It took 61 games before Don Mattingly finally boiled over. The Los Angeles Dodgers — currently 31-30 and rapidly falling behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants — have performed well below expectations for a team with the largest payroll in baseball history. Apparently, chemistry and selfishness are at the heart of the issue for Mattingly, and now is the time that it needs to change.
According to Mattingly:
"Basically, we're [expletive]," Mattingly said. "We're just not that good."
Mattingly went on to explain the reason for his team failing to play according to expectations, channeling beloved Dodger Tommy Lasorda in the process:
“"Tommy says it all the time, and it seems corny at times, but he says, 'We all have to get on one end of the rope.' But as many times as you've heard Tommy say it, it's absolutely true. When that group gets going in one direction and that focus is purely to win a game no matter who gets the attention or who gets this or who gets that, I think it's always better.”
The issue of chemistry and cohesiveness is ridiculed to a degree in the analytics community, but Mattingly believes that he has seen the impact firsthand, and the lack of cohesion has resulted in the struggles that the Dodgers have endured thus far:
"That's the one thing you don't measure with numbers and that's the power you talk about with a group. We haven't felt that as a team, and I think it's the one area that we're missing. To be absolutely honest with you, I think that's the one thing we're missing at this point, a collective group fighting and pulling in one direction trying to win a game, without any concept of this guy or that guy or this guy."
There is indeed something of a disconnect with the Dodgers’ numbers and their performance on the field. The club is third in the National League in runs scored, fourth in OBP and fourth in OPS. The pitching certainly is not an area of weakness, though the relief corps’ struggles have dropped their team ERA to sixth in the NL at 3.46. Still, these numbers are contradictory to the mediocrity that the Dodgers have exhibited.
Mattingly sees selfishness in the dugout spilling over into the play on the field. While the manager declined to discuss any specifics, he did express frustration about having to consistently handle questions about individual players, saying:
“Honestly, so tired of talking about individual guys instead of talking about us as a club and how we are going to win games. There's so much focus on individual guys that we've gotten away from, 'What's the team doing? How are we going to win games?' "
There is always an ulterior motive when these sorts of comments are made. Mattingly is likely frustrated, but he also knows that he must motivate his team in some way. When it comes to a move such as this, however, it reveals the desperation that the club is already feeling in early June.
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