Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, January 1, 2011

This is Next Year! Welcome 2011!

Happy New Year everyone.  It is next year.   2011 has arrived and Spring Training is in our sights.  I often compare this coming season to 1980.  The Dodgers won the pennant in 1977 and 78, only to fall flat in 1979 when it seemed everyone with the exception of Davey Lopes had a down year.  And the 1980 club rebounded fine, with much the same core roster as the previous seasons.

The 1980 off season was viewed as promising as the Dodgers dug into the Free Agent Market for the first time.  Both acquisitions were complete flops, Dave Goltz and Don Stanhouse.  But the club recovered regardless, and ended the season in dramatic fashion with a 3 game sweep of the Houston Astros in order to force a one-game playoff.  Though the playoff game was a disappointment, the Dodgers successfully rebounded to finish with 92 wins, a 13-game improvement over the previous year.  I think we’d all happily take a 13 game improvement over last year’s 80 win season.
Don Mattingly
The 2011 squad returns with the same core intact minus Russell Martin.  A fresh new coaching staff should make a significant difference as they report to Spring Training.  The jury is out on Don Mattingly as a manager.  I hope he hasn’t picked up some of the nuances that Torre possessed,  if he does, there will be significant issues with bull pen burn out, and general in-game strategy with regard to double switches and late inning game management. I am pleased to read that he views as high priority, being on the field during batting practice and conversing with his players and getting a feel for their pre-game preparation everyday.  This will be a definite positive.  I am hopeful he is more communicative with his squad than his predesessor and that there won’t be surprises presented to everyone when changes are made in the line up card. 
Trey Hillman is a solid baseball man that Mattingly trusts from their days in the Yankee organization.  He should be able to successfully assist Mattingly with some in game strategy and late game moves.  Hillman brings years of managing experience with him at several levels to the organization.  11 years managing in the Yankee organization (1990-2001) while such stars as Jeter, Williams, Posada, Rivera, Pettite were groomed through the system  His years in Japan were extremely successful as he led the Nippon Ham Fighters to 2 pennants and theIr first Japanese Series Championship in 25years.  The Kansas City gig was a tough one, but who can blame Hillman for a losing record in K.C.  
Tim Wallach has proved himself as a manager within the organization and he knows the kids.  Viewed as a players manager in Albuquerque, he was my preference of choice as manager, but I’m happy he’s remained in the organization as the 3rd base coach.   There is always the distraction keeping the #2 candidate for a managerial job within the organization because the guy who got it the job is always looking over his shoulder thinking he’ll be replaced.  I don’t see that with Wallach.  He’s a professional guy who is loyal to the club.
Davey Lopes returns to a Dodger uniform for the first time since 1981.  I really see his addition as valuable to the development of Matt Kemp.  Lopes and Kemp’s Agent Dave Stewart, are very close.  They consider themselves as brothers.  Lopes has already reached out to Kemp and I am real hopeful that he’ll reach him this year and keep his head in the game.  Kemp’s base running blunders need to stop.  He has too many years under his belt to be making the mistakes he does.  I also see Lopes helping prospect Dee Gordon significantly in Spring Training.  Lopes should have the team’s base running improved as he did for 4 straight years with Philadelphia.  Hopefully Mattingly allows him to control the running game as Charlie Manuel did in Philly.  
Jeff Pentland as the batting coach is the unknown to me.  I really don’t see a lot of positives nor much change here.  He was fired in Seattle in 2008 after three seasons where the Mariners performed awfully and he was a hitting instructor with the club last year, another abysmal failure.  The Dodger organization thinks highly of him.  So we’ll see.  

Rick Honeycut and Ken Howell return again as pitching coach and bullpen coach.  I know many aren’t impressed with Honeycut, but the Dodger pitching has always been in the top tier while he has been at the helm.  What I found disturbing was that backup catcher Brad Ausmus was the person identified as the one that corrected Guillermo Mota in 2009 and greatly assisted Billingsley in 2010.  What did Honeycut do to fix or identify the problems Broxton had in 2010?  Did Honeycut have any say when Torre decided to leave him out on the mound for 50+ pitches against the Yankees on June 30th?

So there are positives I see with the coaching staff and a lot of question marks.  But overall, I see the changes as an improvement.  The deletions of Schaeffer and Bowa are positives alone.  I don’t see this group feeding negative stories to the press as they did. With two former major league managers on the staff (Lopes and Hillman), Mattingly has plenty of help.  I don't view him as a rookie major league manager.  he has been groomed for this position for years.  The mistakes made last year while filling in for Torre I don't see as gaffes that will be repeated.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry Dodgerbobble, I inadvertently deleted your comment while editing this article. I agree. It will be interesting to see how Mattingly handles the bullpen. I'm hoping he doesn't have to be tested nearly as much with five solid starters that regularly make it in to the 7th inning.