So, if the Dodgers lose tonight, Don Mattingly is fired, right?

50 Comments

Pardon my lack of posts this afternoon. Once I heard that Yasiel Puig was benched I got a case of the vapors and couldn’t arise from my fainting couch for many minutes. I’m still struggling to form words and may break down at any moment.

OK, maybe that’s not true. I had personal business to attend to. While I was attending to the personal business, I checked my phone and saw the news about Puig being benched. I actually dropped an F-bomb when I saw it and then had to explain why I care so much to some people who know nothing about and care little about baseball. Nothing makes you seem sillier than getting all the feels about baseball around such people. But I digress.

What I was thinking on the drive home, though, is that this is a pretty ballsy and, quite possibly, a career-limiting move for Don Mattingly. Let’s walk through the possible outcomes, with the caveat being that, based on overall expectations, it’s possible that Mattingly may be on the hot seat no matter what he does if the Dodgers don’t at least win the pennant:

  • Puig sits, the Dodgers lose and Andre Ethier has a bad game: He’s fired, right? Not only did he make a bad tactical call before the fact (it’s clear that Puig is a better player than Ethier, recent slump notwithstanding) but it backfires. He has benched the guy who ownership and marketing have pretty clearly tried to make the face of the franchise and he watched as the Dodgers crumbled. How does he keep his job in that scenario?
  • Puig sits, the Dodgers win and Ethier has a great game: This definitely makes Mattingly look smart in the short term. Emphasis on the “look,” because a good outcome doesn’t mean it’s a good decision. If you sell your house and buy $200K worth of lottery tickets tonight and win, it’s still a dumb decision, after all. Plus, if that happens, what does Mattingly do for Game 5? Stick with Ethier? Probably. But it just adds more uncertainty (how long can Ethier carry you?) and adds another big decision to his plate, which makes this more about his own decision making and increases the chances of a bad outcome for which he may have to pay.
  • Puig sits, Ethier is a non-factor: Probably doesn’t matter if they win, though he has to decide again on Thursday. If they lose, people will still wonder what Puig might have done.

I don’t know, it’s a minefield for Mattingly here. Maybe a move of this magnitude isn’t made without front office sign-off, but one wonders if ownership will be content to watch Puig sit on the bench in an elimination game. In such instances, someone like Mark Walter may not call in to second guess his baseball ops people in the middle of a series, but he may certainly decide, after the fact, if and when the recriminations come down, that someone needs to be held responsible for the uncertainty and, I assume, acrimony, which comes down this winter should the Dodgers stumble.

If it’s me — and I put my man-crush on Puig aside — I ask myself: “which player gives me the best chance to win the game?” If you say Andre Ethier, I think the burden is on you to show your work as to how you got there. Because it’s certainly not based on recent demonstrated baseball ability of any significant sample size.

And when one makes a decision to not play one’s best player? Well, one had better be right.

 

Astros greeted with boos in first spring training game

Astros
Getty Images
13 Comments

The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.

Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.

There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.

That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.

The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.

One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.

Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.

Follow @StelliniTweets.