Wow, did I really see what I saw on last night's post-game interview? Did I really read what I read all over today's sports pages and blogs? I've been a Dodger fan a mighty long time, and I don't EVER remember hearing or reading the Dodger's manager saying...and I quote,
"We're just not that good."
That's quite a statement - out loud - to the press - in L.A.!! But it hadda be said.
Mattingly is what they call a "players" coach. I get it, he's empathetic because he was a player too. Some don't like his easy going attitude, and fault him for not showing more aggression. Oh, it's there alright, but not like a Billy Martin aggression. Mattingly is apparently a passive aggressive manager.
Although he's clearly frustrated (as are all in the Dodger Nation) with the state of the ballclub, yesterdays's press conferences were not irrational, purging-of-emotions tirades. They were a calculated move - albeit, a desperate Hail Mary - to light a fire under the Dodgers' collective rear ends before the season slips away. He just called his players out publicly, and it's a tactic he's used before.
Last year at this time the Dodgers were in the same whirlpool of suckiness they're swirling in today. He used this same tactic to call out the team generally and Andre Ethier particularly for not playing with enough "GRIT".
I'm not saying that tactic caused the team's miracle turnaround from the cellar to the penthouse, as it took a perfect storm of circumstances to arise in order for that to happen. I'm just not discounting it outright as a factor. If anything, it planted the seeds for his calling bullshite on the team's lack of heart and poor play so far this season.
Mattingly held closed clubhouse meetings, personal meetings, team-wide meetings and did pretty much everything he can do to inspire the team - all to no avail.
Prima dona Matt Kemp has done his share to let everyone know it's all about him and the Gap. Other players are feeling uncomfortable. Team leaders haven't fixed things. Rookies are posting notes about togetherness on clubhouse walls and open air arguments are taking place in the dugout as the midway point of the season is fast approaching. It was definitely time for a Hail Mary play by somebody.
So Mattingly showed his frustration-furrowed face, called out the troops for not being good enough, and pointed the press in the direction of his players. "Go ask them why we suck." He's using a backdoor to challenge them to prove themselves as athletes and men.
It was a brilliantly calculated move because today is an off day for the team. Mattingly dropped his bomb in a way that everyone would feel shock in the clubhouse last night, and then feel the awe when away from the ballpark and alone with themselves today.
The second prong of Mattingly's play involves the Dodgers starting a road trip away from the prying eyes, microphones and tweets of a good chunk of the L.A. press. They'll be away from the comforts of home and in enemy territory. What better time for a group to come together?
Heck, Mattingly even pulled the Tommy Lasorda card and used Tommy's analogy about the strength of a team all pulling together on the same side of the rope.
I gotta admit, just for that, Mattingly scored some points with me. But I'm not really the one that matters here. The question is, how will the Dodgers react?