Don Mattingly looks like a dead man walking these days. He answers questions before every game about his job security. He answers questions after every game about his job security. He's tried just about everything, from benching players to calling out his team, and none of it seems to be working. That hair line just keeps slipping further and further into oblivion.
The Dodgers are closing in on the worst May in franchise history, 5-13 for the month even after a win over the Brewers this afternoon—not exactly what $220 million is supposed to produce. This was supposed to be the year the circus left Chavez Ravine, the year when a serious ownership group ponied up and brought one of baseball's flagship franchises back to relevance.
It hasn't exactly worked out that way, and so it's only natural for Donnie Baseball to bear the brunt of the blame. Managers are, after all, the symbolic figurehead of the organization, it's visible leader.
And, really, Mattingly seems to be accepting that responsibility. He's not trying to run from it, even as he grows more desperate in his search for answers. But for as disappointing as the Dodgers have been, fans and media should ease up on the guy, because the reality is that he's pretty far down the list of who's at fault.
The Dodgers' starting pitching (non-Clayton Kershaw division) was a question mark even before Opening Day, and injuries and underachievement certainly haven't helped. Zack Greinke was brought in to provide a solid No. 2 behind Kershaw, but he's spent more time on the DL than on the field. Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley haven't been able to stay healthy, and anyone who thought Josh Beckett would suddenly revert to his mid-decade form was just kidding themselves.
The franchise has stubbornly stuck with Brandon League as their closer despite the fact that Kenley Jansen is clearly their best bullpen arm, and before anyone blames Mattingly for this, consider how much Ned Coletti paid League in the offseason—that's closer money, not seventh-inning guy money.
Want to point fingers? Point them first at Matt Kemp's power outage or Andre Ethier's regression. This is a lineup completely bereft of power and pitching, and somehow the manager is on the hot seat for not molding it into a contender?
The reality is that we put far more weight in a manager's ability to influence a game than we should. Sure, Mattingly's bullpen management has been questionable, but he's made noticeable strides in that department. Other than that, though, what do we expect from him? He's dealing with a pitching rotation that more closely resembles a MASH unit and hitters who have severely underperformed.
This is a flawed roster—about as flawed as nine figures will buy—and to cast aside a guy who clearly still motivates his team effectively would be a rash and foolhardy decision.