That rumble you might have heard coming from Miller Park in Milwaukee was Don Mattingly MANAGING, darn it.
Mattingly benched slugger Andre Ethier on Wednesday afternoon for the Los Angeles Dodgers' game against the Brewers, saying Ethier was lacking in his approach:
Mattingly on sitting Ethier: "I’m putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest."
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) May 22, 2013
This action comes as rumors swirl that Dodgers management is on the verge of firing Mattingly (rumors that have been pooh-poohed by Dodgers writers and Yahoo! Sports' own Tim Brown). No matter, it counts as a different approach for Mattingly, who has been known as a player's manager — i.e., not an intimidator who calls guys out in public.
The Dodgers have a big payroll and an 18-26 record, and SOMEBODY has to answer for it. But should it be Ethier, who is batting .264/.353./.405 with four home runs for $85 million through 2017? His performance seems a bit uninspired, and it's off from his career averages — but not that off. One good month and he's back in line. And he's only missed one game all season, so if Ethier has been banged up, he's been playing through it anyway.
Sounds like a competitor, yes? Not necessarily, Mattingly says, as relayed by Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
"There's a touch difference between, 'I'm giving you my best effort' and being willing to fight you for that prize, to do whatever it takes to win," Mattingly said. "It's almost something inside you that says you're not beating me today, you're not getting me out.
Hold on, Don, I feel like playing "Eye of the Tiger" right now:
Back to Don:
"There's another level (to effort) you can't measure with sabermetrics. They may say 'BS' to that. But there are certain things that you can't measure."
The dig at sabermetrics aside, it appears Mattingly can sense — and even measure, somehow — that Ethier is not giving everything that he has. Maybe he can't measure it with an equation, but he can with intuition. He's the former ballplayer, after all. He would know, if anyone. Unless it's all an exercise in busy work to keep Dodgers brass occupied.
Regardless, something has to change about the Dodgers, and an attitude adjustment probably is only the beginning.