Don Mattingly willingly takes the bat out of Matt Kemp’s hands

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Look, I’m not saying I would be a better manager than Don Mattingly. I know I wouldn’t be. I’d screw up every single double switch, I’d forget to warm up guys in the bullpen, I’d drop F-bombs on my local radio show and the first time my clubhouse got a little out of control I’d handle it poorly and have a revolt on my hands that even A.J. Hinch would mock.

But I do think that, if I managed the Los Angeles Dodgers, I’d do everything in my power to make sure the bat was never taken out of Matt Kemp’s hands if it could be helped.  This is something Donnie Baseball did not do last night.

The scene: eighth inning of last night’s Dodgers-Giants game.  Bobby Abreu on second base, Dee Gordon on first, Mark Ellis at the plate. No one out. Mattingly has Ellis bunt and he’s “successful.”  That success, however, ensures that Kemp — who was on deck — would be walked because it put runners on second and third with one out and first base open.

So Kemp was walked, Bruce Bochy brought in lefty Javier Lopez to face lefty Andre Ethier (and behind him were two more lefties, so it was certain that Bochy would bring in Lopez).  Eithier hits into a double play, ending the last best chance the Dodgers had to win the game.

Mattingly defended the move after the game, saying that Ethier led the league in RBI and he had confidence in him and all of that.  But really: wouldn’t you rather have Matt Kemp in a position to where he could do some damage rather than have him given the inevitable free pass? And that’s before you figure in what Ellis giving away an out does for your scoring chances.

I don’t usually second-guess like this, but man, there is no one hitting like Matt Kemp right now. I think I’d let the man hit.

Dusty Baker drops truth bombs

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Dusty Baker was fired last offseason despite leading the Nationals to 95 and 97-win seasons. This was not new for him. Cincinnati let him go after taking a miserable Reds team to back-to-back 90+ win seasons — three in the space of four years — and making it to the playoffs in his final two seasons. In both cases the team that let him go cratered as soon as he left. There are likely reasons that have nothing to do with Dusty Baker for that, but it seems like more than mere coincidence too.

I say that because every time someone gets to Dusty Baker for an interview, he drops some major truth bombs that make you wonder why anyone wouldn’t want him in charge. Sure, like any manager he has his faults and blind spots — more so in his distant past than in his recent past, I should not — but the guy is smart, has more experience than anyone going and is almost universally loved by his players.

Recently he sat down with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic to talk about life, baseball and everything, and once again the truth bombs were dropping. About the state of front offices today. About the different way black and white ex-managers and ex-players are treated. About what seems to be collusion on the free agent market. And, of course, about the state of the 2018 Nationals, who are likely to miss the playoffs despite being, more or less, the same team he led to those 97 wins last year. It’s an absolute must-read on any of those topics, but taken together it’s a “block off some time this afternoon and enjoy the hell out of it” read.

Two of my favorite passages follow. The first one is a great general point in life: always beware of people who spend more time telling you why they are successful than actually, you know, being successful.

In Cincinnati, no matter what I did or what we did — we brought them from the bottom — they were all over me, all the time, no matter what. If we won, it wasn’t winning the right way. They were like, “I don’t understand this mode of thinking.” Well, I don’t want you to understand my mode of thinking. That’s how I can beat you.

The second one is just delicious for what he does not say:

Rosenthal: Bryce Harper struggled for two-plus months. He didn’t struggle for two-plus months when you had him…

Baker: I know.

Based on the tone of the rest of the interview, in which Baker does not hesitate to say exactly what he thinks, it’s abundantly clear that he believes the Nats have messed Harper up somehow and that it wouldn’t have happened under him.

Like I said, though: there is a TON of great stuff in here. From a guy who, if you’ve listened to him talk when he does not give a crap about what people may say about him, has time and again revealed himself to  be one of the most interesting baseball figures of the past several decades.