Saturday, November 20, 2010

Afraid for Don Mattingly

Alan Trammell was a treasured icon in Detroit. An outstanding shortstop for over a decade, he was a link to a storied Tigers team that won a World Series. It seemed a natural fit when the Tigers tapped him as their manager in 2003. The year before, the Tigers had lost 106 games. They fired Phil Garner after only six games and an 0-6 start. His poor replacement was the little remembered Luis Pujols who finished the season at 55-100 himself. Trammell never had a chance. He was set up in situation he couldn't win and thus, an icon was trashed in the process. Is Don Mattingly in a similar situation?

There are differences in two situations. Trammell inherited a really bad team. Mattingly is just inheriting a slightly bad team. Trammell was hired to manage the team he starred for and was worshipped by. Mattingly is an entire continent away from where his glory days were in New York. But other than those differences, there is a similar danger for Mattingly.

This writer has to admit that Don Mattingly was one of the Fan's favorite players ever. He was, "Donny Baseball" and before Derek Jeter, he was the standard of what a Yankee should look like and act like. And so this post speaks a bit for all those who grew up rooting for the former first baseman who for a four or five year stretch was the best player in baseball.

The Dodgers fell flat last year. Caught in the crossfire of the divorce of its owners, the team's assets were pretty well frozen and the Dodgers were forced to go with the hand they had from 2009. Manny was no longer Manny and he got traded away. The pitching never gelled, Matt Kemp had a season-long fued with Joe Torre and Russell Martin again couldn't stay healthy enough to contribute. The Dodgers made some minor deals during the season and one somewhat significant one in acquiring Ted Lilly, but other than that, they couldn't do much and their final record was a result. They fell out of the NL West by the end of August.

And little has happened over the off season thus far. Ted Lilly was given a multi-year contract and that at least gives them a veteran pitcher who knows what he is doing. He should have a good season. Feel-good story, Jay Gibbons, was re-signed to add depth. But little else has changed.

The pitching staff is still led by Clayton Kershaw, he of the golden arm and mixed results. Clay Billingsley, another riddle will be back for another year. Kuroda is back for another season. But he is 36 and injury prone. John Ely failed to impress in his trial run last year. And that's the rotation.

The Dodgers have question marks at first base, second base, third base and left field. They have depth issues and uber-prospect, Xavier Paul, struggled to make an impact in his debut last year. And immediate help is not on the way from their system.

And, last but not least, the bullpen is a question mark after Jonathan Broxton lost his mojo midway through last year. As you can see, for a Fan of Don Mattingly, this isn't looking too rosy here. In our wildest dreams, Mattingly will turn the franchise around and do what the legend, Joe Torre, couldn't do. Torre skedaddled as he read the tea leaves. And Mattingly starts off under the gun because many believe he doesn't have the experience to be the manager. If Mattingly succeeds, it will be against long odds and completely unexpected.

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