Saturday, October 12, 2013
One of those head-scratching moments arose in the top of the 12th inning Friday night in St. Louis.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were tied 2-2 with the host Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS. Los Angeles outfielder Carl Crawford singled off St. Louis pitcher Lance Lynn to lead off the top of the 12th.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly then asked Mark Ellis to bunt Crawford into scoring position, which he did. But guess what? That strategy played right into the Cardinals' hands. That opened up first base and allowed St. Louis manager Mike Matheny to walk the Dodgers' No. 3 hitter, Hanley Ramirez, intentionally. Ramirez is probably the most dangerous hitter Los Angeles has. If you're the Dodgers, don't you want him to take his hacks there? The intentional walk also set up a possible double play. That's exactly what happened. Michael Young bounced into a rally-killing double play. Inning over, game still tied.
I could maybe justify the bunt if Adrian Gonzalez was still hitting in the cleanup spot, just behind Ramirez, for the Dodgers. That would have been a pick-your-poison situation for Matheny. Pitch to Ramirez? Or walk Ramirez and take your chances with Gonzalez? That would have been a tough call, but Gonzalez had been lifted for a pinch runner earlier in the game. Deciding whether to pitch to Ramirez or Young is a significantly easier call to make, and Matheny made the obvious choice. Lynn made the pitch he needed to make and got out of trouble.
St. Louis eventually won 3-2 in 13 innings on a walk-off hit by right fielder Carlos Beltran. Right now, Beltran is probably the Cardinals' best hitter. He had all three RBIs in Friday's game. He made his presence felt. Meanwhile, Ramirez didn't get his chance in the 12th inning, and it was by his manager's own folly that the bat was taken out of his hands.
Mattingly had to know Matheny was going to walk Ramirez with a base open, right? It's a manager's job to think two or three moves ahead. So, knowing that, why would Mattingly open up first base by having Ellis bunt? I don't get it.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
There is no arguing the Dodgers are getting a horrible return on their investment. Their payroll is $217 million. Meanwhile, coming into Wednesday's action they were 5-18 in May and 18-26 overall. Only the New York Mets and the woeful Miami Marlins had worse records among National League teams.
The more I think about it, though, we shouldn't be surprised the Dodgers are struggling. They have a bunch of guys who are former All-Stars, sure, but those same All-Stars were all traded to Los Angeles for a reason. Namely, they were overpaid malcontents that other teams wanted gone.
The Boston Red Sox (27-19) are a better team and probably a happier clubhouse now that Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett are the Dodgers' problems. The Marlins may stink, but at least they don't have to put up with the lazy, half-ass play of Hanley Ramirez anymore.
Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly is in the final year of his contract, and most people believe he'll be taking the fall for the underachievement of this overpaid roster soon.
Mattingly must know it, too, because he let his players have it Wednesday.
"We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn't have talent,'' Mattingly told the Orange County Register. "I felt we got more out of our ability [last season]. I don't know about being tougher, but I felt we got more out of our ability.''
Mattingly did not directly criticize Dodgers management, but he did make comments that seem to be an indictment of the way the roster was put together.
"There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,'' Mattingly said. "It's not, "Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.' It's finding that balance of a team that has a little bit of grit and will fight you. And also having the talent to go with it. All grit and no talent isn't going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit isn't going to get you there either.''
Indeed, real baseball is not fantasy baseball. The Dodgers are finding that out the hard way this season.