Anytime a team starts struggling, the finger pointing begins.
Unfortunately for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, most fingers have been pointed squarely in his (sometimes goateed and sometimes clean shaven) face for most of the season.
Add in an eight-game losing streak punctuated with a loss to the AAA Marlins, and the number of fingers in his grill multiplied.
While I’ve been one to join in with the finger pointing at times, a period of reflection has left me wondering why I ever became part of the mob. Is LA’s slow start really Mattingly’s fault? In fact, a better question might be, why are the Dodgers really struggling?
In Mattingly’s defense, neither of those questions lead back to answers that justify firing Mattingly.
The first reason for the Dodgers’ struggles is injuries.
When a team loses four of their top seven pitchers within the first two months of the season, it’s a recipe for disaster. When a team loses half of their starting infield within the first two months of the season, it’s a recipe for disaster.
When both of those things happen simultaneously, well, you get the idea.
The fact that the Dodgers have been forced to play guys like Matt Magill, Stephen Fife, Justin Sellers and Luis Cruz is not Don Mattingly’s fault — if anything, the blame for that belongs to nothing more than bad luck.
The second biggest pitfall of 2013 has been their well-documented struggles to hit with runners on-base.
But once again, is it Mattingly’s fault that “clutch” is the last word used to describe this team?
If it’s Mattingly’s fault that the Dodgers are a woeful .223 with runners in scoring position, then I guess he also deserves credit for the team’s .276 average with the bases empty, right?
As fans we need to understand that the pendulum swings both ways.
If we want to blame Mattingly for some poor situational hitting, then we need to credit him for the ridiculous amounts of time the Dodgers have actually been able to hit with runners in scoring position!
I’m not writing this piece to convince you that Mattingly is the best manager in the world, or even that he deserves to keep his job, but my point is that Mattingly doesn’t deserve blame for some of the things he gets blamed for.
Sure, he deserves blame for how he handles his bullpen and his affinity with decisions that have very little statistical evidence defending them (i.e. bunting), but neither of those things have put this team into a 7.5 game hole in the division.
I’m all for constant evaluation of a manager, but lets give credit where credit is due, and lets not assign blame where blame is not due.
Yes, the Dodgers have been painful to follow this year, but no, it’s not all Mattingly’s fault.