Sports Medley: The
Unwelcome Return of Don Mattingly: 22 May 17
by Tony Medley
It wasn’t just the
abysmal handling of pitchers that drove me to my low opinion of Don
Mattingly as a manager. He handled pitchers the same absurd way all 30
managers in the big leagues do. In fact, the Dodgers present managerial
incumbent is even worse than Mattingly, probably the worst I’ve ever
No, what convinced me
that Mattingly didn’t know his elbow from third base was his inability
to recognize that Justin Turner was the Dodgers’ best hitter in 2014,
something about which I constantly carped throughout the 2014 and 2015
seasons. Although he didn’t have nearly enough plate appearances to
qualify for the batting title, Turner had the second highest batting
average in all of baseball in 2014, .340. Despite this, when the Dodgers
made the playoffs Turner was ensconced firmly on the bench. In four
playoff games, with the Dodgers losing three of them by the total margin
of four runs, Mattingly could only find two pinch-hitting appearances
for his best hitter. It’s certainly not unreasonable to think that had
Turner been starting all the games, the extra offense he would have
provided would have resulted in the Dodgers winning at least two of the
games they lost and, therefore, would have won the series.
Mattingly kept him on
the bench in 2015, too. Even though Turner hit .294, Mattingly again
didn’t give him enough playing time to qualify for the batting title.
But what raises the
question of Mattingly’s common sense once again is the brouhaha that
arose last week when Mattingly threw a hissy fit because Corey Seager
swung at a 3-0 pitch in the seventh inning of a game in which the
Dodgers were leading by six runs. Apparently Mattingly felt that this
violated one of baseball’s absurd “unwritten rules” which states that
when a team gets a big lead it will not steal bases or swing at 3-0
pitches. There is little more irrational in baseball than this kind of
reasoning, but it is consistent with the way they handle pitchers.
One thing unique
about baseball is that, unlike football and basketball which are timed
contests, the game is not over until the last out. In the sixth game of
the 1986 World Series Boston was leading the Mets by 2 runs with two
outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and nobody on base. Only one out
to go to win the World Series, yet they lost the game. An even more
glaring example occurred on August 21, 1990 when the Dodgers were
leading the Phillies 11 to 3 entering the ninth inning. The Phillies
scored nine runs to win the game 12 to 11.
So the idea that a
team leading by six runs should just roll over and play dead for the
rest of the game is total nonsense. If this were the case, why not just
have a team that achieves a six run lead give up its times at bat and
simply let the losing team have their times at bat for the rest of the
game? When a team is ahead by six runs does the other team agree not to
steal bases and not swing at 3-0 pitches for the rest of the game?
Of course not.
rule” is ridiculous and Mattingly throwing a tantrum because Corey
Seager swung at a 3-0 pitch in the seventh-inning just confirms how
intellectually unqualified he is to be a major league manager.
That said, Roberts is
in a league of his own when it comes to the quality of “managing.”
Despite the fact that Chris Taylor, .333, has been the Dodgers’ hottest
hitter all year long after Turner, Roberts claims that he will have to
share the job at second base with Chase Utley until Turner returns and
then Logan Forsythe, who has a .256 lifetime batting average, will be
the regular second baseman and Taylor will hit the bench. Apparently
Taylor is to Roberts as Turner was to Mattingly. Neither manager can
recognize talent even when it hits them square in the face. When someone
is hot, isn’t it just common sense to keep him in the lineup?