We’ve heard for a couple months now from Dodger fans who didn’t understand why Paul DePodesta hadn’t already signed Jim Tracy. Why would Depo let Tracy dangle, after assuring him that he would return as the Dodgers manager? Was Tracy asking too much money? Too much time? Did DePodesta have another prospect in mind?
So now that Tracy’s return has been made official by the Dodgers’ announcement Wednesday of a two-year deal (terms not disclosed), it’s time for the Tracy haters to start hatin’ again. My friend Steve called me, distraught, as soon as he heard about the deal, and he threatened to either boycott the Dodgers in 2005 (it’ll never happen) or mutilate himself in a very personal way (might happen) because of this disastrous news.
But just how is this bad news for the Dodgers or Dodger fans? Admittedly, Tracy’s managerial style is not exactly aggressive and in-your-face, and he’s occasionally too reticent when it comes time to insert or remove pitchers, reticence that plays like indecisiveness and that sometimes come back to haunt him. But he’s well-liked by the players and coaches, over four seasons he’s had four winning seasons, and he’s the first manager to win a Dodger postseason game since the heyday of Tommy Lasorda in 1988. Depo’s not exactly betting the house by bringing Tracy back. The best-case scenario sees Tracy leading the team, hopefully after a couple of tasty free-agent acquisitions to fill holes on the mound and behind the plate, to another division championship—the Giants look poised to help make that happen again in 2005—creating bounty for the team and the fans and writing an insurance policy for his job when 2006 winds to a close. At worst, Tracy completely flops in 2005 and by the All-Star break takes a Jimy Williams-type dive, the Dodgers bring in another manager and eat a contract that turns out to be judiciously short and relatively calorie-free.
The odds are strong that the reality of 2005 will resemble the former rather than the latter. But hey, if Tracy does fold up like a rickety upper-deck chair, at least Tracy haters will be able to say “I told you so,” right? Congratulations. Unfortunately, if that happens it’ll probably mean the team won’t exactly be in the catbird seat, league standings-wise. And I would hope that even if you’re a Dodger fan who doesn’t like Tracy, you’d be able to find it in your heart to at least wish him well in between flaming curses as the season gets underway. Take one for the team, Steve—Tracy’s the boss for the next two years. Everything that goes wrong will not be his fault; nor will he reasonably be able to take credit for everything that very well could go right. Tracy wouldn’t expect that credit, though I suspect he’d pony up for the blame like any honorable chief would. So how is Tracy returning to a job at which he’s had more success than anyone in 16 years anything, at this point, but good news?