Looking back at Don Mattingly’s Game 4 decisions

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I’m not going to blame Don Mattingly for Tuesday’s loss and the Dodgers’ elimination in the NLDS. I certainly wasn’t thrilled with how he managed the game, but his three real calls didn’t work out that badly.

Those three:

Call No. 1 – The lineup: Mattingly tried to shake things up by starting Andre Ethier over Yasiel Puig in center field, rather than a more obvious move of starting Justin Turner over Dee Gordon at second base.

Result: Ethier got on base twice via the walk, and the downgrade in center field defense was a complete non-factor in the game. The big problem was Ethier getting picked off third base to end the top of the sixth. As for Gordon, he reached base twice as well, walking in the seventh and singling in the ninth. In all, Mattingly’s picks did fine. We’ll never know what the alternatives would have done.

RELATED: Cardinals beat Dodgers 3-2 to advance to NLCS

Call No. 2 – The eighth-inning bullpen choice: Down 3-2 with top of the Cardinals’ order up, Mattingly should have gone to closer Kenley Jansen, who had the best chance of anyone of keeping it a 3-2 game headed to the ninth. Instead, Mattingly stuck with Pedro Baez, who finished the seventh.

Result: No harm, no foul. Baez and Brandon League combined on a perfect eighth, saving Jansen for an opportunity that never came.

Call No. 3 – Approaching the ninth with the bottom of the order due up. Mattingly still had his entire bench, most notably Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke, available with Juan Uribe, A.J. Ellis and the pitcher’s spot due up. Complicating things was that Ellis, once an obvious choice to be removed, was hitting .538 in the series.

Result: After Uribe grounded out, Mattingly chose to let Ellis hit with one out and then replaced him with Puig once he walked. Turner struck out as a pinch-hitter, Gordon singled and Carl Crawford grounded out to end the game. Under the circumstances, I’d say Mattingly handled it correctly. An alternative was sending Turner up for Ellis and Puig for the pitcher, but letting Ellis bat against a wild pitcher made a lot of sense. Ellis may not be much of a hitter, but he certainly knows how not to swing. And once Ellis reached, Puig was the best option to run. It still hurt to give up his bat in such a situation, but I don’t think there was any other choice. Puig wasn’t going to hit for anyone later in the inning anyway.

RELATED: Sick of seeing Cardinals, Giants in NLCS? Too bad

Not a call: Leaving Clayton Kershaw in for the seventh after six scoreless innings.

Result: Kershaw gave up a three-run homer to Matt Adams before being lifted. Still, no manager in baseball takes Kershaw out after six, even at 94 pitches. Yes, it should have been obvious that Kershaw could lose it quickly while working on three days’ rest, but he showed no signs of fatigue through six. And while it was certainly time to start thinking about going to the pen after the first two batters reached in the seventh, there was no way Kershaw was getting pulled until after he faced the left-handed Adams. It’s a non-starter. In theory, you can argue that Jansen should have been in the game at that point. In practice, it’s absolutely never going to happen.

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Personally, I think Mattingly is a lousy tactical manager, and it’s one of the reasons the Dodgers didn’t advance in October. I also thought benching Puig was absolutely the wrong call. Game 4, though, wasn’t lost by the Dodgers; it was won by the Cardinals.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
LG Patterson/MLB via Getty Images
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: