Hmm. Three years? That certainly feels like a short tenure for a Hall of Famer.
Torre found himself let go from that position after a middling 80-82 season just as a thin, Texan lefty named Clayton Kershaw was beginning his rise to prominence. According to Mr. T’s appearance on Jomboy Media’s podcast “Toeing the Slab” this week, it seems the pair didn’t see eye to eye during Kershaw’s early years — which, coincidentally, coincide perfectly with Torre’s tenure (’08 was Kershaw’s rookie season).
Don’t worry about either side of this chasm; Torre wound up in the head office of MLB, leading the game forward from an executive position, while Kershaw ended up fairly prominently involved in the on-field action from 2011 to present (or so we’re told).
Torre tried to explain the difference between the two camps this week, and while we appreciate the insight, it did sound an awful lot like covering for a decades-old mistake of “not trusting” a budding Kershaw.
Dodgers ex-manager Joe Torre “tried to protect” Clayton Kershaw by not pitching him in October.
Torre claims he tried to protect his clearly “special” young arm in prominent postseason situations in 2008 and 2009 by leaning on other arms instead.
According to the ex-manager, this deemphasis eventually led to rival GMs attempting to steal Kershaw from the Dodgers, considering he was clearly buried on the totem pole.
Instead, Kershaw was (luckily) protected, and Torre found himself out of a job with the organization.
The “What If?” pile here is stories high. If Torre had used a young Kershaw as a weapon, might the Dodgers have advanced past the Phillies in the 2008 NLCS … or the 2009 NLCS, where Kershaw made just a single start?
If a younger Kershaw had gotten the nod over clearly inferior arms, might he have been able to shake off his postseason struggles at a younger age by getting acclimated to the climate? A “trial by fire”?
We respect the ambition to protect vulnerable young pitchers, but Kershaw ended up being exposed to plenty of scorn anyway after getting the postseason spotlight in later years.
Perhaps more than two innings back in 2008 could’ve been the proper use of the obvious future Hall of Famer — especially only six years removed from K-Rod changing an entire postseason all by himself in Anaheim.