Things are pretty messed up in Dodger town right now. Despite the Dodgers beating the Brewers yesterday 9-2 and actually winning a road series, the Dodgers still remain in last place in the National league West, with a 19-26 record.
The Dodgers have been a huge disappointment this year after being hyped up as World Series contenders by everyone. Right now rumors are swirling about Don Mattingly’s job after a very inflammatory article written by Ken Rosenthal. Of course nothing Rosenthal wrote in the post was an outright non-truth. We’ve all been asking the same questions.
Rosenthal actually thought that mattingly may get canned before the Dodgers even got home, or so he wrote. Of course that’s not going to happen, but I can understand why he was thinking that. The Dodgers looked terrible during the Atlanta series. The Dodgers had a late lead in all three games, and the bullpen blew every game in the series. That’s three consecutive blown games. It was infuriating. The Dodgers have played terrible Baseball all season long, and have struggled with their fundamentals. if they continue to play horrendous Baseball, then Mattingly will get fired eventually.
Let’s get one thing straight though, it’s not going to happen today or anytime soon. It’s just too early. I’ve said before if it is going to happen, then it probably won’t happen until around June or July. Late May is still way too early to be replacing your manager. Still something needs to change. I’ve said it before, the Dodgers are stagnating, and need change more than anything.
Mattingly’s recent comments about Andre Ethier, and the rest of the players may not have gone over very well with Dodger ownership. Mattingly is talking like a man who is already on his way to the unemployment line. It’s bad stuff and I’m not going to get into that now. It’s very strange since those comments were very un-Mattingly like. It makes me think that perhaps there is some discontent in the Dodger clubhouse right now. That’s not surprising. Why? Because losing isn’t fun, and when a team is losing, people get angry and handle it in different ways. Losing clubhouses are generally not harmonious. Winning is the only cure for it.
The question I hear asked all the time is, “if we do replace Mattingly will that actually be enough to turn the season around for the Dodgers?” Would bringing in a new manager have any effect on the rest of the season?
It’s a fair question. So I turned to the books for some answers. How many teams have gone on to make the playoffs, or win pennants and World Series in the same season in which they made a mid-season managerial change? There have been a lot. I can think of two or three teams just off the top of my head.
I’ll give three recent examples.
Example 1#-1982 Milwaukee Brewers
Since the Dodgers just wrapped up their season series with the Brewers, let’s use them as the first example. The 1982 Brewers started that year with manager Buck Rodgers at the helm. At first They were terrible. After a 23-24 start, The Brewers fired Rodgers, and brought in longtime coach Harvey Kuenn to manage the team the rest of the season. After Kuenn took over in May, the Brewers went 72-43 the rest of the way. Kuenn led the Brew Crew to a 95-67 record, and an A.L. East division title, and eventually an American League pennant. This was the team that was known as “Harvey’s Wall bangers”. That was the Brewers only World Series appearance to date. The Brewers lost to the Cardinals in seven games in the 1982 World Series. The Brewers went from languishing in mediocrity in mid May, to the World Series in October. They fell just one game short of winning a championship. Kuenn ended up finishing with a managerial record of 160-118, and won the 1982 A.L. manager of the year award. Sure you could say that the Brewers just had great players that season. I can’t argue with that because they did. Legendary players such as Robin yount, Paul Molitor, Cecil Cooper, Gorman Thomas, and Ted Simmons were the main reasons why the Brewers won the pennant that year. But you can’t deny that they were going nowhere under Rodgers.
Example #2-2004 Houston Astros
Now the 2004 Houston Astros didn’t go to the World Series, but they did make a major turnaround, making the playoffs and advancing to the NLCS. They did get to the World Series the following season. Much of that can be contributed to a mid-season managerial change in 2004.
The Astros were 44-44 at the 2004 all-star break. Former Toronto, and Boston manager Jimmy Williams was subsequently fired after the Astro’s mediocre start. Phil Garner replaced Williams at the helm and turned the Astros into winners. Houston went 48-26 the rest of the season to qualify for the playoffs as a wild card. While the Astros did lose to the Cardinals that season in the NLCS, they beat those same Cardinals the following season in the NLCS, to advance to their only World Series in franchise history under Garner’s tenure. Although do note, that the Astros got off to a very slow start in 2005 as well, and after going 15-30, rebounded to make the playoffs as a wild card for the second year in a row, advancing all the way to the World Series that year. Houston was swept by the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series.
Example #3- 2009 Colorado Rockies
I know, I know, I’m using former Dodger manager Jim Tracy as an example here. Probably not the best of examples, but the main theory still holds true. After an 18-28 start to the 2009 season, the Rockies fired manager Clint Hurdle, and hired Tracy. Hurdle had led the Rockies to their only World Series to date (2007), but after fading away in 2008, and getting off to a poor start in 2009, he was canned. In came Tracy, and the refreshed Rockies finished the 2009 season with a 74-42 record. That’s a .635 winning percentage the rest of the way. The Rockies were a pretty good team that year. They won 92 games, and won the Wild Card. Colorado lost in the Division series to the Phillies in four games. But, Tracy was recognized for his great turnaround with the N.L. Manager of the year award.
There you have it. There are three examples of mid-season managerial changes turning teams from perennial losers into winners, and even champions. Before you tar and feather me, I’m not saying Tracy was a great manager or anything. I’m not even saying any of these guys above were great managers. No, they’re not going into the hall of fame or anything. And yes I know managers don’t pitch, hit, or field. I’m just providing examples of teams that benefited from a managerial change in the middle of the season. It can work, and has many times. So before you say that changing managers in the middle of a season never helped a team win, well you’re wrong. The proof is in the results I provided above. I could give you many many more examples of teams making total 180’s during a campaign because of a change at the manager position. Those are just three examples from the last 25 years or so.
If I could guess why changes in managers can help, I would say that they bring a fresh perspective and a new voice into the clubhouse. It can rejuvenate a team. Again, losing can have a very unharmonious effect on a clubhouse. If left unchecked it can ruin a season. Sometimes making a change can give the team new energy in the clubhouse and on the field. Sometimes guys just aren’t working out and you have to make a change while the season is still worth saving. It happens.
I’m not saying the Dodgers should fire Mattingly right now. Believe me, they won’t. It’s way too early for that. But, time is running out. It’s already late May, and as Memorial Day approaches we have already played one quarter of the regular season. The Dodgers would have to win seven of their next eight games this month just to make it back to .500 before May 31. The Dodgers are on pace to have their worst May record in franchise history. The Dodgers are 5-16 so far against teams from the National League West.
I say give Mattingly three or four more weeks to right this ship. If he can’t do it then let’s get someone in who can before it’s too late. Any change before July 1 would still give the club enough time to turn the season around.
The truth is the Dodgers have gone nowhere since Mattingly took over in 2011. They have not made the playoffs, and have barely been competitive for one season, and you could argue they were only competitive for part of that season. Having this drama hanging over the team’s head isn’t good. The Dodgers have had enough black clouds hanging over their heads over the past several seasons.
So yes a change in manager can make a huge difference for a Major League Baseball team. There is no reason to throw a season away. If the Dodgers aren’t at least at the .500 mark by Mid June, then it’s time to make a change. The Dodgers have not been competitive at all this year. Dodger fans deserve better than another lost season. Mattingly has three weeks to turn this disaster around. Donnie Baseball better bring his A-game to the dance, or he may find himself without a partner.