Of course, sometimes I disagree with Tracy, but that's baseball. Baseball is subjective, meaning there is no right or wrong way to approach a situation. I don't second-guess any manager because I am not in the dugout so I don't know all of the ramifications regarding a given situation. I detest that a few writers and broadcasters think they know better than a professional manager. They are not in the dugout getting input from coaches and trainers. Lately I have been receiving e-mails from fans, who want to impress me with their baseball knowledge, criticizing Tracy. I just ignore those e-mails.
During Tracy's tenure, Tracy has faced many controversies. He has handled them expertly. He could have blamed these hardships for his teams' disappointing performances, but this is not Tracy's style. Under his guidance, the Dodgers have not lost their focus on the task at hand, winning games. The Dodgers have not made excuses, such as having injuries, for their disappointing performances. At no time during Tracy's managerial career has he been free of major concerns, but his teams are always competitive.
Tracy has an excellent ability to remain positive no matter how gloomy the situation looks for the Dodgers. If he has a problem with a player, he meets with that player behind closed doors. Tracy tries to keep personnel problems out of the media. He tries to use players in roles where they will be successful, and he usually succeeds. I believe Tracy has earned respect from his players.
This year after the Dodgers began the season with 12 wins and two losses, people developed expectations for the team that were unrealistic. The start by the Dodgers was an aberration. The way they have been playing of late is also an aberration. The Dodgers are a good but not great team. I don't think the Dodgers are meant to go to the playoffs, but they should not have a losing record -- something that has not happened in Tracy's tenure.
This year the Dodgers have not had a healthy team. At no time this season have the Dodgers had the lineup which had been expected in the preseason. They began the season without Jayson Werth, their projected left fielder. The Dodgers planned to platoon Jose Valentin and Antonio Perez at third base when the season began, but that fell apart when Perez injured his hamstring in the first week. Before he could return from the disabled list and a lengthy rehabilitation assignment, Valentin suffered a major knee injury. Werth just came off the disabled list, but now Milton Bradley is on the disabled list with a hand injury.
The Dodgers have had injuries to the pitching staff, partly causing their ineffectiveness. Eric Gagne just returned from the disabled list. Although he has not blown a save, he has not looked as dominating as he was over the past three years. The Dodgers have a good bullpen, but it can't be called the best anymore. Even if Gagne can return to full form, long relief remains a shortcoming.
The Dodgers haven't had a healthy starting rotation. Brad Penny has done well since coming off the disabled list, but he has had a problem being consistent. Jeff Weaver had a tired shoulder causing a drop in velocity. He also has a problem with consistency. Odalis Perez has not been healthy for the entire season but attempted to pitch anyway. He has not pitched well.
Currently he is on the disabled list. After an excellent Spring Training, veteran Scott Erickson earned the fifth spot in the rotation, but ineffectiveness soon led Tracy to remove him from the rotation. Elmer Dessens, who was slated to be an emergency starter, is on the disabled list. Wilson Alvarez has tried to be a starter, but his shoulder will not let him. Tracy has been forced to use Derek Thompson and D.J. Houlton as starters. Although they have done well, they have to be used carefully because they are rookies.
During Tracy's tenure, the Dodgers have had good fielding. They haven't beaten themselves. However, this year's team has made the fifth-most errors in the National League. Although bad defense is often overlooked, no team can overcome it when it matters.
According to an old baseball adage, an owner can't fire all of the players, so he fires the manager. Jim Tracy shouldn't be blamed for the Dodger current woes. He can't control injuries or how the players perform. Tracy has proven that he can get the most out of his players under difficult circumstances. If anyone can make the Dodgers playoff-caliber this season, Tracy can. It is difficult to find a manager who has a positive attitude and doesn't make excuses for poor performances. Tracy is this rare person. It seems everybody in the National League respects Tracy as a man and a manager. I hope I will watch Jim Tracy as the Dodger manager for many years to come.