The 1962 New York Mets -- losers of 120 games and a team the locals are resembling more and more each day -- were led by a first baseman known fondly as Marvelous Marv Throneberry, about whom it was said, "If he could get to it, he could drop it."
The 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers -- losers of but 36 games thus far -- are led by Don Mattingly, about whom it might soon be said, "If he can get his club to within a chance to win a ballgame, he can blow it."
The Dodgers lost another heartbreaker, 5-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, last night at Chavez Ravine; another in a line of crushing defeats in which the bullpen blew a win for a worthy starter while the manager twiddled his thumbs and let it all go horribly, horribly wrong.
Clayton Kershaw did his level-best to hand the ball to Kenley Jansen with a 3-1 lead after seven innings, Jansen responding with a scoreless frame. But then Brandon League (or the "beleaguered League," as is currently in vogue) ran into trouble early and often in the ninth, and the results were about as bad as could be predicted. The thing is, the results could've have been predicted, which made it that much more painful for the viewer. Exponentially so.
After retiring the leadoff batter, League allowed a single to Martin Prado and a double to thorn-in-the-Dodgers-side Geraldo Parra. Tying runs in scoring position and not a mouse stirring in the L.A. pen. Jason Kubel singled in a run, Didi Gregorius walked, A.J. Pollack was retired mercifully for the second out before Willie Bloomquist singled to plate the tying and go-ahead runs.
Fine, so two of those singles were of the infield variety. BFD. Somewhere in all that Mattingly belatedly got up from his perch, went to the bullpen phone and called for help. Way, way, way too late, and with a parade of left-hand hitters approaching, no lefty reliever as much as picked up a baseball.
Even if both Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell were naked and sore-armed, which was not the case, you simply have to get one or the other up, if for nothing other than to give Kirk Gibson something to worry about. At the very least. And Mattingly either declined the option or it didn't occur to him. I'm sorry, but this is just baseball malpractice, and it goes on and on and on.
Peter Moylan surrendered the last of the Diamondbacks' four ninth-inning runs before getting the third out, and the Dodgers rallied to almost win in the bottom half, scoring one before managing second and third with no outs, with neither man scoring, as is their custom. But this loss goes to two men and two men only: poor Brandon League, obviously, and Don Mattingly, more obviously. Much more obviously.
In the postgame interview session, the skipper predictably went to the matchups card, then as is his recent custom, threw one of his men -- League -- under the bus, while taking zero responsibility or even acknowledging the possibility of his own mistakes. In fact, "Solid decision," said Mattingly, in response to a bullpen management question. "Really?!," said Seth and Amy.
Also in the postgame -- and this is what really irks me -- Mattingly suggested that had it not been for those Jansen/League matchups with the Dbacks' hitters, he'd have trotted out League for the eighth and Jansen for the save. Now, if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you. Oh wait, Mattingly's a Yankee; some bridge in the Bronx then.
Look, this is only my opinion and I can never prove it, but I genuinely believe that Mattingly was lying through his teeth with the notion that he'd have flip-flopped his relievers right then and there. He's avoided demoting League for weeks, despite a mountain of evidence that it was required, and he wasn't going to make the move last night in such a high-profile situation. He just wasn't.
Instead Donnie chose textbook spin. He's become quite good at it. And almost the entire Dodgers press corps, breathless in their naivety, bought it hook, line and League's ineffective sinker. If only the manager was as thoughtful in his baseball strategy as he is cunning with the media.
Mattingly is as much the problem as anything else and he needs to go as soon as possible. Sooner than possible. Today, this afternoon or early evening, if it can be arranged. He's awful with the Xs and Os, he's head-in-the-sand negligent when it comes to the health of his players, and he deflects all blame while never offering a solution. He's just not good at his job. Period, exclamation point.
Los Angeles sports a 27-36 record and sits a season-tying nine games under .500, good for last place in the National League West, 8 ½ games back of Arizona, which also ties a season-worst. They've never been 10 under, so perhaps that's the watermark they reach tonight. I see no reason to allow for the possibility with the incumbent in power.
For the decreasing-in-size but still pesky army of Mattingly supporters remaining, here's something for you to ponder. Answer this question, if you can: Isn't it possible for the Dodgers to have suffered an unfair amount of injuries, and for upper and middle management to have contributed more than their fair share of mistakes, and for Donnie Baseball to be a woefully sub-par manager?