Joe Torre has made it official: he will be stepping down as the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 2010 season, and thus comes to a close one of the great managerial careers in baseball history.
It is a bitter-sweet end, though, as after 12 brilliant season with the New York Yankees, Torre leaves the Dodgers without having brought a championship to L.A. in his three seasons there.
To make matters all the more wrenching, Torre's Dodgers reached the NLCS in each of his first two years at Chavez Ravine, but could never get over the hump.
And then of course, there is 2010, which will forever be a footnote to an otherwise brilliant career.
But before we lose the 2010 season to history, let's take a look back at what went wrong for the Dodgers in this, Joe Torre's final season.
In 2009, when Manny Ramirez got suspended for 50 games for using tampons (or something), Juan Pierre stepped in and, unforeseen by anyone, played some of the best ball of his career.
In 2010 Juan Pierre left the Dodgers and joined the White Sox. I'm not saying this is all about Pierre, but the White Sox are currently 12 games over .500 after finishing last season four games under, while the Dodgers are currently three games under .500 after finishing last season 18 games over .500.
More importantly–or perhaps, more validly–when injuries and Manny Being Manny became an issue for the Dodgers in 2010, they didn't have that Juan Pierre type player ready to step in and stabilize the team.
Let's take a look at what each playoff contending team did to bring in extra bodies in 2010:
Philadelphia Phillies: Roy Oswalt
Atlanta Braves: Alex Gonzalez, Derrek Lee
Cincinnati Reds: Called up minor leaguers and injured players (Aroldis Chapman, Travis Wood, Edinson Volquez)
St. Louis Cardinals: Randy Winn, Pedro Feliz, Jake Westbrook
San Diego Padres: Miguel Tejada, Ryan Ludwick
San Francisco Giants: Called up Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, added Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen
Colorado Rockies: Not much
Los Angeles Dodgers: Ted Lilly, Rod Barajas, Scott Podsednik, Ryan Theriot
I'm not saying that the Dodgers did the very least of any of the playoff contenders, but I will say that they did not make effective moves throughout the season or at the deadline, and it killed them.
In his second full season as the Dodgers' full time closer, Jonathan Broxton was a shell of his former self. His strikeouts per nine innings were way down, from over 13.0 to just under 11.0, while his hits allowed jumped from around five per nine innings to more than eight per nine innings.
And the results were predictable: six blown saves in 28 opportunities and an ERA around league-average.
Injuries will strike any team, but the injury bug definitely struck the Dodgers.
Andre Ethier got hurt at a point where he looked like the best hitter in the league, and he suffered after returning. Manny Ramirez missed half the summer before being waived, Rafael Furcal missed some time, and Russ Martin was lost for the season.
ESPN.com has a statistic I love called DIPS%, which measured the ratio of a pitcher's defense-dependent ERA to his defense-independent ERA.
In short, DIPS% tells you how much a defense is helping its pitching versus hurting its pitching. I relied on DIPS% in great part to predict that the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays would be contenders after a miserable 2007 season in which their terrible defense just killed their wonderful pitching.
In 2010, the Los Angeles Dodgers rank 26th out of 30 Major League Baseball teams in DIPS%, which indicates that their defense has significantly undermined their pitching staff this season.
In 2009, when the Dodgers won the NL West and had the best record in the National League, the Dodgers ranked number one in all of baseball in DIPS%.
It is, quite simply, as simple as that.
Sometimes the unexplainable–or rather, inexplicable–happens.
In 2010, the inexplicable was Matt Kemp.
In 2009 Kemp was a Gold Glove centerfielder with 26 home runs, 34 stolen bases, 97 runs scored, and 101 RBI to go with his .297/.352/.490/.842.
This year, however, he has been a shell of his former self at the plate as well as in the field, and when your middle-of-the-order center fielder suddenly stops hitting and stops getting to balls, it can absolutely kill you.
When the Dodgers won the NL West in Torre's first season in 2008, they did so with the eighth best record in the National League; they would have been fifth in the NL Central.
When they won again in 2009, they essentially controlled the division throughout the season, facing only a too-little-too-late charge from the Rockies that fell short in the end.
In 2010, though, the NL West featured four playoff-caliber teams; as late as July 15th, the Dodgers, Rockies, Padres, and Giants were all within 4.0 games of each other.
As I noted in a previous article, Manny Ramirez really is the Shaquille O'Neal of Major League Baseball. Like Shaquille, Manny comes to a team with excitement and hope and promise for the future.
Like Shaq, he makes the players around him better, and he has a track record for winning that can't be questioned.
And, like Shaq, once he over-stays his welcome he has a tendency to soak the place with gasoline and throw a match on the way out the door.
At this point in his career, Manny's shelf-life is apparent two seasons. Asking for a third was just playing with fire.
You can google the ugly details of the drawn out divorce proceedings between these incredibly wealthy–and from what I can tell, incredibly vain–people who happen to own the Los Angeles Dodgers at this point in time.
Needless to say, it's not like the owners of the Dodgers fell asleep at the wheel in 2010; it's like no one was at the wheel at all.
At the end of the day, it would have been nice to send Joe Torre out on the shoulders of his players, being carried from the field after one last trip to October, one last dramatic seven game Fall Classic, and one last trip around the stadium.
But even though this is Hollywood, the place that patented the Hollywood Ending, we aren't on the set of a movie, and there will be no fairy tale goodbye.
Joe Torre leaves on his own terms nevertheless, old enough to have seen it all and yet young enough to still enjoy the memories.
It is fitting that Torre, who first appeared on the major league scene fifty years ago as a 19 year old kid with the Milwaukee Braves, retires the same year as Bobby Cox, the venerable Braves manager.
Torre is one year older than Cox, and made his debut as a manager in 1977, one year ahead of Cox. Torre managed the Braves in the mid-1980's, taking over one year after Cox was fired from his first stint with the team. And Cox won his only World Series in 1995, one year before Torre would win his first with the Yankees.
And while it seems that these two baseball sages, these two elder statesmen of the game, were always missing each other by a year, of this there can be no doubt: in five years time, these two legends of the game will be standing side-by-side, God willing, as the newest inductees into baseball's Hall of Fame.