Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, left, and Manager Don Mattingly… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
From Phoenix — I'm here with the Dodgers and I'm mad.
Maybe it's because I started the day reading the Arizona Republic's editorial page. The paper was making the case, "Maybe This Will Help the Cardinals" now that they have lost out on Peyton Manning.
The hometown paper concluded, "The Cards were among the hottest teams in the league through the second half of last season without Manning. This snub should provide the motivation to stay focused."
What a bunch of hooey. Does the paper really think Cardinals fans will buy the notion they are better off now with Kevin Kolb at quarterback?
How often do we all get played for suckers?
But then here I am chatting with Mark Ellis, thrilled to witness history as The Automatic Out gets two hits in an exhibition game. Now don't you wish you could have been here?
More than that, the guy is now asking me to refer to him as The Automatic Out every day so he might continue to hit.
"I'd be very happy if you did that," he says, a jolly good sport about being referred to as a Social-Security-minded infielder.
I find myself even liking the guy, worried I might make the case that others might consider him a leader of some sort. I'm beginning to sound like the Arizona Republic, while knowing no matter what, Ellis is going to do little to fill Dodger Stadium again.
What has happened to us? We're all in agreement the McCourts were losers, but have we gone numb to the continuing Dodgers' decay?
Have we reached the stage where we will settle for mediocrity, with the Dodgers not making a World Series appearance for almost a quarter of a century and Clayton Kershaw winning once every five days being good enough?
While Los Angeles waits for a new baseball owner, must another season go to waste?
Why aren't people more outraged? Frank McCourt is a goner; why no outrage at what the Dodgers are going to try to pass off as entertainment?
At the very least, sustained outrage will send a message to the new owner that he best do a better job.
Why has anyone bought a ticket for this season beyond the tradition that is opening day? I'd like to hear a good reason.
Why isn't GM Ned Colletti apologizing for failing to do something to return excitement to Dodger Stadium? As empty as that stadium appeared last season, he had to do something.
Doesn't he want to show the new owner he's been more than just a penny-pinching yes man for McCourt? At the very least, why isn't he empathizing with Dodgers fans who want so much more out of their team?
"We had a chance with Prince Fielder," Colletti says, and settled for James Loney.
Why hasn't Colletti filled the McCourt void, what with the owner going into hiding and no one seemingly in control? Was he worried about being fired? Who takes the GM post with McCourt already pronounced a dead man?
If this group of mediocre players is going to be successful they will have to fight for respect; why hasn't Colletti set an example?
Isn't Don Mattingly auditioning to remain on the job as manager under new ownership?
"I don't know what I'm doing," says Mattingly.
"I know that," I'm telling him Tuesday morning. "We're not arguing that point. But wouldn't you like better players, a better chance to win and hang around longer?"
"I'm going to do the best job I can," he says.
Always a surprise when someone doesn't say, "I'm going to do the worst job I can."
But wouldn't better players help Mattingly do a better job?
"I remember you saying in a rare forthright moment…" and Mattingly interrupts.
"What's forthright mean?"' he wants to know.
"Truthful," I tell him. "I was impressed you opened your mouth at the end of the season and said this team needed another big bat if it was going to be successful. But you didn't get it."
"At this point I'm not caring what we need," Mattingly says. "I'm playing with guys we have."
And that's enough to win?
"At the end of the day, guys have to make plays," he says. "I don't care who is managing. I'm not winning games."
So there you go; the Dodgers have players who aren't all that good, and an admission from the manager that no one should be counting on him to win games.
I doubt Tommy Lasorda would feel the same way; Lasorda spoke to the entire team Tuesday because he still thinks he can make a difference.
"This is a good team," says Colletti, when reminded how far the Dodgers have slipped under his guidance. "I'm not going to say a great team, but a good team."
Now doesn't that make you mad? Why should anyone in Los Angeles settle for a good team, especially the general manager, and not wage the fight to field a great team?
I reel off the names of his off-season acquisitions, including Ellis, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston, Todd Coffey and Adam Kennedy, and do so without nodding off.
"There's nobody sexy in that group; I admit that," Colletti says. "But they are solid players."
I offer him a chance to discuss what he would like to see the Dodgers be under good ownership, but he declines.
He says he doesn't want to bad-mouth McCourt, and what's that got to do with good ownership?
"I think we're better than we were at the end of the season," says Colletti. "If we get some confidence and run momentum early, we'll be a little better than good."
Finally, a battle cry Dodgers fans can really rally around: "We might be a little bit better than good this season!"