What in the world is Joe Torre thinking?
When Juan Pierre was apparently relegated to the bench prior to the start of the season, I was duly impressed—for once, a manager displayed some cojones and made the right decision, salaries be damned. For that I gave the Dodgers a pass for sending Clayton Kershaw to the minors (in favor of the more reliable Esteban Loaiza, a guy who will reliably notch a 5.50 ERA).
But tonight, for the third straight game, Juan Pierre started over Matt Kemp in just the latest Dodger display of utter stubbornness.
Granted, the whole problem really stems from Ned Colletti’s penchant for doling out huge contracts to fill holes that aren’t really there. That’s why he signed Pierre in the first place even though he already had a nearly major-league ready center fielder (Kemp) and a leadoff man (Furcal).
But I digress. Just like Joe, we’re all dealt strange hands in life sometimes. It’s up to us in those instances to make the best of it.
I understand that Kemp has been struggling (if you can even draw a reliable sample size from three games). He strikes out too much. Fair point. But how is he supposed to improve while sitting on the bench? It’s one thing to stick with Pierre if he’s hitting the cover off the ball, but as of this moment, he’s currently 1 for 14 with no walks, of course, because Pierre avoids walks like I avoid South Chicago. He’s fast, and that’s pretty much it. He stays on the field because his monster contract virtually guarantees he can’t be traded.
This is not to disparage Pierre as a person; from all accounts he is a nice guy and a hard worker. I believe that.
But the bottom line is that Kemp has the power and speed, and he’s potentially a far superior fielder (if inexperienced at times). You might think it’s “safer” to play a veteran instead of a youngster, which is sometimes true, but the flipside is that you know exactly what you’re going to get from the former while the latter may end up being something really special.
Pierre’s contract was a mistake, but you’ll be out that money whether Pierre is on the bench sulking or on the field getting himself out. Don’t make another mistake by playing him—two wrongs don’t make a right.
Nobody will ever fault you for putting your best team on the field, Joe. Take a risk sometime.