I told you
Well, sometimes it hurts to always be right…
As I predicted from the off-season, through spring training, and every step leading to the playoffs, the 2014 Dodgers were not built for Oct baseball. As a wise friend said, it’s like Billy Beane admitting his team is good enough to get there, but once in the post-season, anything can happen and he has no control over it. The $235M payroll Dodgers turned out to be an expensive Moneyball collection of individuals, not a “team.” The pieces were cobbled together by Stan Kasten to win over Angelenos who had grown weary of McCourt’s antics and parking lot mayhem. Stars – pretty stars – guys who could be counted on X amount of home runs, RBI, wins, etc., etc. were assembled without thought of old baseball truisms like timely hitting, defense and leadership. A bullpen? Who needs a bullpen? Certainly Kasten didn’t think so, and he did nothing to alter the path as the season progressed. Suddenly it became a surprise to pundits and fans that lo and behold, the Dodgers didn’t have one.
Well, it didn’t matter, since the Dodgers did have starting pitching. Forget Ryu was coming off a month long break due to a shoulder surgery and all world Cy Young/MVP candidate Kershaw came off a beat down in Game 6 last year vs. the same St. Louis Cardinals. Surely this year would be different. Just hope and pray the starters all went 8, to get the ball to mostly reliable closer Kenley Jansen. Expensive starters pitch late into games, right?
Fans too easily point to Don Mattingly, who is a simpleton to be sure. He’s not a good manager, too safe, too unimaginative and not cut out for playoff action when the managerial guide book is thrown out the window. As bad as Donnie is, it’s not his fault – or not all of it. There is plenty of blame to go around for why the Dodgers again have been eliminated and will have to watch the Fall Classic on TV, and here are some of the goats and reasons why they are…
Clayton Kershaw – as good as Kershaw is in the regular season, he’s as bad in the playoffs. Blame Mattingly if you wish, but Kershaw is paid a ton of money to get the ball and win important ballgames. Kershaw had to win Game 6 last year and got crushed. He had to win the other night at Chavez Ravine and sailed along nicely until he got pulverized. He had to win today and gave up the huge homer that buried the Dodgers. Donnie makes mistakes, as Donnie isn’t a good manager, but when you make as much as Kershaw does and are called not only the ace, but the best pitcher in baseball, you have to deliver. Like them or not, but Curt Schilling wouldn’t have lost these games. He wouldn’t have made that costly pitch today. Roger Clemens. Greg Maddux. Tom Glavine. Randy Johnson. And the list goes on. When you accept a lot of money, you accept responsibility. Donnie is a moron for continuing to bat Puig in the 2 hole when he’s striking out as much as you or I would, but Kershaw was given leads and all he had to do was be Kershaw – and he couldn’t. I said it in the winter and again during the season – everyone loves him, and for good reason, but Kershaw is NOT a big game pitcher. He’s young, he may be at some point (if his confidence isn’t shattered much like another talented farm product – Ismael Valdes – was), but last year and this, he hasn’t manned up when it mattered most. Donnie is a dunce, can’t think outside the box, but Kershaw lost 2 of the 3 games the team dropped and only has himself to blame. Disagree if you want, but its fact. Let’s hope it’s a Cardinals thing and not a post-season thing. Let’s hope the young man learns from this and wins a ring or two down the road. He’s young enough that it would make a great story – remember how he couldn’t win the big games, and now he can? He’d be the John Elway of baseball. Right now, he’s an MVP candidate who should feel sick holding the award (should he get it).
Donnie Baseball – he’s the popular patsy for the pedestrian Dodger fan and he is as bad as all that. His skill is being Joe Torre, and keeping the clubhouse content. I see it that he lets the inmates run the asylum and is an enabler. Donnie is either too stubborn or too dumb to make obvious changes. For quite some time he penciled Kemp and Ethier into the heart of the lineup while they were dead in the water. This post-season he batted Puig second when he couldn’t make contact. When he had to make a pitching change, he goes to Scott Elbert, a guy Kasten never should have included on the playoff roster. He pinch hit Van Slyke for Ryu when Ryu was sailing along. His lineups are thoughtless and he has no game calling skills. Al Campanis meant him when he said something about “lacking the necessities to manage.” When Kershaw was imploding the other night, he didn’t believe his eyes – he listened to Kershaw say he was fine. After he actually got up to investigate. A smarter manager would know the team was bleeding out and perhaps you throw convention out the window and do something radical like bring in your closer – have Jansen pitch two innings, stop the bleeding and restore order. Also, Kershaw could have left without being humiliated, which would have been a plus. But what if you used Jansen, you say, and then he wasn’t around for the ninth? Who gives a shit? There would be no call for Jansen if you were to bleed out. If the situation came up, you let Howell, Wilson, Haren, anybody throw the ninth. The playoffs are unlike the regular season. You don’t have to put together the same lineup you would vs. San Diego in July. Every man is available, anytime, because every out is important. Each game is a must-win game. If you have guys cold as ice, bench them. Move them around. With AJ and Crawford hitting the ball, why is Puig batting second? AJ bat second? Sure, Scioscia did it. A contact hitter – more, a smart hitter – can do damage up there, as opposed to the bottom of the lineup. The point is, Donnie can’t manage and enables his players to goof off as he prefers a happy clubhouse to a gritty, smart, focused one. I hope to god he’s not allowed to manage the “real Dodgers” – the team coming after this selfie taking, bubble dancing monstrosity. I don’t want him turning Joc and Seager into pretty boys who dance to pre-game concerts and pose for clothing store catalogs. I don’t want him to manage the Dodgers period. Getting a real baseball manager in there who smashes the bubble machine and tells these party boys it’s time to play baseball, and isn’t afraid to be creative with his lineup and thinking, would do wonders for the Dodgers. One wonders if Farty Arte will fire Scioscia. I would say he’s probably safe due to winning the most games in baseball’s regular season, but Donnie, while finishing first, didn’t do so in as impressive fashion as the Anaheim skipper. Donnie should go. Kasten would be sacrificing him and no one in LA would balk. Fans don’t care about Donnie, and they don’t think he’s a good manager. Nice guy, former star, but not a good or tactical manager. The Dodgers can do better. Then can some coaches. Donnie’s a dunce, but he’s not the only one responsible for this. He played the hand dealt to him by Kasten.
Stan “Baldy” Kasten – he may have been the genius behind the Braves teams or perhaps he was a bit lucky with good scouts and amazing fortune. He may have a grand scheme and showed smarts not dealing the main prospects mid-season… but… his inability or unwillingness to make adjustments, especially in the pen, crippled the Dodgers. Giving a dull tool like Donnie the option to use Elbert in a must-win playoff game makes him every bit as responsible as his manager. Insisting Elbert, Wilson, Perez, etc. were good during the regular season and after and not considering Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia and other kids was foolish. Believing his $235M team could get by with a bad pen was idiotic. Thinking defense wasn’t important was ridiculous. I argued with people on Twitter until I finally decided it wasn’t worth it and stopped posting – they too said I was wrong to assume defense and relief pitching didn’t matter in Oct. It’s pretty much everything, not a luxury. Look at Kansas City. Why are the Royals so good? Defense, pitching, relief pitching, timely hitting, chemistry, leadership, and enough power to get the job done. The Royals also have a dumb manager, but that team is so well constructed it’s hard for Yost to screw it up. With the Dodgers, a team missing a lot of those components, mistakes are magnified. The Dodgers never would have survived the one game play-in with Oakland. Kasten may have tricks up his sleeve, but I fully believe today’s loss is a good thing ultimately for the Dodgers and their fans. It stings, but it will force Kasten to address the bullpen, perhaps Donnie and the coaches, and maybe even move some celebrity millionaires. Would it be so bad to turn some hot shot into a gamer in the Royals mode? If the Dodgers won and advanced deeper into Oct, fans, and Kasten himself, likely would feel all was well and not want any changes. The rude awakening for the second year in a row shows changes need to be made – if only a real bullpen acquired. Kasten has annoyed me all season because he’s had a lot of the pieces, but ignores them, banishes them and insists on guys he brought in who proved they weren’t up to the task. Try as I might, I can’t understand why Paco spent the entire season in AAA and more, why he was left off the post-season roster after showing he was performing well in Sept. I hope Kasten gets busy and improves the team. Bullpen, defense, leadership, toughness. Trade away a few celebrities. The female fans will moan but they’ll get over it. The blueprint should be the current Royals team – a group that resembles something former Dodgers GM Dan Evans put together. There’s a reason that team feels magical, why they make crazy defensive plays, come back from behind, mow down opponents in late innings, etc. They’re a good team, a well-constructed team – the 2014 Dodgers are not a team, but a collection of parts. It bought some time, but when Kasten had other options on hand, he dismissed them. Is it some scheme we’re not aware of, arrogance, stubbornness, or a mix of the three? Kasten is the guy who created the current Dodgers, and re-signed Donnie, so he’s very much to blame for this season. $235M should buy more. Oh, and if you’re also working under the assumption Donnie is the problem for everything, you must also believe Ned is the problem. I don’t mind if you blame Ned, but he’s just a figurehead – Kasten runs the team. Getting rid of Ned would be like dealing with your Obama hatred by removing Biden. In the case of who makes actual decisions for the Dodgers, follow the shine off the bald head.
I won’t go into individual players any more than I have because it’s unnecessary. The players are what they are, and were never going to be much more than that. I choose to look at the ace/best pitcher in all of baseball, the manager and architect of the team. I think the buck stops there. Frankly I’m annoyed the National League representative in the World Series will be some team that makes me ill. I’m going for Kansas City, and if they lose in the ALCS or big dance, it will still have been an impressive season for them. It’s easy to like the Royals because they play baseball the right way. They’re a cohesive unit and a fun team that plays fundamentally sound and with a ton of energy. The Dodgers need to get some of that back. The 1988 team had it, Dan Evans’ teams had it, but it’s not been around since perhaps the back to back NLCS teams McCourt underfunded. It’s time for change. It’s time to get back to playing baseball smartly, and not worrying about bubbles, dancing, walk up music and who has more groupies. Old fashioned? You bet! But it’s the way you win in Oct – and as I said, the current Dodgers’ brand of baseball was never going to fare well in the post-season. And look where they are now.