Examining the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Mattingly Problem
The Los Angeles Dodgers are at a crossroads less than halfway into the 2014 MLB season. At 32-31, the Dodgers are a staggering 9.5 games back of the surging San Francisco Giants in the NL West. It remains far too early in the campaign to dub the Giants the champions of the division, but San Francisco is already a whopping 20 games over the .500 mark, a feat they hadn’t accomplished by June 7 in the 127 previous seasons the franchise had been in existence.
Make no mistake: the Giants are for real. They continue to prove that on a nightly basis by winning games they seemingly have no business winning. That’s the definition of a title contender. It’s also something the Dodgers don’t have. Just ask Don Mattingly. The Dodgers’ unwisely outspoken skipper spurred controversial headlines over the past week, basically stating that his team is “s—”.
The Dodgers have struggled to mount consistency throughout the 2014 season, despite boasting one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Los Angeles ranks seventh in team ERA (3.44) and fourth in quality starts (39). Their staff often gives the offense a chance to win, but they seldom do so, at least, not at the frequency necessary to win a division that currently flaunts the best team in baseball.
Mattingly’s remarks weren’t entirely off-base, but they were literally out of left field. It’s true that Los Angeles has failed to generate any traction through 63 games. It’s also apparently true Mattingly’s squad lacks “cohesion.” Newly established left fielder Matt Kemp is evidence of that. The former MVP snub has made it loud and clear that he’s not pleased with his new position, prompting Mattingly to speak up in a lame-duck effort to save face.
The manager’s comments undermined that of general manager Ned Colletti, who had previously stated, “We have a strong room. The Dodgers supersede everything.” Mattingly indirectly debunked that claim, telling ESPN’s Mark Saxon, “It’s really not that hard to see that it’s not happening.” That comment, along with others, makes it seem as though Mattingly has already thrown in the towel, despite the Dodgers having an excelling chance to earn a postseason bid as a Wild Card, even if they’re unable to catch the Giants.
The Dodgers’ talent-infused roster is overloaded with gigantic egos. Kemp is example of that. The lack of cohesion that Mattingly refers to is embedded in the idea that none of his players gel as a unit. Chemistry is easy to establish when teams continuously win. It’s not a foregone conclusion when a ball club struggles.
It’s not as if Mattingly aided the matter by publicly criticizing his team, though. In all professional sports, including baseball, coaches bare the responsibility of taking the heat for his players when failure creeps in. Mattingly ironically proved his point in making a public outcry that his team stinks. Not even the skipper is on board anymore, which means there really isn’t any particular reason for him to continue to fill out the lineup card.
Mattingly will be fired at some point this season. Now, it’s simply a matter of whether the ship sinks before Colletti makes the right move.