Fire Don Mattingly. (And Send Rick Honeycutt With Him.)

Watching Don Mattingly try to explain away losses to the press is becoming an all-too-common theme in the Dodger press room this year. (Image source: cleveland.com at http://media.cleveland.com/startingblocks/photo/don-mattinglyjpg-dbc3e4c6ce3882b7_large.jpg)

At this point, after Brandon League absolutely imploded and gave away what should have been a 3-1 Clayton Kershaw victory in the 9th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks, something is clear.  There are problems in the Dodger organization.  The problems start at the top, and the attitude they bring trickle down to the bottom.

To this point, I’ve largely been a Don Mattingly supporter because of how he kept the team together and winning ballgames through the second half of 2011.  Even this season I gave him some benefit of the doubt, though I joined the Facebook page “Fire Don Mattingly” because there was quite a bit of good conversation there, and the site admin was gracious enough to even admit when Mattingly had some good games.  It was clear that the page wasn’t set up just to bash on Donnie Baseball, but also to talk about Dodger baseball, and give Mattingly credit where credit was due when he actually did something to deserve it.

But after tonight’s loss, I had to collect my thoughts in the immediate aftermath.  I slept through the game admittedly.  I didn’t feel well tonight.  And when I saw what went down in the 9th inning, I was glad that I’d been fortunate enough to sleep through the entire thing so that I’d learn about it all at once in the aftermath and be able to study what happened with the perspective of knowing the Dodgers had blown the game.

This is what I posted as reality sunk in:

“I need to collect my thoughts before I can even consider blogging on this topic, but here’s what I need to say in the immediate aftermath of waking up from a nap and seeing what happened at the end of the game tonight (which frankly makes me glad thatI didn’t feel well and slept through it.)

I do not necessarily fault Don Mattingly for the season the Dodgers are having. Clearly when you’ve seen so many people on your team go on the disabled list you’re left trying to figure out who fits in what role, what dynamic will work best for your team. When you’ve got injured starting pitchers, their replacements can’t pitch deep into games, and your bullpen can’t hold leads, you end up in an even more awkward situation. So I want to make it clear I think Mattingly’s situation is difficult, and what I’m about to say is not because I dislike Don Mattingly, but because we’re at a point where things are going horribly, horribly wrong. And they’re not getting better.

That said, it is clear that at this point Mattingly is managing in an almost shell-shocked state. Any move he makes seems to backfire. When he does make a good decision, it seems to get followed by about 5 bad ones. As the season goes on, every bad decision, whether his fault or not, seems to amplify and get progressively worse.

If the Dodgers want to have any prayer of turning this around at this point, Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have to go. Period. The changes need to start at the top. Whether the new manager comes from within the organization on an interim basis or from outside of the organization does not matter at this point. The reality is, the Dodgers can’t stay the current course. Something needs to change. We’ve seen 60 different lineups in 63 games, so clearly it’s not the lineup. We’ve seen just about every one of our relievers struggle in various roles, so it’s not the bullpen. Kershaw has been brilliant, Ryu’s been a revelation, and Greinke, when healthy has been as advertised, so it’s not the core of our starting rotation. Mattingly and Honeycutt have to go. And it has to happen soon. For our good and theirs.

I didn’t pay $355 for two seats for 15 games to watch a $230 million payroll implode.”

The reality is this: Don Mattingly is in a situation where he’s almost assured of failure.  Too many injuries.  Too many lineup adjustments.  One of his higher-paid players, Andre Ethier, has long since stopped respecting him in a feud that has been brewing between Ethier, Mattingly, and Dodgers brass since at least this 2011 T.J. Simers article, a feud that clearly was not resolved by a five year, $85 million contract extension that Ethier received last season.  The team is losing.  Ethier is not performing in the absence of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Hanley Ramirez, even though there does not appear to be anything physically wrong with Ethier.  Chances are good that even if Mattingly goes, Ethier’s days in Los Angeles are numbered with the emergence of Yasiel Puig.  One has to wonder, however, how much the strained relationship between Ethier and Mattingly drove the Dodgers to acquire Carl Crawford as part of the mega deal last year that also brought in Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from Boston.  One also has to wonder if the Dodgers had handled the Ethier situation differently whether or not the one-time All Star right fielder would be showing a different attitude and a higher level of performance in Los Angeles, the kind of play that Dodger fans are more accustomed to from Ethier since his acquisition from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Milton Bradley after the end of the 2005 season.

The smile’s been wiped right off Andre Ethier’s face for much of the 2013 season as the All Star right fielder struggles and finds himself in the middle of trade rumors. The feud between Ethier and manager Don Mattingly, while mostly veiled, has seeped through the cracks at times and may have wound up being detrimental to the future of both in Los Angeles. (Image source: Lasorda’s Lair, posted at http://cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/75/files/2013/01/6505756.jpg)

Further, the recent struggles of the ballclub may be compounded by the upcoming issues that the ownership group is facing, as I discussed in my previous entry.  A Dodger ball club that is already working through the adversity of injuries, underperformance, and moves by their manager that are becoming increasingly baffling to the fan base could find itself distracted once again by the side show that is Frank McCourt and the prospect that ownership group Guggenheim Partners might find themselves looking for additional equity partners in the ball club.  Unlike 2011, however, when Don Mattingly seemed to emerge and find a way to urge his team into playing great baseball in the second half of the season, 2013 Don Mattingly doesn’t look like he has the answers necessary to keep his ballclub focused.

If these are the Last Days of Donnie Baseball in Los Angeles, it can be said that while there were some good points and excitement, the thrill is gone and it may be best that both parties move on.

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3 thoughts on “Fire Don Mattingly. (And Send Rick Honeycutt With Him.)

      1. I also agree with what Juan’s saying…thought I had published a reply to his comment, but I was doing so from my phone and I think there were issues. Thanks for stopping by and taking a read guys.

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