Is It All Don Mattingly’s Fault?


The Dodgers are clinging on to a slim one-game lead in the N.L. West ahead of the World Champion Giants. They are on the verge of losing their third game in a row at Wrigley Field, and the offense and bullpen are as shaky as ever. The long road trip is far from over, and the Dodgers will still need to stop in Miami and Arizona before returning to Dodger Stadium to finish up the first half of the season.

It’s been really frustrating to watch this Dodger team the last month. The red hot start is long gone, and now the day in and day out grind of a long season is well upon the Boys in Blue. There’s certainly been high points, but the low points seem to have had a much more significant impact on Dodger fans. While watching Joc Pederson hit monster homeruns has been incredible to witness, most of us will not be satisfied with this season unless the Dodgers go far in the postseason and at least get to the postseason.

When you can’t score runs consistently, you can’t win consistently. Those one-run games seem even more difficult to deal with when everything seems to be going wrong. While many are calling for Don Mattingly to be fired, the Dodgers underachievement (if you can call a first place team an underachiever) is not entirely his fault.

The Dodgers couldn’t score a run over ten innings Tuesday night against the Cubbies. No matter what the bullpen or even Zack Greinke did in the game didn’t make much difference when your lineup wasn’t producing any runs. I called the Dodger offense “batpolar,” and it seems like the lows are becoming more frequent than the highs. Three hits against the Cubs is not acceptable, and I actually think that Chicago may pose a threat to the Dodgers this postseason (as well as Pittsburgh).

I don’t think Joel Peralta should have been pitching in that disastrous tenth inning on Tuesday evening, but then again the Dodgers weren’t exactly supporting their pitching staff with any viable offense either. Of course I think Peralta should have been eased back into those high leverage situations, since after all the veteran has been injured most of the season and hadn’t pitched in a Major League game since April 23rd.

More from Dodgers Way

You can argue that Mattingly should have used Kenley Jansen instead of Peralta in the tenth, but Don Mattingly would not ever do that on the road. Most MLB managers wouldn’t do that. Peralta was supposed to shore up the late inning bullpen options in order to bridge to Kenley when Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi acquired him this past offseason, but so far Peralta has been injured most of the season. Peralta is making $2.5 million this season and has $2.5 million team options for the following two seasons as well.

Don Mattingly has to play the players he is given. It’s time to consider that the new front office didn’t do enough this past offseason to create a weather proof bullpen. Chris Hatcher has been less than stellar in his tenure with the Dodgers so far, Peralta has been shaky since Spring Training, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore are talented but need more experience, J.P. Howell has only pitched in 26 games, Paco Rodriguez has been injured again and the Dan Coulombes and Adam Wests are not exactly ideal candidates to set up Kenley Jansen either.

While Mattingly’s bullpen management has always been questionable, more often than not the pitchers he has available to choose from are not in his control. Remember when he pitched Scott Elbert in the NLDS?

Apr 13, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly reacts against the Seattle Mariners in an interleague game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I actually think Mattingly has improved as a manager over the years. There’s less bunting. He finally dropped Jimmy Rollins out of the leadoff spot. Baby steps.

There are better managers for sure. Bruce Bochy runs circles around Mattingly at times, but I’m just not sure who would be an improvement at the helm right now for the Dodgers? Dusty Baker would be worse in my opinion. Did you see Joe Maddon‘s little protest and game delay tactics the other night? No thank you. Unless you can go back in time and somehow get Mike Scioscia to manage the Dodgers, I’m fine with Mattingly for now.

I know a lot of you will disagree with me on this, but I’m neither a Mattingly apologist or hater. I just understand that some of his decisions are based on what he has available. The roster was created by the front office, and the weaknesses need to be addressed by them in order to remain in first place and defend their National League West division title.

It’s difficult for me to scream “Fire Mattingly!” when the Dodgers are in first place. Does their starting pitching, bullpen and offense need to be more consistent? Yes, but that’s more of a player performance (hello Mark Mcgwire) and roster problem. Mattingly isn’t the one making foolish base running errors or serving up meatballs to Buster Posey. Could Mattingly be more progressive with his lineup configurations? Sure. Would that change the offense problems? I don’t think by much.

When you don’t have a true leadoff hitter (which the Giants lost Nori Aoki by the way with a fractured fibula) then it is difficult to construct an ideal lineup. The Dodgers finally have a true center fielder and catcher, but I would love for them to have someone leading off to add that spark which Dee Gordon sometimes ignited last season. Corey Seager could be that spark, but Mattingly does not have him at his disposal just yet.

The new front office could very well let go of Mattingly eventually, but I don’t think they will. Friedman and Zaidi have always spoke well about Mattingly, and I think unless the Dodgers totally tank in the second half, then Donnie Baseball remains. You don’t fire your manager when you are in first place. Sure, these frustrating offensive slumps, bullpen meltdowns and road losses are very hard to accept. Yet the Dodgers are still tops in the league in homeruns (93), OBP (.332), OPS (.767) and walks (256).

With the acquisition of another starting pitcher, perhaps a pitcher or two for the bullpen and the call up of stud Corey Seager, the Dodgers could recapture that 2013 magic again. While Mattingly is under fire for the recent stumbles, it is ultimately up to the front office to give him the championship caliber roster in which we hope will give the Dodgers a long awaited October trophy.