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Not time for Dodgers to have knee-jerk reaction on Don Mattingly

May 20, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly heads back to the dugout after making a pitching change against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly heads back to the dugout after making a pitching… (Scott Cunningham / Getty…)

And so we’re back to this, back to the easy way, the quick solution -- not that it is necessarily a solution at all.

Fire Don Mattingly.

The most expensive team in baseball history is in last place in the division, and there is understandable frustration all around.

Yet the most damning thing about this predictable fire-the-manager drum beat is that the drum beat grows. That could prove the biggest problem for Mattingly: He could ultimately be let go less for any perceived managerial misgivings and more to simply curtail the continued distraction of his job status.

Most of the cries for his head have come from those who do not cover the Dodgers on a daily basis, and you would have every right to be suspicious that those who do may be less than completely objective.

Mattingly is good guy, grounded and highly likable. For all his superstardom as a player and those years performing in the Big Apple, there is nothing phony or pretentious about him. You can’t help but wish him well. He’s the guy you’d like to have as your neighbor and invite over to have a beer and watch the game.

But the Dodgers are 17-25 and coming off an ugly series sweep in Atlanta. Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal came out with a column Sunday night with the headline: “Ax to fall soon for LA’s Mattingly.” Yet the headline was much more provocative than the column, which was speculation based on his years of covering baseball.

Which does not mean it may not prove true if the Dodgers go into Milwaukee with starters Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and get swept again.

The Dodgers have new owners, so there is no history to go on concerning how they will deal with this disappointing start. Team President Stan Kasten has been a baseball executive for over 25 years, however, and you would assume he would take a steady, long-view approach. In Atlanta, he hired Bobby Cox, who managed there for 21 consecutive years. Of course, in the previous the previous nine years Kasten went through six managers, including Cox (the first time) and Joe Torre.

Kasten will realize that the Dodgers have placed six starting pitchers on the disabled list the first six weeks of the season and have yet to field the projected starting lineup even once all season.

He is also the guy who did not extend Mattingly’s contract in the off-season and left the manager in the lame-duck status that is helping to fuel all the distracting speculation.

Mattingly is not the one who determines which players are on the roster. He clearly wanted to keep reliever Kevin Gregg to start the season, but with health uncertainties rife in the Dodgers' surplus rotation, General Manager Ned Colletti elected to keep all eight starting pitchers and let go of Gregg (0.00 ERA and now closing for the Cubs).

So now the bullpen is a mess, but it’s hard to blame Mattingly for that. Kenley Jansen and Paco Rodriguez (not yet a full year out of college) had been his most reliable relievers, and both suffered Atlanta meltdowns. Mattingly did not sign Brandon League to a three-year, $21-million deal based largely on a really good month.

Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, both now with long-term, multimillion-dollar contracts, are not hitting. Third base is the predicted problem. Mattingly is being forced to play utility man Nick Punto every day because he is one of the team's only reliable bats. Hardly a formula for success.

Mattingly may not have won over the faithful with his results, but this season has yet to be played with anything close to the deck he was supposed to have been dealt. He deserves a chance to right this mess, and, for the most part, history says midseason managerial moves don’t prove significant.

Yes, I like the guy personally and my view may be clouded. But I can’t see someone else coming in right now, sprinkling pixie dust -- or “Dodgers dust” as Mattingly once called it -- and magically righting the ship.

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