These editorials about the Dodgers woes aren’t articles I set out to write for this site. I like to keep the mood light and inform you, the fans about what’s going on with the team on a day-to-day basis.
My intensions are to be constructively critical, being excited as anyone when the team is doing well, but when the team isn’t performing, to articulate the reasons why that is happening.
Last night was the lowest I’ve felt as a Dodger fan in quite some time and couldn’t get the loss out of my mind as I drove home from Dodger Stadium.
Coming into the 2013 season, I didn’t think I’d look at the standings beyond maybe the first week in April when teams are getting a rhythm or might have an injury from spring training where I’d see the Dodgers in last place.
27-36. That is the Dodgers record before they begin play today with the Arizona Diamondbacks. It’s hard to put into words what last night’s loss meant to the team since they fell yet another game behind the Dbacks.
While their record is terrible and their inconsistencies are starting to frustrate everyone, let’s assess if the heightened expectations coming into the season are the root cause of this tumultuous season.
The Dodgers sent shockwaves through the baseball world last August when they acquired Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox in what was the largest financial transaction past the trade deadline in baseball history.
Gonzalez was decent, Beckett showed he had something left in the tank while Crawford was recovering from Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers then made headlines in the off-season when they signed star pitcher Zack Greinke to slot behind ace Clayton Kershaw in their rotation.
The payroll was $220 million, but did the talent match the amount of money being spent? I remember talking to several people in the off-season saying that this team would make the playoffs, but there were a lot of “what if’s” surrounding the team.
Would Gonzalez regain his power stroke? Would Matt Kemp be fully recovered from off-season shoulder surgery? Would Andre Ethier hit lefties? How would Hyun-Jin Ryu do? Would Beckett build off the end of last season? Who would be the fifth starter?
The list goes on from there, but obviously the media hyped this team up to levels that we all expected to be fulfilled by a roster with inflated salaries.
This was never going to be a team that won 95 games. I believed that 88-90 wins would get the Dodgers a wild card spot, but the division was difficult since the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants are all solid-to-good teams.
However, since the beginning of the season, the Dodgers season has been stuck in neutral. Kemp, Ethier and Beckett to name a few haven’t performed while Gonzalez and Crawford are the team’s most consistent hitters.
After a 13-13 April without Hanley Ramirez since he broke his thumb in the WBC, the team preached “when we’re healthy, everything will click”.
Unfortunately, Ramirez returned from that injury and subsequently injured his hamstring in San Francisco. Kemp has two home runs and Ethier looks completely lost at the plate.
Kemp hit the disabled list recently with an injured hamstring as his two home runs suggest that he’s either: pressing, still battling his shoulder injury, or needs to get his vision checked.
The Dodgers then endured their worst May in Los Angeles Dodgers history. No that isn’t an exaggeration. It’s a sure-fire fact. A 10-17 May left the team with a record of 23-30, but still within shouting distance of the division lead.
It’s been difficult to preach that the Dodgers have a chance at winning the division since they haven’t put it all together and for the mere fact that the two wild card spots aren’t in play.
Ahead of them in the standings are the Giants, Rockies, Nationals, Phillies, Padres while the Reds and Pirates have a firm 3.5 game lead over both spots.
So, the calendar turned over to June and Yasiel Puig took the team by storm. Four home runs in his first week and a Player of the Week honor so I decided that I would take my first trip to Chavez Ravine Sunday afternoon and last night against the Diamondbacks.
I witnessed Matt Magill walk the entire Braves team and before I finished my second Super Dog, the Dodgers were losing 8-1. However, I went to see Puig play. The guy that’s taking major league baseball by storm and has raised his average to .500 after going 3-4 last night.
The reason for this article is because of the feelings I had after watching Brandon League blow his fourth save of the season and the Dodgers 13th overall last night.
I joked earlier last night that playing such a low scoring game meant League would be in charge of closing out the game, but in my wildest dreams did I expect the ninth inning to unfold how it did last night.
Leading 3-1 against the first place team. A chance to get to 6.5 games of the lead after your team has significantly underperformed and Don Mattingly was afraid of upsetting players.
I’ve been on the side of the “don’t fire Mattingly”, but after last night, I’ve converted. Mattingly sat on his hands as Martin Prado laced a single followed by a double by Gerardo Parra. Second and third and one out and nobody was throwing in back of League?
Naturally, League would allow three runs to score until Peter Moylan was finally brought in and he gave up a run to stretch the lead to 5-3. First and third nobody out and Nick Punto, Mark Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez couldn’t tie the game as the Dodgers fell 5-4.
I get it, you don’t want to shake League’s confidence, but it’s June 10 Don. The team needs to win at anyones expense. I thought we turned this corner when Ethier was benched in Milwaukee: holding players more accountable for their performance and that their salary is just a number.
We all know the Dodgers have struggled to score with RISP and the umpire did blow the call in the eighth inning, but why wasn’t Ethier pinch hit for against a lefty? He’s hitting .229 on the season and has 14 runs scored. It doesn’t matter that he’s hitting better against lefties this year, it wasn’t likely he’d breakthrough at that given moment.
So where do the Dodgers go from here? All I know is that last night was the worst I’ve felt about this team in a long time. Mattingly needs to manage every game that it’s an elimination game because wasting Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu starts are the last things that need to be done right now.
I’ll never lose faith in this team because I do believe that there is a hot streak somewhere and the baseball season is so long, but right now, it’s hard. We live and die with every pitch, every hit, every out and we’ve been starved too long without a World Series championship, let alone appearance.
The Dodgers still have time to turn this season around and while it’s ultimately up to the players to succeed, Mattingly must find a way to put them in a place to do so. It’s reached that point everyone: every game matters and losses like last night, get a manger fired.