The Los Angeles Dodgers will play game of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday in an attempt to go to the World Series for the 19th time in franchise history. Let’s keep in mind how different things could’ve been for this club.
In May, the team considered firing manager Don Mattingly. They started off May with an eight-game losing streak and went 10-17 in the month overall. They spent loads of money in the offseason by inking Zack Greinke to a 6-year, $147 million deal and he was on the shelf. Then they signed Korean sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 6-year $36 million deal. This team shelled out the cash in the offseason and with everything they tried, it wasn’t working.
In any event though, they stuck with Donnie Baseball. They called up Yasiel Puig on June 3 and he became the club’s X Factor with 4 home runs in his first five games. Not to mention he had 44 hits in the month of June, good enough for second behind Joe DiMaggio for the most hits in big league history in his debut month. That’s not too bad.
From June 22 until Aug. 23, they went 46-10. This team dominated the NL West while every other team in the division completely faltered. Fans could hardly call for Mattingly’s firing after this amazing turnaround. Only Pat Corrales of the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies had been fired with his team in first place. The Phillies won the pennant, but lost to the Baltimore Orioles in five games in the Fall Classic.
Mattingly showed how aggressive he can be to win in the playoffs. Despite blowing out the Atlanta Braves in game 3 of the NLDS, he put in closer Kenley Jansen after Paco Rodriguez struggled in the top of the 9th. Jansen closed the game out.
Then came game 4, in which he decided to start Clayton Kershaw on three days rest. Kershaw has been out of this world in 2013, becoming the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 2005 to post an ERA under 2.00 and just might be the NL MVP. Kershaw got a no-decision. He did contribute to giving up two runs to the Braves, but his defense behind him was poor when it happened. It was a must win for the Braves, not the Dodgers, and Mattingly wanted to send his ace to the mound on three days rest in the first round when he could’ve done so for game five.
There’s an old saying that sometimes the best move is the one that isn’t made. Who is to say the Dodgers would be where they are at had they replaced Mattingly with somebody else? Mattingly and Clint Hurdle of the Pittsburgh Pirates would have to be the top two NL Manager of the Year candidates, in my opinion. The Dodgers are in the playoffs and in the NLCS for the first time since 2009.
Winning the pennant won’t be easy, seeing as how stacked the Cardinals are with talent, but the man who fans wanted gone five short months ago, is four wins away from taking his team to the World Series.