When I hear commentators pontificate about the fine job the empty uniform non manager Don Mattingly has done, and when I hear them roil on about unknowing fans who want him out, my blood boils.
They over-simplify the situation by saying, incorrectly, that the turnaround occurred as many of the team’s multi-million dollar players got healthy and got back into the lineup, and how the team won, and won, and won, thereafter.
They give Mattingly all the credit in the world for all these wins since July, but that is not factually accurate as the reasons for the Dodgers’s improvement are more involved. The turnaround came yes, around the time when Carl Crawford got back into the lineup, and when Hanley Ramirez got back into the lineup, for awhile at lease, and of course, when
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|Yasiel Puig got to the majors. But, it was also at the time that it finally got through to Mattingly that the likes of Luis Cruz was not the answer at third base, with him finally installing Juan Uribe as the regular at third. It was also around the time when Mattingly finally figured out that in Ramirez’ stead at shortstop, neither Justin Sellers nor Dee Gordon was a true major league fill-in, and that the other guy sitting around on the bench underutilized for months, Nick Punto, was the guy who should have been the number one sub at short.|
Perhaps most of all however, the lesson Mattingly finally learned after losing many, many games due to his stubbornness, was that Brandon League was NOT a major league closer, and that the guy getting the ball in the ninth inning should be Kenley Jansen. That move was the single biggest reason for the team’s turnaround.
But why, if Mattingly deserves credit for winning with the best team money can buy, do so many commentators refuse to criticize him for losing so many games when some of these billionaire players were home, sitting on their stacks of money, and he was using League, Sellers, Gordon, Cruz, and the rest, in such key roles, when he had other, better options? And why does he deserve so much credit for winning the worst division in baseball, the National League West, that has not a single even good team other that the Dodgers – not another team that finished the regular season above .500? The Dodgers are the Dallas Cowboys of baseball’s version of the NFC East, a division so bad, it defies description.
Sure, the Dodgers handily beat the Braves in the Division Series, and they could even run through a Cardinals team that, though completing an excellent season, did so without its best pitcher, Chris Carpenter, and will try to survive the playoffs without its best hitter, Allen Craig. Mike Matheny is using the more than able Mike Adams in
Craig’s place at first, rather than, say Ty Wigginton, who hit .158 in limited at bats for the Cardinals early this year, and who likely would be a Mattingly favorite were he a member of the Dodgers, and Matheny has used young studs Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller in place of the injured Carpenter, rather than handing the ball to the likes of Ted Lilly, as Mattingly did earlier this season when other starters went down with injuries.
I see Mattingly getting the Dodgers into the hole they found themselves in at midseason, and he deserves as much blame for that as for the success with which he has since been given credit. Who’s to say that next season will not be the reverse – a great start and an abysmal finish, with 2014 versions of Brandon League and Luis Cruz having featured roles? Even a total managerial incompetent like another ex-yankee, Yogi Berra, actually won one league pennant as a manager.