Don Mattingly's Fate to be Decided This Week
David Blumenkrantz/Arroyo Seco Journal
Dodger fans in the growing run-Don-Mattingly-out-of-town-on-a-rail movement won't have long to wait for an announcement. They may not like the result, but they won't have long to wait.
Let's go straight to the ifs-and-buts card.
If Los Angeles comes back to win the National League Championship Series over St. Louis -- and it's possible, more on that in a minute -- Mattingly not only gets his 2014 contract option (rumored to be around $1.4 million) picked up, he might just have a rich extension before the World Series begins on October 23.
If the Dodgers come back to make it a competitive series, doing fans and ownership proud, while losing to the Cardinals in six or seven games, the club probably exercises the manager's option. At the very least, and probably by the end of the week.
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If, however, L.A. is swept out of the NLCS, and looks bad doing so, then all bets are off. Then it's anybody's game, and by anybody I mean anybody -- or almost anybody -- could be the skipper come Spring Training, and that includes a man currently employed by another team. Say, for example, Kirk Gibson, Joe Maddon or Mike Scioscia. Please don't tell me it can't happen. It can happen.
But then again, maybe not. A deflating end to the 2013 season might not necessarily mean the end of Dodger Donnie Baseball as we know it. If Ned Colletti and Stan Kasten and Mark Walter decide that progress was made, conclude that injuries played as big a part as anything in the finished product, then perhaps another road is chosen. Maybe it's bench coach Trey Hillman who gets the heave-ho. In fact, count on that part of the equation regardless.
The Dodgers have played six postseason games this year. Mattingly has made curious decisions -- curious is the most commonly-used word going around now -- in three of those games, including one, thanks to Juan Uribe, that turned out to be a victory. Since he's made more than one curious decision in a couple of the games, it's safe to say we're looking at a number that's better than one-per-game.
In batting average terms a 1.000 is perfection, as go directly to Cooperstown, do not pass Go, but do collect $200 plus whatever the hell else your agent can get you. Go directly to Cooperstown. In manager-mistakes-per-game, not so much.
I worried aloud in my postseason primer:
If the manager and his coaches hope to see their charges play smart, they must lead by doing the same. Tim Wallach must avoid the tendency to get a runner thrown out at the plate by 20 feet and Don Mattingly must be equal to challenges posed by his counterparts.
But I'll save my harshest criticisms for a postmortem, if there is one. Because there may not be one. As Bill Plaschke notes in the L.A. Times, there has been only one successful comeback from an 0-2 opening to a best-of-seven NLCS, and that one, unhappily, was the Cards over the Dodgers in 1985, and the Jack Clark game.
It's happened twice in the American League Championship Series, most famously when the Red Sox lost the first three games to the Yankees in 2004, only to come back to win four straight.
The World Series has seen 10 comebacks from an 0-2 hole, five of them involving Brooklyn and Los Angeles teams. The Dodgers lost the first two games of the 1981 World Series in New York before winning the next four against the Yankees.
In 1965, aces Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax lost the first two in Minnesota -- by scores of 8-2 and 5-1, respectively -- and beat the Twins in seven just the same. Today's Dodgers might not have Hanley Ramirez; those Dodgers didn't have Tommy Davis.
In other words, it could be better, but it's been worse.
The Yankees were outscored 16-1 in Games 1 and 2 of the 1996 World Series at home before storming back to beat the Atlanta Braves in six.
So it happens. Teams come back after losing the first two games of a series. Dodger teams have done it. It happens. Of course, teams don't come back from being down 0-2 as well, more often than not, actually, and Dodger teams have done that too.
They were swept four in humbling fashion by the Baltimore Orioles in 1966, Sandy Koufax retired 40 days later and all second division broke out. Walter Alston kept his job, perhaps because he'd just won six pennants and four World Championships in 12 seasons, and because he was the greatest manager in Dodgers history.
Mattingly hasn't and isn't, so we shall see, and soon. But there's no such thing as a two-game NLCS. The skipper gets the benefit of the doubt for now.
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