Jim Tracy is the man
Before the 2001 season began, the Dodgers hired a new manager Jim Tracy. Though Tracy was the Dodgers' bench coach in 1999 and 2000, most Dodger fans did not know much about Tracy. At the time most Dodger fans would have preferred that the Dodgers hire a manager with a little experience in the major leagues. We should have trusted Bob Daly, Bob Graziano, and Kevin Malone because they found the right man for the job.
Jim Tracy has faced many challenges as Dodger manager, but he has handled every challenge expertly. On the first day of spring training Tracy had a thirty-minute meeting. In this meeting he explained he wanted his players to play for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the names on the backs. He said fundamentals would be stressed during the season. He would use every player on the active roster. After the meeting Tracy received a standing ovation. He has done everything he said.
Gary Sheffield, the Dodgers' best hitter in 2000, came to spring training demanding a contract extension or a trade. He insulted his teammates and Bob Daly. Tracy defused the potentially season-ruining situation by getting Sheffield to talk to his teammates and Daly. Acting as a mediator, Tracy helped Sheffield and everybody resolve the situation.
When Kevin Malone was forced to resign, the Dodgers could have lost focus on their task on the field. However, Tracy would not allow them. Tracy has unified the Dodger clubhouse. In the recent past the Dodger clubhouse had cliques with different goals. Now the Dodgers have a common goal - winning the division - and pulling for each other.
The multitude of injuries has forced Tracy to be creative. During last winter Tracy pondered what he would do if a starter got injured. He thought of Terry Adams, a career reliever, as a possible starter. He approached Adams with the idea, and Adams liked it. During spring training Tracy started Adams twice, and Adams did well. This preparation helped Adams when he started on June 5. When Eric Karros was on the disabled list, Tracy put Paul Lo Duca at first base, and Lo Duca has done well there.
Tracy tries to put his players in situations where they will be successful. Although many managers nowadays use statistics to know whom to use in certain situations, Tracy uses them more than others. He tells his players what their roles are. Before he gives a player a game off, he tells him. His communication skills have made him popular with his team.
The Dodgers probably would not be in first place without their manager Jim Tracy. Tracy has calmed and unified the Dodger clubhouse. He has earned the respect from all Dodgers. His communication skills have prevented many potential problems and defused others. At the end of the season, nobody in Los Angeles would be surprised if Tracy won the National League's Manager of the Year honors.