In their five and one-half decades in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have had many great season starts. Many of them, however, have been short-lived, meeting head-on with reality, occasionally in May, but often in June. This year, the “June Swoon” was one of epic proportions, swooping in and transforming a team with a major league leading win total into an apparently impotent, lackadaisical group of journeymen pretenders.
The demise has been incremental, as the team began June winning seven of ten, then a .500 streak of three and three. Then the roof fell in, not just losing 11 of 12 while being outscored 55-15, but being shut out a remarkable five of six games (while being outscored 30 to 2). Overall in June the former first-place Dodgers were 11-17 and fell behind the Giants into second.
How can a team fall off a cliff so abruptly? Sure, injuries have been part of it, but other teams have had injuries to players just as important as Matt Kemp, Mark Ellis, and most recently, Andre Ethier. Texas has played stretches without Andre Beltre and Josh Hamilton, not to mention Mitch Moreland, Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Derrick Holland, and Colby Lewis, and haven’t missed a step. The Yankees have a five game lead despite the loss for the season of Mariano Rivera, and additional injuries to Brett Gardner, Jaba Chamberlain, and now CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte. The first place Giants are there without Brain Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, and Aubrey Huff.
As I said through last season, the Dodgers have an empty uniform in the manager’s spot, and despite steaks when they play like a really good team, that is not sustainable so long as Don Mattingly is the guy in charge. The pain of Mattingly as manager is intensified so long as a real managerial talent is wasted standing out there in the third base coaching box. Tim Wallach should have gotten the job when Joe Torre left, and until a change is made, there will be many more “June Swoons” in the Dodgers’ future.