The Dodgers lost their first freeway series of the season to the Angels 2-1 this weekend, leaving fans wondering what happened this time around.
The answer is simple: mentality. A problem that has plagued the Dodgers for years.
Most recently it has been easy to attribute the team’s failures to poor managing from Grady Little, the fact that he left pitchers in too long, didn’t recognize when a player was hot or cold and generally lacked any strategy whatsoever.
But so far this season, we’ve seen the same problems occurring again and again, despite the acquisition of a tried and true manager in Joe Torre.
By mentality, I mean the ability of the Dodgers to get their head in the game, stick it out and really fight for the win.
This weekend’s series put the Dodgers even further back, 5 1/2 games, from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West and left their winning percentage teetering just above even at .512.
One might think that this isn’t a bad start for a team that finished fourth in the NL West with a percentage of .506 in 2007, however those numbers are deceiving to anyone that didn’t follow the team through the season.
The Dodgers led the Western Division for most of the first half of the season and looked as if they would end up in the National League championship if not further.
So what squashed the hopes and dreams of Dodgers fans throughout Southern California? Mentality.
The Dodgers struggled down the stretch, even after gaining players like pitchers David Wells and Scott Proctor to try and remedy rotation and bullpen injuries, and Mark Sweeney from the Giants to help at the plate.
Yes, the Dodgers did have significant losses due to the injuries of Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf. But consider the fact that these players had been ineffectual all season long and the team had faired decently with key young pitchers, Chad Billingsley and Jonathan Braxton, stepping up to combat lackluster pitching from the likes of Mark Hendrickson and Brett Tomko.
What happened at the end of last season was that while teams like Arizona went on winning streaks, the Dodgers lost any momentum that they had built up before the all-star break.
They destroyed their season in the last few weeks and came out looking like a far more mediocre team than they actually were.
Instead of fighting for their season and the league title, the Dodgers blew it. The combination of a poor manager and great players who were mentally weak let the season slip into the cracks…again.
Any Dodgers fan knows that the team will always let you down at the end of the season. If you watch any number of Dodgers games you can witness the same trend.
When was the last time the Dodgers came from behind for a dramatic eighth or ninth-inning win? They are few and far between.
It is a wonder why any Dodgers fans watch beyond the fourth inning, because if they aren’t winning by that time, chances are they’re going to lose.
Take a look at this weekend’s series against the Angels: fifth inning of game one, Dodgers were down 3-0. They made an attempt in the seventh with an Andre Ethier homerun. However the fielding choked, producing several damaging throwing errors.
The Dodgers won the second game, after holding the lead from the second inning when they went up 2-0. No come from behind, no struggle, no fight.
Game three was simply disastrous on any level. The Dodgers scored their only runs in the fourth inning to bring the score to 5-2. Derek Lowe, replacing Brad Penny as the starting pitcher, struggled from early on with a four-ball walk in the second inning.
James Loney, usually one of the most reliable Dodgers thus far—leading the team in RBIs with 27—made a crucial mental error when he should have thrown home, that Lowe attributed to his youth, according to Ken Gurnick at MLB.com.
This latest Dodger blowout is a prime example of the simple fact that once they are down the Dodgers are rare to be seen crawling back up.
Despite the wealth of talent in the young and veteran players, the Dodgers just can’t seem to get their head in the game and overcome a few setbacks. The answer to this problem is simple, improve the mentality of the team and the wins will come.
So consider this a call to arms boys. We want to see you fight, crawl from behind and push for the win. Bring us back to the days of Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider and give us a team that we know we can defend with honor, a team that will fight for us until the final out of the ninth inning.