“Basically, we’re bleep.”
Those were the words of motivational speaker Don Mattingly, faced with the challenge of trying to get his $240 million payroll to make up a sizable deficit in the NL West standings. With about 100 games remaining, Mattingly buzzed his squad with a high inside shot about the importance of team play. “I think that’s the one thing we’re missing at this point, a collective group fighting and pulling in one direction trying to win a game,” he said.
It’ll be interesting to see if he gets the ears of his players. Oh, wait, that’s sort of unfortunate phrasing after the recent incident on the club’s minor league team where a catcher bit off part of the ear of his teammate. Actually, Mattingly could have used that as an example of players pulling in different directions — one trying to free his ear, and the other trying to yank it off.
It’s all about that chemistry thing again.
The Giants swear by the chemistry thing, though it apparently only works every other year, as the team stumbled in 2011 and 2013 after championship seasons. I’m a bit confused about the Giants motto anyway of how they play for the name in front of their jerseys, not the name on the back. Sounds good, but when the Giants are home, their names aren’t even on the back of their jerseys. Oh, well.
The Dodgers at this point are 32-31, and trail the Giants by 9.5 games. Last year, they were down 9.5 games on June 22, and clearly appeared chemistry-less. Then they went 42-8. That didn’t happen because of team unity. It happened because of a torrid offense and clutch hitting, and drop-dead pitching. I don’t think team unity is formed by having all the players toss sunflower seeds into the air in unison or doing Yes-Yes chants. That’s a lot fun for players and fans, but it only works after success on the field. I believe that nothing builds team unity like a five-game winning streak, which the Dodgers are capable of pulling off. Some pundits, the same ones who coronated the Dodgers in March, are now conceding the division to the Giants. It’s hard to believe the Dodgers won’t make at least one good run at the Giants, and that the Giants will run into some obstacles, although right now, as Mattingly might say, San Francisco is basically hitting and pitching the bleep out of the baseball.
The uphill climb is made even steeper for the Dodgers because they only play the Giants three times until mid-September, when they meet six times in the closing weeks of the season.
So the Dodgers will need to respond immediately to their skipper’s inspiring call to arms, and win one for the Guggenheims. Not that there is any evidence that Mattingly’s message has gotten through yet. The other day, Matt Kemp smacked one that he assumed was gone, and even slowed down for a congratulatory handshake from first base coach Davey Lopes. Minor problem: the ball stayed in the park and Kemp had to break into a full sprint to reach second. He was called safe, but in a replay challenge, it was ruled that he had been tagged out when he over slid the bag.
Good luck, Don. You’ve really got a bleeping handful.