After a long and trying season, we have reached the end of the line. Game 162. Today is the final game in the playing career of Brad Ausmus, who will end his career with 1,938 games caught, the seventh most in baseball history.
The big story today, however, is the final game for Joe Torre in a Dodger uniform. Even though his final season ended on a sour note, with the Dodgers finishing under .500, his tenure in Los Angeles was a positive. Torre will be remembered as the manager who guided the Dodgers to their first playoff success since 1988.
Having only covered the Dodgers since last season, I have no other manager to which to compare to Torre in terms of daily dealings with the press. However, Torre was always professional and would look reporters in the eye as he answered their questions, whether it was a rube like me or a seasoned veteran like Ken Gurnick or Tony Jackson. I always enjoyed those meetings with Torre. Sure, at times there were countless cliches but it was all worth it, because every once in a while Torre would bring up a story that only the eyes of a man who has seen over 7,000 games can tell. When Torre would talk about Bob Gibson or Henry Aaron or Sandy Koufax, et al, there was no place I would rather be than in the dugout at Dodger Stadium.
Last night on Dodger Talk on KABC, Josh Suchon spoke of Torre's encyclopedic knowledge of baseball, how if you brought up almost any random player to Torre, he would have a story about that player. My favorite Torre moment came from earlier this year, when Tim Lincecum and the Giants beat the Dodgers, 9-0. Lincecum had three hits and three RBI, the first guy since 1964 to do so against the Dodgers:
I asked Torre if he remembered Dennis Bennett, the last pitcher to collect three hits and three runs batted in against the Dodgers. Torre not only remembered him, but said Bennett was his brother Frank's roommate (Frank Torre and Bennett were teammates with the 1962-1963 Phillies). Baseball is a small world, isn't it?
Torre spoke in September about the Dodgers needing a different voice at the top, and he's probably right. He is walking away at the right time, but his time in Los Angeles was certainly memorable.
I'm A Petty Man
I may have missed last night's Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers concert in Irvine to be at the Dodger game, but I'm still a petty man. Ubaldo Jimenez is a great pitcher who had a great year, but I have to admit I snickered quite loudly when he didn't get the win yesterday. Despite pitching eight scoreless innings, Jimenez didn't pick up his 20th victory of the season, because the Rockies couldn't score for him. For a man who was 15-1 at the All-Star break (with the "and one" delivered by Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers), for Jimenez to miss out on 20 wins this season was satisfyingly shocking.
In addition, I want unspeakably bad things to happen to the Giants. The only way they miss the playoffs is through what I like to call chaos theory: the Braves beat the Phillies today (10 a.m., on Gameday here), the Padres win in San Francisco this afternoon, the Padres beat the Giants in San Diego Monday to win the NL West, then the Braves beat the Giants in Atlanta on Tuesday to win the wild card.
Ted Lilly goes for his 10th win of the season, against Rodrigo Lopez and the Diamondbacks.
Look for Hong-Chih Kuo to pitch an inning which, if scoreless, will break the Dodgers' franchise record for ERA in a season.
The Dodgers have lost the managerial finales of their last three managers: Grady Little in 2007, Jim Tracy in 2005, and Davey Johnson in 2000. The last time they won a finale was when Glenn Hoffman beat the Brewers 2-1 on September 27, 1998.
Game Time: 1:10 p.m.
TV: Prime Ticket