Manager Don Mattingly took a tougher stance with the Dodgers on Wednesday,… (Mike McGinnis / Getty Images )
People react differently when the pressure mounts, the screws tightened and disappointment is heightened.
Fair or not, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly is a man under fire. He is clearly feeling the weight of growing discontent. And if he is going down for it all, he has apparently decided it will not be without a fight, belated or not.
Mattingly -- the players’ manager, the great defender of his team -- turned the other way before Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee. His patience has finally worn out.
As tactfully as he could manage, he called out his team, and Andre Ethier in particular, over its play this season.
Ethier was benched for the third time in six games, but this time not against a left-hander, but right-hander Wily Peralta and his 5.94 earned-run average. Mattingly thinly veiled his criticism when asked whether Ethier, and his $85-million contract, was now a part-time player.
“For me, today, I’m putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest,” Mattingly said.
Ethier is batting .264 with four home runs, 15 RBIs and a .405 slugging percentage. He homered and tripled Monday, but has been guilty of seemingly giving away too many at-bats, though is hardly the only one. In the off-season, Mattingly said the volatile Ethier had given away 100 at-bats in 2012.
There is clearly a message being sent by the frustrated Mattingly to Ethier, but also the rest of the club. These kinds of moves tend to get everyone’s attention.
“I want to put a club out there that I think for the long range that you can trust, that’s going to fight and compete the whole day,” Mattingly said.
But his comments were not aimed just at Ethier, but at the entire club, including the way it was put together.
“Part of it is your mixture of your competitiveness too,” Mattingly said. “It’s not just all, ‘Let’s go put an All-Star team out there and play games and the team with the All-Star team wins.’ It’s trying to find that balance of a team that’s got a little grit and a little fight. They’ll fight you and have enough talent to get there also, with that. All grit and no talent is not going to get you there and all talent and no grit is not going to get you there. There’s got to be a mixture of both.”
Mattingly said last year’s club got more out of its ability, which is hardly arguable. There can be only so much hiding behind injuries, and Mattingly is no longer going to let his team meekly slip into its shadows.
This may all be too little too late for him to save his job. And calling out players and criticizing how your club is constructed is not normally a method to build job security.
Mattingly has to hope it’s a turning point, and it figures to be for either the team or him.