You might be wondering why, after all that happened tonight, I’m using a picture of Matt Magill to lead this post. Why? To remind you that Magill even appeared in this game, because it seems like it was about four weeks ago.
If you were lucky enough not to sit through this entire thing, just check out the FanGraphs WPA chart to the right to realize what an endless cardiac event this was.
I suppose we could look at the positives here, including the fact that at least the club showed a lot of life in even coming back from the 5-0 deficit the obviously overmatched Magill put them in.
You can look at the homer A.J. Ellis hit in the fourth to even get the club on the board, one of his two hits, and you can absolutely look at Paco Rodriguez, who came into a bases loaded, zero out mess handed to him by Javy Guerra and struck out two, allowing only one run to score on a wild pitch. And you can definitely look at Dee Gordon, who offset some shaky defense with #spark, collecting two hits (including a triple) and two steals, as well as dashing home to score a run few players could have managed. One game doesn’t substantially change my opinion on any player, but that was unquestionably a good start for Gordon. Every Dodger starter had at least a hit, actually, with Ellis, Gordon, Skip Schumaker, Carl Crawford, Juan Uribe, and Jerry Hairston all getting two.
But other than Gordon, we’re not going to remember the good. We’re not going to remember that Brandon League got Buster Posey to ground into a double play with the bases loaded in the ninth, we’re going to remember that he allowed Guillermo Quiroz (!) to hit a walkoff homer in the tenth. We won’t remember that Matt Kemp drove in two with a big hit in the wild fifth, we’ll remember that he went 1-6. We’ll definitely remember that Hairston had to leave early with what appeared to be yet another injury.
For me, I think you all know exactly what I’ll remember. In the bottom of the eighth, after the two sides had traded runs in the seventh to make it a 9-9 tie, Andre Ethier led off with a walk. Ellis came up — remember, he’d already hit a homer and he’s been probably the most consistently productive Dodger all season long — and Don Mattingly ordered him to bunt.
I need to reiterate that here. Mattingly preferred the idea of one out with a man on second, the risk of getting the bunt down, and the generally awful Schumaker at the plate, followed by the pitcher’s spot, than he did having the reliable Ellis up with a man on first and no outs.
If you’re wondering why that sounds familiar, may I present to you the infamous Game #161 that ended last season…
“Please tell me that Don Mattingly didn’t force A.J. Ellis to bunt in the bottom of the ninth in a misguided attempt to have Elian Herrera or Bobby Abreu swinging away instead of one of your better hitters, right? Right?!
It didn’t work then; it certainly didn’t work now, as Ellis bunted into a double play. Put some blame on Ellis for the poor execution if you must, but that’s not the point here. This isn’t second-guessing; an entire army of fan voices came up in unison as soon as the call was made.
I try to defend Mattingly, because everyone who calls for his head either can’t answer the question of “who is obviously better and available” or places far too much importance on what impact a manager does and does not have. I didn’t even mind sending League out for a second inning, because he hadn’t pitched since last Sunday and the bullpen was nearly exhausted after Magill’s short outing screwed the team.
But that? That’s game management of the worst kind, and we all know he’ll defend it. I’ll remind us all that the bunt call was just one moment of hundreds, and let’s not forget that A) Magill screwed the pooch and B) the Dodgers had no business being in this game anyway. But at the end of the day, this team has lost another game to a division rival, and perhaps another player to injury as well. The last thing they need is to be shooting themselves in the foot, too.