By: Andrew “Fish” Fain
You would think that leading one of the elite franchises in the sport to three straight Western Division titles, which has never happened before, would allow a little leeway when it comes to job security. But this Dodgers team has won in spite of its Manager Don Mattingly, not because of him.
Don’t get me wrong, Mattingly was a tremendous ballplayer and as far as the players themselves go, they love him. But he was not ready to be a Major League Manager when he took over the Dodgers, and learning on the job is not the best idea.
It is very hard to screw things up when you have a payroll bigger than most 3rd world nations and two of the best pitchers in the game leading your rotation. Yet somehow, Mattingly has been able to do just that. The proof is that in spite of having 2 of the best pitchers on the planet, this team has not even made it to the World Series since 1988.
There are plenty of examples of how his managerial skills have cost this team. Let’s start with the 2015 LDS, that’s right, the series the Dodgers that, as of this writing, are still in. Why the hell is Carl Crawford even sniffing the field at this point? If you are going to have Yasiel Puig on the post-season roster I would much rather see him in the game than Crawford. Listen, I was a huge Carl Crawford fan, but that was before age and injury took their toll. He is now a shell of his former self and it seems only Mattingly can’t see it. I won’t even go into how he has ruined poor Joc Pederson.
The way he handles the pitching staff may be his biggest downfall however. In Game 1 of this series, Kershaw was laboring a little but still able to pitch. So Mattingly left him out there to start the 7th inning, I had no issue with that.
But after he got 2 outs, and walked 2 hitters (on pitches that were relatively close I might add) instead of allowing Kershaw to face one of the Mets best hitters, Mattingly brings in Pedro Baez, who promptly gives up a 2-run single to David Wright, and what was a 1-0 game, was now 3-0 and with the way deGrom was pitching, 3 runs was going to be insurmountable.
If he was going to allow Kershaw to get that deep into the inning, let him try and finish it off. I would rather have a slightly laboring Kershaw over a fresh Baez any day of the week, especially when you consider that the 1st hitter Baez faces hits over .300 off of him. It is those kinds of errors that cost this team and Mattingly continues to make.
In Game 3 of this series, we all knew there was an uproar over the Chase Utley slide, but it so happens Utley was the best hitter the Dodgers had against that night’s starter Matt Harvey. But instead of finding a place for Utley in the line-up (how about putting Utley at 3rd, Justin Turner in left and Crawford on the bench?), Utley ends up riding the pine for the whole game.
Now I know that Mattingly will say that he didn’t want to bring all the boos down on his team that would have happened had Utley been in the line-up. But did he ever consider the fact that Utley in there could also throw the Mets off their game? Instead, the Mets had no distractions and a 13-7 win.
It is those kinds of moves that Mattingly makes, day after day, game after game, year after year. I would like to think anything short of World Series win will cost him his job, but I do not know if the owners have that short a leash. I do know he has to at least GET to the World Series to save his job.
As far as who could replace him, that list is lengthy. If Mike Scioscia and the Angels have a parting of ways, I would believe he would be number one on the list. Dusty Baker I think would be a close second. Obviously both players with managerial experience and some serious ties to Los Angeles.
The biggest mistake ownership made was not being more aggressive in going after Joe Maddon when he left Tampa this past off-season. We have all seen what kind of impact a great manager can have on a ball club.
As I said when I started this piece, I know Mattingly is a players manager, and I really hold him no ill-will, but if you want to learn on the job, go coach the Brewers or Marlins. When you’re ready to put on your Big Boy pants, THAT’S when you lead the Boys in Blue and bring a title back to Chavez Ravine.