Don Mattingly: Dodgers still lack determination
MAY 24, 2013 10:36p ET
He had a couple of days to think about it, to decide if maybe there was something he shouldn’t have said, or perhaps said differently. But no. He stuck by everything.
“I speak from the heart,” Mattingly said Friday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, and that was true. Whatever he said that might have sounded like a public criticism of his team was really just a reaffirmation of how he believes the game should be played.
“I basically expressed the way I believe we should play,” he said. “It was as simple as that. It’s what I believe in — the way the game of baseball is supposed to be played, the determination you’re supposed to play with, the grit you’re supposed to play with, the toughness you’re supposed to play with. It’s respect. To me, it’s about respect to the game, to your teammates, to the organization, to the fans.”
The Dodgers haven’t fully gotten the message, at least they didn’t Friday night. They lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 7-0, their fifth loss in seven games, and slid to 19-27. But Mattingly is going to get the best out of his players, or he’s going to go down trying.
For the moment, his job is secure. Team president Stan Kasten sat in the dugout before the game and said Mattingly’s comments “didn’t bother me a bit.” He also made it clear that the manager’s job is not in jeopardy. But things can change in a hurry in baseball.
“I do expect us to have success,” Kasten said. “I do expect this team to turn it around, and because of that, I expect Donnie to be around a long time.”
He also said, “I like the pieces we have, I like the staff we have, and I expect it to work. If it doesn’t, I guess there will be a day when we have to look at maybe a different solution. But for now I think it’s going to work out. I’m optimistic, even confident.”
Mattingly is, too, but his patience was pushed Wednesday when he benched left fielder Andre Ethier and said he was putting a team on the field that he believed would fight. That didn’t include Ethier.
“You’ve got to be willing to fight for what you want,” Mattingly said Friday. “I believe that. The things I said the other day have nothing to do with anything other than my beliefs and the way you’re supposed to play the game of baseball.
“I come from a hard-work environment. You play with a fire and a fight. I’ll back my guys all day long as long as we play like that.”
As for Ethier, there seemed to be a misunderstanding whether they had spoken before Mattingly called out his team. Ethier said they hadn’t; Mattingly said they spoke for 20 minutes before Wednesday’s game.
“I’m getting old and my memory’s going, but we talked,” Mattingly said. “Andre knows exactly where I’m coming from.”
On Friday, Ethier said he sought out several teammates to ask if he was sending the wrong message. He’s trying, he said, but maybe it doesn’t always seem that way.
“Sometimes you’re not going to look your best, you’re not going to look your greatest, but it doesn’t mean you’re not playing hard and figuring out a way to do it,” he said.
Whatever they’re doing, it’s failing. Mattingly isn’t critical of his entire team, but he knows some are satisfied with less than their best. As a player who spent 14 years in the big leagues before his back forced him to retire, he understands how hard players need to work to be successful.
“There’s things you just can’t measure,” he said. “The reason a guy goes to the gym in the middle of winter when he really doesn’t want to is because he wants to be great. It’s more than about numbers at that point. It’s about determination. There’s something inside you that says I’m going to work and work and work, and I want something bad enough that I will work for it in the middle of winter when nobody knows where I’m at.
“We’ve got to play like that.”
Will they? That’s what he’s waiting for.
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