Say what you will about Don Mattingly – I’ll say this, he sure knows how to bring out the Jeckyl and Hyde in a team. The man’s teams seem to only have two speeds: “Rolling Juggernaut” and “The Gang Who Can’t Buy an RBI (Despite Having a $720 Million Payroll)”.
This weekend the St. Louis Cardinals reminded the Dodgers exactly what a pennant-winning team does. It rolls into the house of another first place team and solidly beats them. On the Dodgers bright side, the Cardinals did not exactly steamroll over the Boys in Blue – at least, not in every game. What they did accomplish, however, was to expose the Dodgers’ weaknesses.
Call to the Pen
The noise level is growing in the blogosphere and Twitter worlds; the public is getting restless. There is outright revolution calling for the Skipper’s head in some quarters. As I sit here contemplating what ails this year’s team, I’m reminded of the Dodgers’ performances the past two seasons, and I’ve noticed a developing pattern.
Let’s take a ride back to the Dodgers’ 2013 campaign. Here’s what I wrote about the boys that June 22:
"“This 2013 squad, this $239 million team that was supposed to make a serious run at winning it all, is the definition of dreadful. They have truly made it painful to watch their games. Half the guys seem to be sleepwalking, and the other half are just incapable of bringing forth talent they clearly don’t possess.”"
Pundits were writing epitaphs, but long story sort, the Dodgers turned it around and made it to the NLCS. It was a rags to riches turnaround. Although Mattingly was an atrocious in-game manager at the time (Can you say, “Bunt crazy”?), he played a major role in the Dodgers getting straightened out and eventually playing to their potential.
Fast forward to 2014. Here’s what I wrote on June 30:
"“At the beginning of June they said the Dodgers were done, finished, kaput! The Dodgers had the worst defense in the big leagues, the shabbiest bullpen, and the most underachieving bats in the game. Heck, even their own manager said they were playing like shite.”"
By the close of June the Dodgers had completed another basement to penthouse turnaround, claimed first place, and eventually made it to the playoffs again. Unfortunately,we all know how that one turned out.
The point is, 2013 and ’14 were seasons that by this same point in June, had fans and opinion-makers alike wondering, “What’s wrong with the Dodgers – and will this season end in disaster?”
Here we are again, ladies and gentlemen. It’s June 2015, one-third of the season is behind us, and it’s the same old story; albeit, with a couple of wrinkles unique to this season. The bullpen is a shambles and the team can’t score. Fingers are being pointed. Trades are being questioned, and the stat-heads who built this team suddenly don’t look like the geniuses many thought they were a month ago.
This June situation can happen to anyone once (2013). If it happens again (2014), that’s a coincidence. However, if it happens yet again (2015), that’s a pattern.
Lay blame where you may – too many injuries early on, bums in the bullpen, feast or famine offense, Mattingly is an oaf – so on and so on. We’ve heard them all before, for the past three seasons, always in the month of June.
The Dodgers find themselves on an all-too-familiar road. Can Mattingly and the boys get things going and win the division? At this point it’s even money, but I’ll bet my chips on Blue.