The NLDS was won and lost by the players on the field. That’s the best I can say about it. The Dodgers won two games because Clayton Kershaw stepped up in Game 4, Justin Turner was a legend all series, Adrian Gonzalez & Howie Kendrick were contributors, Kenley Jansen nailed down both wins, Zack Greinke contributed two good starts, and because they received a favorable umpiring decision when Chase Utley took down Ruben Tejada.
They lost three games because Kershaw ran out of gas in Game 1 and Pedro Baez couldn’t back him up, Brett Anderson was a mess in Game 3, and a combination of injuries/rust/inability to adjust rendered Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson mere shells of what they’d been earlier in the year — and because Jacob deGrom, Jeurys Familia, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey are all very, very good pitchers, and the Mets are a good team.
But the end result is that they lost, and so obviously the attention turns to Don Mattingly‘s always-questionable job status. My take is that while there are small things you could quibble with about his performance in this series — whether Baez was the right call in Game 1, why Jimmy Rollins got a start, letting Utley hit for Pederson last night, whether he should have forced A.J. Ellis on Zack Greinke — he was overall good enough, especially in deftly managing Kershaw to Chris Hatcher to Jansen in that must-win Game 4.
Until we hear from the front office, presumably in the next week or two, the ongoing question of whether Mattingly will (or should) be back will dominate. There’s already a few national stories about it…
Mattingly is a big boy. Even with the consistently strong regular seasons, he’d probably understand if the Dodgers made a change, at least to a degree. And at this point, he himself probably wouldn’t be shocked.
But that doesn’t mean it would be the right thing to do. And it wouldn’t be.
Even the best front offices, like the best managers, make mistakes. Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Co. spent considerable time putting the Dodgers in better position for the future, clearing bad money, acquiring young talent. The team, led by youngsters such as shortstop Corey Seager and, if they develop, outfielder Joc Pederson and left-hander Julio Urias, eventually could turn into a monster.
That it failed to happen this season is not Mattingly’s fault. It is not entirely the front office’s fault, given that it could accomplish only so much in its first year. But let’s not overlook Mattingly’s strengths — his even personality, his ability to manage egos and hold together a diverse group of players. And let’s not pretend that he was the problem, not after he led the Dodgers to three straight postseason appearances for the first time in club history.
…which I think are measured takes. For all the talk of “ZOMG $300M PAYROLL,” that’s not what Mattingly had. He didn’t have Hyun-jin Ryu or Brandon McCarthy or Erisbel Arruebarrena or Hector Olivera at all other than McCarthy’s four starts, or Carl Crawford or Yasiel Puig or Howie Kendrick or Jansen for chunks of time, or all the money it took to make Brandon League, Brian Wilson, Dan Haren, and Matt Kemp disappear, or the money given to “screw it let’s eat salary on this guy who will never play for us so we can get something else” guys like Bronson Arroyo, Ryan Webb, and Michael Morse.
But you know how I feel about this. I wasn’t thrilled when Mattingly was hired in the first place and spent most of the next few years dying about his bunts and in-game mistakes, but eventually came to respect how much he’d shown improvement, both in terms of what we could see on the field and with what we’d heard about his willingness to accept the analytics from the front office. Ultimately, I think he won the NL West — and since it was wrapped up weeks prior to the end of the season, whether he won 92 or 93 or 96 games is meaningless to me — and saw it not work out. I’m not sure I see the NLDS ending differently if it had been Joe Maddon or Dusty Baker or Larry Bowa in charge.
I also know there’s a considerable amount of the fanbase that will just kill the manager on everything, no matter how stupid, who think that the manager is responsible for every single win and loss, and that they will have a collective heart attack if Mattingly is retained. I’m not sure how much the front office cares about that opinion. I know those fans aren’t likely to read this kind of site, anyway.
So I guess my opinion is “he’s fine and doesn’t deserve to lose his job unless you can offer up someone immediately better,” and I can’t say I know who that might be right now. Until this is resolved, hopefully soon, though, this is all you’ll want to talk about. So go at it. I already hate this discussion.