Firings in Los Angeles have become as common as Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game.
Tuesday, the NBA Clippers canned coach Vinnie Del Negro in spite of him guiding the team to the Pacific Division title. The UCLA Bruins basketball team kicked out coach Ben Howland after he won the Pac-12 title. The Lakers fired their head coach a whole five games into the 2012-2013 season. Angels manager Mike Scioscia was fired; at least in the dreams of fans. But last week team owner Arte Moreno made a public statement claiming Scioscia’s job was safe…for now. Too bad the same hasn’t happened for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
Mattingly’s firing has been the main topic of Dodger discussions ever since the team fell into the NL West cellar more than two weeks ago. The difference between Mattingly and Scioscia is that current Dodgers ownership has yet to jump up and defend their beleaguered manager. The response from General Manager Ned Colletti has been more like the response Sgt. Schultz used to have in the old “Hogan’s Heroes” TV show-“I know nothing!”
“I think he has done fine,” Colletti said of Mattingly after the Dodgers 3-1 win over Milwaukee Monday night. When asked about the report by baseball writer Ken Rosenthal which said the firing of Mattingly was imminent, Colletti said “I really don’t read very much. I don’t have time to read.”
Wednesday, the Dodgers wrapped up a six game road trip during which they won just two games. Add to that their 6-16 record versus NL West opponents and the signs certainly don’t point to a team capable of creeping back into the pennant discussion.
The most glaring problems come from their lack of offense and bullpen arms. Closer Brandon League is morphing back into the mediocre relief pitcher the “we can only go up” Seattle Mariners were more than happy to dump. As far as the bats go, the Dodgers rank 29th in the majors in runs scored and slugging percentage and 28th in home runs. Injuries have made a huge dent in this team as well.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has been hurt for all but four games this season. Second baseman Mark Ellis has only been healthy enough to play half a season so far and pitcher Zack Greinke’s broken collarbone kept him sidelined for more than a month. About the only certainty these days is Clayton Kershaw.
I felt that Mattingly had to sweep the series against the current NL central cellar-dwelling Brewers in order to at least survive through the Memorial Day weekend. The loss Tuesday night most likely sealed his fate. I’d like to see the guy given some more time, at least until he could field the team fans envisioned on opening day.
The argument over whether it is the players or the manager that are to blame for the current situation has been ongoing for weeks now. But I think the first glimpse of things to come showed up during spring training when the Dodgers didn’t want to talk about whether they even wanted to talk about extending Mattingly’s contract beyond this season. Then Magic Johnson stated the Dodgers were expected to reach the playoffs. The message was obvious-Mattingly wasn’t the choice of the new owners but they will give him time to fail before canning him. And, as we all know, the “What have you done for me lately” is the prevailing rule in sports.
I mean, Mattingly has guided the team to two straight winning seasons in spite of watching the team go through a bankruptcy that prevented them from filling the evident gaps on the field.
A couple of positions have been a “holey” mess for a couple of years now. Third base has been a revolving door since Casey Blake manned the position in 2011. Luis Cruz, who struggled in the minor leagues for a decade until coming to life last season, has flamed out with a .096 batting average. Juan Uribe is, well, Juan Uribe. The Dodgers have failed to obtain a productive veteran catcher to back up AJ Ellis. The current number 2 catcher is Ramon Hernandez, who just turned 37 a few days ago. He is hitting a microscopic .045.
Naturally, when you see these moves, or lack of moves so to speak, Colletti’s name appears to move up right behind Mattingly’s when it comes to potential firings.
So if Mattingly gets the axe, who would be the most likely candidate to take over? I am sure the Dodgers would love to make a splash with a big name. The question is whether they will do it this season. If they decide to wait, the team may not have to look much further than the first or third base coaching box.
A very popular choice with the fans would be first base coach Davey Lopes. Lopes was the second baseman during the “golden infield” days of Ron Cey at third, Bill Russell at short and Steve Garvey at first. The Dodgers went to four World Series in the ten years they were together. Lopes managed the Milwaukee Brewers from 2000 until mid-2002. The team was 144-195 during his tenure. He was the Phillies first base coach from 2007-2010. The Phillies won four division titles and a World Series while he was there. Lopes rejoined the Dodgers in 2011.
Third base coach Tim Wallach also has limited managerial experience albeit at the minor league level. He managed the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2009. Wallach also served as Dodgers batting coach in 2004 and 2005. He currently has two sons in the minor leagues, one in the Dodgers farm system.
I perceive Mattingly won’t get a break but Collett will get a reprieve. Then again, I could be wrong because I know nothing.
Upping the ante
The Dodgers Matt Kemp is from Oklahoma so it wasn’t surprising that a guy who signed a $160 million contract wanted to make a donation towards rebuilding the state after the deadly tornado earlier this week. What surprised some people was the somewhat paltry amount he offered to pledge.
Kemp stated he would donate $1,000 for each home run he hit between now and the All-Star break. Considering he is on pace to hit about eight home runs this season, his pledge looked awfully cheap, especially in light of Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant’s $1 million donation.
Now it appears Kemp is responding to the negative talk. Wednesday, Kemp made the following statement:
“Dear Families of OKC,
On Monday, out of concern and emotion I committed $1,000.00 for every home run I hit until the All-Star Break. It was a quick and small gesture in advance of what I knew would be my greater contribution through your rebuilding process. I am keeping my pledge and in addition, donating $250,000.00. May God bless you through this and the many generous donations coming to your aid.” -Matt Kemp #PrayforOklahoma”
Star fading in the eyes of Mattingly?
Manager Don Mattingly decided to bench outfielder Andre Ethier for the finale versus the Brewers Wednesday afternoon. Tired or injured perhaps? Neither according to this tweet sent out by LA Times beat writer Dylan Hernandez.
“Andre Ethier is not hurt. Mattingly said Ethier is sitting because he wants to field team that will compete the best. ”
Ethier signed a five year, $85 million deal with the Dodgers last year in spite of him having a somewhat rocky relationship with Mattingly. The two have exhibited signs of tension in the past. This is not the first time Mattingly has kept Ethier on the bench but this one was unusual since one would assume the left-handed hitting Ethier is one of the stars who can get this team back on track and the Brewers were starting a right-handed pitcher.