s got 35 saves so far this year in 40 chances. I’ll take that any year. In his last 10 chances — when they’ve meant the most, he’s 10 for 10 with an ERA of zilch. And is it just me or does it seem like he strikes out two of every three hitters he faces?

Anybody who’s familiar with my stance on closers knows that I don’t think it’s all that tough of a job. There are only two characteristics that a closer needs to do the job and neither of them have anything to do with what kind of stuff the guy has.

He needs the guts to take the ball and get the last three outs of a game, and a short memory if he doesn’t.

His job is to ride in on his white horse with nobody on and nobody out in a 4-1 game and get three outs before he gives up three runs. Then get the hi-fives, get the girl, and get the big contract.

It’s only been in the last 15 years or so that teams have actually groomed pitchers to be their “closer of the future”. Before that, a lot of closers were washed up starters (Dennis Eckersley, Eric Gagne) or pitchers that hadn’t worked out at any other team or spot in the Bullpen (Heathcliff Slocumb). And you don’t have to have a blazing fastball like big J.B., or a jelly-legging curveball like K-Rod — just ask Doug Jones, who never made the catchers glove pop and very few people even knew what he threw! Some, like Jesse Orosco or John Franco rarely threw strikes at all.

By the way, Jones and Franco are both in the top 20 all-time in saves.

So I say get behind what Broxton has been doing this year and realize he’s one of the best in the business. What do you want, Brad Lidge from last season? Wouldn’t that be great? 47 straight saves without a single blown save all year — not even in the playoffs. The problem is, you might end up with Brad Lidge this year — 10 blown saves.

Stick with “Ironman”. 

— Steve Lyons


By now you know that Joe Torre chooses his words very carefully. I guess more than a decade under a microscope in New York will do that to a guy.

But he’s also the master of not saying much with those words he chooses! You’ll never hear him rip a player or talk about anything that’s supposed to stay in the clubhouse. He knows how to play that game. But he almost always tap dances around the really tough questions too, in a way that makes the person who asked the question feel like it got answered.
It’s an art.

One of the subtle differences in his phrasing that I’ve come to love and understand is when he mentions two words. “Concern” and “worry”. In almost everybody’s vocabulary there’s an order of importance we place on the words we use to to describe something. And I believe in most people’s mind a “worry” is a much greater problem to have than a “concern”. And that’s the way Joe see’s it too.

For the Dodgers this season, there have been countless isues that cause Joe a little concern — but not many that cause him a great deal of worry.

The mounting appearances and innings pitched by the bullpen is and has been a concern, but if you look at the numbers they’ve put up and the fact that the Dodgers still have the best record in the NL, why worry? Not to mention the fact that when you play the most extra inning games in baseball, you’re going to have more innings from your ‘pen.

Broxton’s toe, Loney’s lack of power, Manny’s recent lack of power and Martin’s whole season are things that Torre is concerned about. Not to worry.

Who’s the 5th starter—heck who’s the 4th starter? What’s up with Bills—again? And how do you find a way to get Juan Pierre more playing time? Just concerns, not worries.

Joe concerns himself with many, many things that you and I never will. He treats his entire team like they are his own family so he’s non-stop thinking about everything they do, too. When was the last time you were concerned about whether or not Jeff Weaver got home safely from that night’s game — let alone worry about it?

And when the game starts? Forget about it. The things that concern Joe are so far ahead of what we’re thinking, we won’t even think of ’em til tomorrow!

So that brings me to the worry part, becuase I, like you, worry.

I’m worried about the offense.

You can give me stats and say the they scored 11 runs against Cincinnati or tell me that they lead the NL in hitting….but I’m worried.
Those 11-run outbursts are happening less and less. And really, it was the Reds.
This is now a team that scores most of it’s runs via the home run when it used to be a team that got 10 hits every night and beat you with a relentless attack. I like the old way better because this team is not a power hitting team.

When was the last time they had back to back 5-run games? When was the last time they beat an ace on the opposing team? I could look those things up but I’m lazy and like you — I just know it hasn’t happened enough lately.

The playoffs are coming. That’s the time when the offensive numbers are hard to come by  and every pitcher you face seems like an ace.

There are about 30 games to go and I’m not all that concerned that the Dodgers ARE a playoff team.

But the offense scares me.

Why? Because I worry.

— Steve Lyons