September 18, 2010, 1:49 p.m. Nice week, huh? A coupla losses in front of a "BEAT LA-crazed San Francisco, the second one considerably worse than the first, followed by the Andre-Ethier-to-Boston hearsay heresy, and Peter O'Malley going ape-wire on Frank McCourt.
OK, that last part was interesting, now that you mention it, and pretty damn weird for Peter. Strikingly so.
Weirder still was Bob Schaefer doing about as good an impression of Alec Guinness obliterating a bridge as you'll see this side of the Pacific. Schaefer did the crazed Col. Nicholson one better, lighting the fuse while actually standing on the bridge.
Sans guilt, was Schaefer, not even bothering to ask himself, "What have I done?!!"
And Friday, without giving Los Angeles as much as ten seconds to deliberate over (fine, celebrate) Joe Torre's retirement, we get Don Mattingly thrown in our faces. Surprise, surprise, surprise, Goober.
At first glance, I don’t like it. At second glance too.
I'm disappointed. It's left me with the same feeling in my gut that's been there for almost a calendar year. You know it too. It's how you feel with each new story that comes out about the behind-the-scenes, it's how you feel with each decision or non-decision regarding player personnel, and maybe to a lesser extent, it's how you feel when you're quite sure Torre's either just about to make a pitching change that makes you cringe, or has just done so.
I feel cheated actually, like I didn't get the chance to root for a successor, for what I assumed would be at least this month, if not until after the World Series was in the books.
Let me put it this way. I had more confidence after Frank McCourt's first press conference – a hellava lot more – than I did after Don Mattingly's. And by the way, here's what I wrote the day Frank introduced himself to Los Angeles.
The takeaway like of Mattingly's presser: "I'm sure I'm going to make mistakes and plenty of them." Well, I'm inspired. How 'bout you?
Not "I'll make a few mistakes, but just a few" or "fear not, because I'm a quick study and a really smart guy" or even "I'm the best man for the job, period, end of discussion."
Those are the kinds of things I'd say with a long-anticipated opportunity in front of me (perhaps along with a "hire anyone else and you're just plain lame" line), and I'd like to think Mattingly exhibited some such chutzpah in the job interview.
Oops, I forgot; there was no job interview, for Donnie Baseball or anyone else. And therein lies the problem. With a handful of more exciting managerial candidates either available now or about to become available, why rush to tab Mattingly on September 17th? Why hire anyone on September 17th?
I can't help thinking this was McCourt's way of responding to Peter O'Malley, for his public reaming of the day before. It's like, "You know what, pal, come down here and say that." And "You can go right ahead and bite me, former owner, emphasis on the former. Here's your precious little Dodgers' new manager, and he's a New York Yankee."
We learn this morning that Mattingly's contract was in place before the 2010 season, that the genesis of the move goes back farther than that. The decision had been made, and wasn't going to be revisited. Supposedly.
Well, I'm not so sure that's the case, but we'll never hear a word to the contrary. It's funny; Friday's Prime pre-game and post-game shows were filled with talk of "honesty," mostly regarding Torre, but implied about the organization as whole.
What, like the honesty about why Manny wasn't playing those last few days? Honesty re Ronnie Belisario's various absences? Honesty about payroll, or honesty about being able to add a difference-maker in July?
I'm not a conspiracy theorist, so please don't go there, but it's almost as if the Dodgers were hoping the power of suggestion – and the word "honesty" in particular – would seep into our consciousness, so the story being presented would sit well, when the club had to know that what was coming their way was a mountain of skepticism.
Then, as if an encore to the Torre event, and the symbolic start of a new era, L.A. was treated to yet another discouraging Dodger loss to yet another team which moved forward in the stretch, instead of back; this time the Colorado Rockies.
Don Mattingly was not even on my list of managers to root for, or to argue for. I wanted a Dodger. I wanted Dusty Baker or Kirk Gibson or Tim Wallach. I wanted a house-cleaning.
If team ownership was to change hands, I wanted the new man to make the call. I wanted an interview process. I wanted thoughtfulness. I wanted better timing, or at the very least, the appearance of timing.
I wanted Mike Scioscia. And don't tell me it can't be done. Anything's possible, with the right approach at the right time. I've made the argument before, so I'll just ask you to note the date, and talk amongst yourselves.
What I didn't want was a surprise on September 17th, and for anything relating to 2010 to flow into 2011, like it now has. I'd been counting down the days till pitchers and catchers report per usual (about 150). For the moment, I've stopped doing so.
Look, of course I'll give Mattingly a chance. Of course he might debut as a rookie Manager of the Year. Of course he might be just the man to turn things around; a one-in-a-million leader of men, a mix of field genius and great communicator. Of course I hope he'll be successful next season.
But I think the odds are stacked against the under-experienced, just generally, and against Mattingly in particular. This is not Walter Alston handing off to Tommy Lasorda in September of 1976, OK. Not even close.
We shouldn't be having the discussion in September to begin with. I hate to trot out the dreaded "rush to judgment" phrase, but, well, there it is.
The only man who looked even remotely comfortable at the dais yesterday was Joe Torre, the guy getting the bleep outta there. Coincidence? I think not...
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