The largest payroll in Major League Baseball history hasn’t quite panned out as expected, and the Los Angeles Dodgers can’t point the finger at manager Don Mattingly.
With a 17-25 record and a 4-6 mark in their last 10 (paired with a recent series sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves), the Dodgers are entering dangerous territory in the basement of the NL West. And of course, their skipper appears to be on the hot seat as a result.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports seems convinced the Dodgers ownership group is nearing the end of its rope in regards to Mattingly’s tenure, and he believes the skipper may be out of town in the very near future:
I’ve seen the Dodgers twice in person this season, and both times came away thinking that the team would be OK, that manager Don Mattingly would survive.
Now I’m convinced that Mattingly is going to get fired. And the sooner it happens, the better.
That Mattingly’s days are numbered seems to be the overwhelming speculation at this point, but that doesn’t mean axing the six-time All-Star is the right move.
As Peter Gammons highlighted with this tweet, the Dodgers are in bad enough shape without looking for a new manager:
Yeah, sure, the Dodgers 297 slugging percentage w/ RISC is Don Mattingly's fault. Needing 9 starters by April 22 his fault, as well.— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 18, 2013
Mattingly isn’t to blame for Los Angeles’ woes this season, at least no more so than injuries and shortsightedness on the part of the Dodgers front office. Spending enormous amounts of cash on offseason acquisitions never guarantees success, and the talking heads at the top of the chain should have recognized that reality entering the season.
But even if Mattingly is partly to blame for the Dodgers’ slow start, this isn’t the point in the season to make a change. Now is the time to create an environment of stability and confidence.
Firing Mattingly would only further a culture of overblown expectations and unneeded pressure—a payroll of upwards of $220 million doesn’t help matters, either.
With the first quarter of the season in the rear-view, the time to make a managerial change has passed. The time for facilitating a stable environment is now.
There are those who will undoubtedly cite statistics as the basis for their opinion on Mattingly’s failures: Clayton Kershaw’s 1.40 ERA and Adrian Gonzalez’s gaudy .331 batting average, to name just a couple. If Los Angeles’ stars are performing up to standards, why are the Dodgers losing so many games?
|Hanley Ramirez||4||$15.5 million|
|Juan Uribe||29||$7.3 million|
|Ted Lilly||2||$13.17 million|
|Chris Capuano||6||$6.38 million|
Look no further than the disabled list. Six starting pitchers have made their way to the injury report already this season. All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez has played in just four games this year and Nick Punto (yes, Nick Punto) has appeared in 34 of Los Angeles’ first 42 contests.
What factor is most to blame for the Dodgers' struggles this year?
I’m inclined to agree with Gammons on this one. Mattingly can’t be blamed for wins and losses any more than he can be blamed for the depth of the Dodgers’ disabled list.
We’ve seen this scenario play out time and again in major professional sports. When a team struggles (especially a big-market team), the first reaction is to fire the coach or manager and deflect the blame to the driver of the owner’s multimillion-dollar car—never mind the fact that said car is running on four flat tires.
Only stability will turn things around for the Dodgers this season. That includes stability in the lineup and at the end of the bench.
If Mattingly goes, Los Angeles can expect things to get a lot worse before they get better.