DODGER EPILOGUE; UPDATED OCT 16 7:15AM
The 2015 Los Angeles Dodgers season ended just as it should have ended……..FLAWED. A perfect ending for an imperfect team. For an organization that spent more than 300 million dollars to try to bring that elusive title to Dodger fans, they once again came excruciatingly short again. But, unlike the 2013 and 2014 seasons the faithful were warned of this teams’ impending downfall. Whether the faithful were paying attention to the warning signs, is another matter.
The pain of watching this team go 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position and 0-for-their-last-11 was a big reason why this merry band of millionaires was 8th in the National League in offense. Sure, the Dodgers led the Senior Circuit in on-base percentage, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t score. How fitting that this imperfect team saw their season crumble by falling asleep on a walk. When Daniel Murphy went full sprint from near second base all the way to third with nary a Dodger nearby, the ominous clouds were moving in. A pre-cursor to said disaster was the shouting match between Andre Ethier and Don Mattingly in the 4th inning. This CAN’T happen in a winner-take-all game. It just CAN’T. I don’t care if Mattingly was trying to protect Ethier. Positive energy, positive vibes and everyone pulling in same direction can’t be usurped by dugout squabbles in a must-win game. All of this asymptomatic of a dysfunction that has been chronicled yet rarely seen on display on such a stage.
Many will say replacing Don Mattingly is all this team needs to turn the corner. While Donnie Baseball’s time maybe should come to an end, pinning this team’s October failings on Mattingly alone shows a complete lack of understanding of how winning baseball teams are built and how they should play. While some of this Mattingly should own, the Dodgers inability to play a multi-faceted game continues to be their achilles heel. There was no other team in the National League that was worse at generating runs without home runs than the Dodgers. This is not conjecture. This is a real statistic. The Dodgers were the 5th worst in baseball at generating runs without hitting a home run. In October, you don’t get to play the Padres and Rockies 19 times. You play the best of the best and you face superior pitching. Championship teams manufacture runs against power arms. If Friedman and company had visions of this team manufacturing runs they were sadly mistaken.
Get em’ on. Move em over. Bring them in.
I harped on the Dodgers bullpen all year. While they were better late in the season and in the Mets series (aside from Game 3) the Dodgers need better “pitchers’ down in that pen. Too many guys with high velocity and no secondary pitches. This is an Andrew Friedman issue. For a big money team to go on the cheap in their bullpen is incomprehensible. It’s as if he hadn’t seen what ailed the Dodgers coming into the 2015 campaign and thought his cheaper options would suffice….they didn’t.
Chris Hatcher showed great improvement, but his off-speed pitches need refining. Pedro Baez has one pitch. I know it’s a 98 mile per hour fastball, but in the last two October’s it has been Baez giving up critical hits on that fastball that have provided the winning margins in playoff games. His slider and change-up are not very good and so hitters can sit on his fastball. Kenley Jansen has one pitch, but he is the one guy that can live with it. His cutter acts like a breaking ball and he misses a lot of barrels. JP Howell was good, but he is a left-handed specialist and can’t be relied on for a ton of innings. This bullpen needs a lot of work and I believe it was President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s biggest failing in his first year at the helm.
This team was FLAWED. Two great starters in Kershaw and Greinke. An outstanding closer in Jansen but less than championship quality elsewhere on the hill. Offensively they did what they were supposed to do, hit home runs. But, when you get to October you need to be more like the 2015 Kansas City Royals and not the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers. Run generation is at a premium in October and when you don’t do it, you don’t win.
Either the Dodgers are too pompous, too proud, too egotistical or too stupid to realize that the team that has given them the blue-print for October success plays in San Francisco. The Dodgers just seem to be too stubborn to copy it.
The news on the horizon isn’t all bad. Joc Pederson will be the Dodgers every day center fielder and Corey Seager will be the every day shortstop. The drafting and developing has been in full effect since 2012 and these kids are getting ready come help. But the approach needs to change.
Don Mattingly may have managed his last game as a Dodger. The foolish will believe this will change the results in October. If the Dodgers don’t change their approach, the game will pass them by. 650 million dollars in payroll over the last three years have made the Dodgers competitive, it can’t make you win. Until the Dodgers, get back to the Dodger Way. Pitching, defense, speed, stolen bases, hitting and running; they will continue the great tease of the last three decades.
Losing in October is always painful. It’s great getting to October and we should feel fortunate as Dodger fans the club got their again. But, the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over-and-over again and expecting a different result. The Dodgers are flawed. It is Friedman’s responsibility to pull his head away from number crunching and spread sheets and figure that out. In Tampa he had a manager who believed in small ball. Joe Maddon now has taken his vast knowledge and has the Cubs on the brink of a pennant. If Friedman does make a change, he needs to find someone who is a disciple of the Maddon principles, the “OLD” Dodger way.
It might be time to eat some salary to the mega-rich Guggenheim Group. Carl Crawford is not serving any purpose any more. He is taking a roster spot. He is awful defensively, can’t stay healthy and it might be time to admit that the only reason they brought him from Boston was to get Adrian Gonzalez in a Dodger uniform. Decisions will need to be made on Andre Ethier as well. The platoon system in place at the end of year just was not tenable. The Dodgers may have to admit eating tens of millions dollars on these bad contracts may be in the best interest of the team.
The Dodger season comes to an end on the 27th anniversary of one of the franchises greatest moments, Kirk Gibson’s hobbled home run. Nothing will ever ruin October 15th for me. Always Gibby Day ! While tonight’s loss stung, it wasn’t completely unexpected. And, lets be honest, the Dodgers weren’t going to beat the Cubs.
2013 and 2014 hurt a lot more than this. Like our Brooklyn brethren we are programmed for haunted October’s. We always live to fight another day.
Until the winter meetings everyone…..