If the lesson to the media, and to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal in particular is “mess with the Dodgers, you get burned,” it's been delivered loud and clear, received, over and out. And I'm having piping hot soup for lunch, by the way.
Consider the Don Mattingly-inspired headlines following the manager's comments Wednesday: “Has Don Mattingly crossed the Rubicon?” and “Mattingly's Comments Turn Dodgers Season Into Circus of Turmoil,” “Don Mattingly rips into players and makeup of Dodgers,” “Has Don Mattingly fired himself with his comments?” and “Don Mattingly vents about the Dodgers,” courtesy of Rosenthal, who previously predicted the exact day of the skippers firing, with the his “Ax to fall soon for Dodgers' Mattingly” piece.
And look at them now: “Don Mattingly not critical of Dodgers' brass,” “Owner 'understands' critical words,” “Dodgers' bosses get points for their patience,” “Dodgers' prez sides with Don Mattingly,” the latter by Rosenthal, who feeling the sting, couldn't have been more concise.
Most members of the baseball media, some of whom actually follow the team on a daily basis, were convinced that Mattingly was a dead duck. Some, perhaps trusting Rosenthal, leaned toward Thursday as the perfect time, with the Dodgers being off that day, etc., and if not Thursday, then over the weekend or early next week. Or, as Humphrey Bogart said famously to Ingrid Bergman — although not necessarily about Mattingly's dismissal — “soon and for the rest of your life.”
The Dodgers host the league-best 30-16 St. Louis Cardinals this weekend, beginning tonight with Lance Lynn and Chris Capuano at 7:10 p.m. Tomorrow Big Fox covers the game (John Gast vs. Ted Lilly at 4:15 p.m.) with the Mattingly situation sure to be the focus of a good half hour of pregame, followed by a solid three hours of conversation during (and with Lilly throwing, it might be considerably longer than that). Rosenthal may be working the sideline, perhaps a bit more part of the story than he'd like to be.
If there's one thing the Los Angeles organization understands like a mutha it's public relations. Going all the back to the Walter O'Malley Dodger days of Red Patterson and Fred Claire (remember, Claire was pr man before he was general manager) handling the media professionally and precisely has been as much a part of the system as the game itself. Pitching 101 and PR 101; one without the other and you might as well close up shop.
We should take the club at its word that Mattingly is secure in his job, if not for the entire season, at least for the immediate future. Stan Kasten has stood up for his man, supported the status quo, and in the process cut the legs off a national story in exactly the manner an old pro would and should do so.
My guess is, the idea of a press conference not to their liking, the club put out word to the media outlets you see links to in the second paragraph of links above, gave those particular writers and perhaps a few more the message from Kasten that all was well, Mattingly was safe, and let's move onto the Dodgers and Cards, thank you very much. And it worked just like laid out in the communications textbook.
The most obviously casualty in all this is Andre Ethier. Because if you're supporting Mattingly, who chose to single out his right fielder for public criticism Wednesday, you're throwing the player under the bus. For all we know, there's some reasoned calculation involved and they're right to do so.
More will be revealed, apparently, and it should be a fascinating weekend, with the marquee pitching matchup of Shelby Miller and Clayton Kershaw in the series finale Sunday at 1:10 p.m.
Props to the always-clutch Tom Hoffarth, of the Los Angeles Daily News, for his timely post about former (and possibly future) manager turned broadcaster, Kevin Kennedy.
And check Greg Zakwin's perspective on all things Mattingly, from his new post at Yahoo Sports.