In Don Mattingly‘s five years of managing the Dodgers, he has never had a better shot at leading a team all the way to the World’s Championship of Baseball – because THIS is exactly the type of team that he’s been waiting for. At least, this is the closest he is going to get as manager of the Dodgers.
Don Mattingly played his entire career in the American League. He did so during an era of baseball when the distinctions between the two leagues were much clearer and well-defined. In Mattingly’s heyday, long before the overuse of regular season, inter-league games, the American and National Leagues played two different types of baseball.
In a simplified manner of speaking, the National League played what is called “small ball” – in which the offense is built around advancing runners through strategy, stolen bases and sacrifice at-bats. The American League played a brand of baseball that focused on scoring lots of runs. Thus, offenses were built around 3-run home runs. That’s the type of game that Donnie Baseball knows and loves.
I’ll give Mattingly credit for trying to adapt to conventional NL small ball when he first took the reigns for the Dodgers. He tried to use the sacrifice bunt, but never quite grasped how to apply it sparingly and when the percentages called for it vs when the game situation called for letting a hot hitter swing away.
Mattingly rightfully earned derision for his overuse and misuse of the bunt – and never really learned how to wield the stolen base as the offensive weapon it is. That was partly due to the fact his past base-stealers (Kemp, Puig, etc.) never remained healthy long enough to establish any rhythm into the Dodgers running game.
That was, until Dee Gordon came along. Unfortunately, that all evaporated when the front office boys decided the Dodgers didn’t need a stolen-base leader on the roster. Gordon was traded to Miami and the Dodgers’ running game went missing in action for the majority of the season.
Mattingly has not been a complete disaster over his time at the helm of the Dodgers, and he has shown some growth as a manager. However, even though he has led the team into the postseason three times in a row, the soul-crushing defeats are what we all remember.
Many, including myself, believe if the Dodgers don’t make it to the World Series this year, Mattingly will be fired. I’m sure he’ll quickly be picked up by another club, as rumors are already swirling the Marlins are interested in him. So he will perhaps have a chance to manage in the postseason again, but this is most likely his last shot at a championship in L.A., should the team fail.
I figured that deep down Mattingly always wanted an offense just like the ones in the old American League. He didn’t know how to manufacture runs, and seemed to always manage his offense like a skipper waiting for the big men in the lineup to crush back-to-back home runs and score 6 runs every night.
Well, THAT is the team the Dodgers have become in 2015 – sort of. I’ve written before about the Jeckle/Hyde personality of this team. They are very streaky and run hot or cold. They either can’t buy a run (despite the billions of dollars behind them), or they just go off and hit multiple home runs per game, winning through overwhelming fire power.
When it came to hitting home runs in 2015, the Dodgers were 6th overall in the major leagues with 187 dingers, and the five teams above them were all in the American League. This Dodger team is the type of home run bashing team that Don Mattingly knows deep in his baseball bones. They can mash with the best of ’em. Mattingly has been waiting for this team all of his managerial life.
In addition to all of that, he’s got the one-two punch of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball going to the mound, at home. Don Mattingly should have been singing out loud in his car all the way to Chavez Ravine this morning. It’s all laid out before him – the best shot he will ever get at managing the Dodgers to the World Series.