Don Mattingly’s Surprisingly Strong Season


I was filling out an award ballot for Howard Cole’s (of Baseball Savvy and the OC Register) IBWAA this morning (fun facts, I placed neither Ian Kennedy nor Prince Fielder in the top five of the NL Cy Young or MVP, respectively), and came upon the “NL Manager of the Year” section. Now, Kirk Gibson is going to get a ton of praise for turning around an Arizona club that lost 97 games last year (including a 34-49 record on his watch) into a runaway division winner this year, and rightfully so. He was my choice, and I imagine he’ll win the actual award. Aside from Gibson, you’ll probably see Milwaukee’s Ron Roenicke garner some support for cruising past 90 wins to a division title in his first year as a manager (despite a clearly superior roster to most of his NL Central competitors), and Charlie Manuel probably deserves some notice for taking a Philadelphia team that everyone thought was going to win 100 games and actually living up to expectations.

And then… well, you could argue that Don Mattingly deserves a pretty large amount of credit, right? Remember, this is a first-year guy who many of us didn’t want to see get the job over Tim Wallach last year, worried as we were about his inexperience, proximity to Joe Torre, and the humiliating “double mound visit” fiasco that helped to blow a game against the Giants while he was filling in for an ejected Torre last July. In addition, he managed in the Arizona Fall League last year, an extremely unusual step for a major league manager.

But he got off to a pretty good start in the spring by naming Clayton Kershaw the Opening Day starter on the first day of camp, rather than letting it linger as Torre had, and (along with Ned Colletti) putting together a coaching staff including Wallach & Davey Lopes that we felt far, far better about than the old-school curmudgeon types like Larry Bowa and Bob Schaefer that Torre had the previous year. Despite another ultimately-meaningless-but-embarrassing gaffe in camp where he filled out the lineup incorrectly, we at least had some hope that Mattingly could be the new, younger leader the club needed after three years of Torre.

And then the season started.

Besieged by injuries, weighed down by awful performances from the Navarros, Uribes, and Cormiers of the world, and assaulted from all sides by the McCourt devastation, the Dodgers sank. They were 14-14 at the end of April, but that was just the beginning. They won just 12 games in May and 10 in June, with 12 more in July. Technically (since they won the season opener on March 31 and went 13-14 in April) they were losers in each of the first four full months of the season. As they reached their low points, falling 14 games under and 14.5 games out in the NL West at different points in July, most of us had all but given up on this team and begged them to sell.

And who could really even blame Mattingly at that point? The roster he’d been given to start with wasn’t a great one, and the injuries and off-field mess eventually made the situation untenable. But, to his credit and that of his coaches, we never saw the team give up. Oh, they were still bad, and oh good lord were they boring for quite a while, but they never quit. We never saw players loafing between the lines, and – other than Andre Ethier‘s annual and completely expected outburst about his contract – we rarely if ever became aware of issues within the clubhouse or with the media. For a team that’s recently lived through Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, and popular-if-perhaps-not-totally-accurate suggestions about Matt Kemp, that’s impressive on its face in the light of the outside distractions.

Now that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t really mean too much if the team doesn’t perform on the field, and don’t forget that we all spent the majority of the first four months writing about the potential for the 2011 Dodgers to be remembered on a historically bad level. After a loss on July 22 to Washington, their fourth in five games, the Dodgers had sunk to last place at 43-55, on pace to lose 270 games. (Conservatively.)

But they won the next day. And the next, and the next, and the next. Despite being swept by Philadelphia in the middle of the month, August was the first winning month for the Dodgers, at 17-11. September has been even better, at 15-8, headed into the final three games of the year; all told, the Dodgers are 37-22 since that July 22 game, a .627 winning percentage which would be a 101-61 pace if kept up for an entire season. From the depths of July which few of us had ever seen before, this is a team that needs just one win in the last series to come away with a winning record. There’s not a soul among us who would have believed that midway through the year.

Now let’s be clear, because we talked about this last week when discussing Jeff Pentland vs Dave Hansen: with the exception of the new-and-improved James Loney, this team largely turned around because they turned over their roster. They had more Juan Rivera & second takes of Jerry Sands and Dee Gordon, as opposed to hundreds of plate appearances wasted on the gimpy and useless like Juan Uribe, Dioner Navarro, Marcus Thames, and a less-than-healthy Ethier. A manager, no matter how beloved or despised, can only have so much impact on a game. But had things been allowed to fall apart even more than they had in the middle of the season, there might not even have been the opportunity to rebound.

No, he hasn’t been perfect, because this is the same guy who has killed us with bunts, used Mike MacDougal in big spots, and who once chose Juan Castro over Sands and others to pinch-hit with the bases loaded, which also meant Kershaw came out too early and Lance Cormier had to be used to blow the game. Then again, what manager is? Perhaps I’m colored because I was very vocally disliked Joe Torre, but complaints with managerial decisions seem to be cut by a factor of five this year.

Don Mattingly isn’t going to win the NL Manager of the Year award, nor should he, yet he probably will get some back-end support, and it’s well deserved. If a year ago at this time, nearly to the day, we were worried that with everything else the Dodgers had going on, they’d also have to deal with an inexperienced manager no one could count on, now we’ve seen that Mattingly is capable of keeping the players focused and working, no matter what kind of garbage is coming from the outside. In a season of small victories and big defeats, that’s one to be proud of.

******

Other news: Kemp, unsurprisingly, won the NL Player of the Week award today, his second such honor. He’s still not going to win the Triple Crown. Mattingly, among others, is featured in a new “It Gets Better” anti-bullying Dodgers video out today. And yes, the rumors are true, the Dodgers have slightly updated their logo, and when I say “slightly”, I mean “slightly”. With an understanding of the behind-the-scenes functional reasons the changes were made, however, it makes a whole lot of sense, even if casual fans may not even notice.

0 comments

Trackbacks

  1. [...] on. Matt Kemp. (Actually, back to that eighth inning for a moment; as if on cue, after I dedicated an entire post to praising him today, Don Mattingly chose to bring Mike MacDougal into a tight spot – bases loaded, one out [...]

  2. [...] Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness: Mike Petriello thinks Don Mattingly has done well this season. Agreed. [...]

  3. [...] homer-free starts after having allowed 16 in his previous 12. On the bench, Don Mattingly began to earn our respect. Young arms like Nathan Eovaldi, Scott Elbert, Josh Lindblom, and particularly Javy Guerra arrived [...]

  4. [...] in the courtroom. By the end of September, as the team suddenly turned into a second-half force, I had no choice but to praise Mattingly’s performance: Now let’s be clear, because we talked about this last week when discussing Jeff Pentland vs Dave [...]

  5. a rarer skill.there are several different types…

    of essays: formal or informal, personal or impersonal. subject matter can range from personal experiences to literary criticism to analysis of current news events. an essay can compare similarities and differences between two or more books, movies, or …

  6. of new visitors to your site. and…

    those visitors are some of the most highly targeted visitors you can ever find!2) integration marketing – one very little known idea for marketing your business is something i like to call integration marketing. this simply means that you’re integrati…

  7. who write articles on their topic. if…

    you really don’t want to write articles or feel like you can’t, then that’s no problem–you can outsource your content creation to a professional writer.are you wondering which way to go? should you write your own articles or hire a professional…

  8. check it out says:

    or friend.finding alternative gifts should not be…

    difficult if you open your eyes to various possibilities. have a look at personalised and quirky gifts such as a globe drinks cabinet or pocket compass, and see if you can find something unusual for that special occasion. your post workout…

  9. are interested in themselves and their own…

    lives. most people also have a range of interests.let’s say you’re a realtor. instead of only blogging about homes you have listed or what to look for when buying a home or finer points of financing and price negotiation, try a…

  10. since getting clean in 1993, he’s released…

    13 albums, written a book of short stories and a novel, and made numerous appearances acting in film and tv. there’s no such thing as a bad steve earle album, but here’s my top 5 from 1995 to present.5. townes -…

  11. good ideas to write about is to…

    steal them. this may sound bad but it’s really not. find a few blogs in your niche that you like and subscribe to their rss so you are notified every time they make a post. look at their new posts and…

  12. my blog says:

    just because of the content. it’s because…

    of the unique spin its writers put on that content.don’t be afraid of writing more informally, or more unusually, in blog posts. it is an excellent way to stop the reader from losing interest during a tricky patch of technical detail,…

  13. strategy for you to list down all…

    those ideas that you can relate well to your article. sometimes searching for an appropriate topic for an article is so time-consuming that you lose half of the given time. an idea list will help you save time.do not force yourself…

  14. not going to be interesting for your…

    audience. the best solution for you is to enter the market of the outsourced workers. you will be amazed to find a lot of writers who will understand your needs and write for you at an unbelievable price.another major benefit of…

  15. it by incorporating relevant ads through advertising…

    networks like google adsense or chitika. affiliate programs such as amazon also are becoming increasingly popular ways to earn extra revenue. in addition, you could sell private ads or review products on your blog.4. promote your blog by utilizing soci…

  16. a single word for people to read…

    (well not necessarily all of it, but you could do all those things before writing your first post).and then once you are up and running you actually have to create content that people want to read, not once or twice but…

  17. good company! the search engine is famed…

    for having fun-filled offices, places to relax and free staff lunches from leading chefs. the work environment within google is dramatically different from, say, your bank or your local solicitor’s office.many people who run businesses or who work in …

  18. than once. the more times you write…

    a post targeting the same keyword, the better your chances are of getting search rankings. and we all know the benefits of getting natural rankings online.for best performance, and more traffic, write shorter content. yeah…that’s right. the shorter …

  19. it is highly essential for the blogs…

    to be represented in a well structured way. for that, not only do you need to be a skilled writer, you should be a swift typer as well.this will diminish your blogging hours and help you to publish more in a…

  20. even have to be a full on…

    review just a couple of really distinct points, and make sure you weave in some of your insight about why you believe this prediction may be correct. you can create a lot of discussion by using this style of posting.write a…

  21. to the internet you may visit your…

    public library and look for books such as “learn to write english” or “basics of learning the english language”. better yet, ask the information desk personnel, they’ve been very helpful the many times i’ve visited my public library when doing re…

  22. space to make the blog easier to…

    read. this can be achieved by using sub-headings and lists to break up the text.5) originality – although you could use sources such as news items as inspiration for your blog, the blog should be in your own words, avoiding plagiarism…

  23. seguros says:

    your website will appear on the first…

    or second page of search results, rather than the eighth or ninth. the basic strategy is to fill your website with relevant, keyword saturated content, and to increase the number of links within your website and to your website.another tried and…

  24. what you need to in 300 words,…

    rather than trying to flesh the article out to make it look big and end up with 500, then your readers will be very happy people. a common misconception is that the more words you write, the better you will do,…

  25. pads says:

    point across. writing a blog post doesn’t…

    have to be a difficult thing to accomplish. just remember that if the information is helpful, chances are that people could benefit from it.conduct an interview with an expert in your niche. there is no better way to establish credibility than…

  26. Titanic says:

    there are many variations. most writing handbooks…

    are fairly similar in that they include guidelines for how to write, format, and check the grammar and sentence structure of Titanic your papers. if you have questions at any point during the writing process, you should be able to find what…

  27. the blog post has been pre-screened and…

    is capable of following instructions carefully. these professional writers produce perfect blog posts that are free from spelling and grammar errors.conversational stylethere are two very important factors to consider when it comes to writing an effect…

  28. writing too. if you spend much time…

    apart from something you can now only apprehend through memories, dreams, reflections, your expression of this in any art form will have much greater depth and intensity. the other day when i was talking to an author who is in the…

  29. should be one of the first courses…

    on your list. during your college career, you will be asked to write many papers, and your grades will reflect your ability to express your thoughts.english composition can be challenging to some students but can Titanic also be a rewarding part of…

  30. on a company’s behalf by experts and…

    seo copywriters who know the importance of quality content. you can also write your own posts, and many blog owners are taking it upon themselves to keep their blogs running and updated. this type of writing is usually informative and the…

  31. Installation says:

    i’ve written many pillar articles in the…

    last few years and this one stands out to me. personal opinion posts are very engaging and give your readers something to think about while visiting your blog. write blog posts that are controversial. controversy is huge for driving traffic to…

  32. blog posts.by regularly posting small snippets -…

    articles 100 to 1,000 words long – you do several things: provide a steady flow of fresh content related to your business. the search engines love fresh content. the more frequently and regularly you provide it, the better your web site…

  33. remix artist says:

    the differences and techniques used in each…

    of these article marketing techniques, let us dissect them apiece:• article directories are websites which caches different articles on any subject. article directories are one of the most effective submission sites online because it has standards…

  34. the good news is that they are…

    easy to spot. you just need to read your essay, and they will gaze at your face.write a good conclusion that answers the entire question. if you are looking for an authentic work from home opportunity, then you are in the…

  35. writing or if you are not a…

    really good writer yourself. you know the saying that you should leave the expert job to the professionals.if you want a blog with high quality posts that generate more reader interest and get shared more often, you need an experienced writer…

  36. in gradually increasing the incoming traffic of…

    your site. just make sure you continuously work on increasing the traffic of your blog in order to make sure that you keep on getting new visitors to your site regularly. this is one internet business idea that you need to…

  37. requesting your services and it can lead…

    to an increase in revenue from advertising and affiliate schemes.in many ways the answer is simple, many people have discovered when learning how to get more website traffic that the key is content. good, well written content that engages the reader…

  38. Airsoft says:

    Evike.com…

    Check out our very latest own-branded Evike Airsoft range, offering amazing value on loads of Airsoft products….