Legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver had two revealing quotes about the role of a Major League manager:
“A manager’s job is simple. For one hundred sixty-two games you try not to screw up all that smart stuff your organization did last December.”
“A really good manager will make the difference in maybe six or eight games all season.”
Somewhere, Los Angeles Dodger hitting coach Don Mattingly is writing these words on a blackboard, over and over again, like Bart Simpson in “The Simpsons” intro. In a game against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday July 20th in LA, Mattingly managed to violate both of these precepts in one inning and it cost the Dodgers the game.
2010 has seen a particularly high tide of bad blood in the historic rivalry between the Giants and the Dodgers. LA headhunting starter Vincente Padilla hit Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand in the face in April, breaking bones and putting Rowand on the DL. For the remainder of that game and series, Giants pitchers did not retaliate which left a bad taste and caused controversary in the clubhouse and among fans.
Flash forward to the 5th inning of last night’s game which saw starter Tim Lincecum buzz a fastball past Dodger outfielder Matt Kemp’s nose, nearly knocking him over. The next pitch drilled Kemp, who took a few steps toward the mound as Lincecum took a few steps toward Kemp. The home plate umpire then gave the traditional warnings to both benches.
After Giants reliever Denny Bautista nearly hit Dodger catcher Russell Martin in the bottom of the 6th, Dodger bench coach Bob Schaefer started up the dugout steps yelling at the home plate umpire to toss Bautista. Instead, Schaefer was ejected. Putting two and two together, it is obvious that, at the end of that inning veteran catcher Martin communicated to his pitcher that it was time to rumble.
The Dodgers’ Kershaw retaliated in the 7th inning with a pitch that caught Aaron Rowand in the lower back. And that was the start of a great unraveling. Not only did it put the lead-off hitter on base in a 5-4 game, but both Kershaw and LA Manager Joe Torre were ejected from the game. Inexplicably, long time Major League manager and Dodger third base coach Larry Bowa was not chosen to man the bridge for the rest of the game; instead, hitting coach Mattingly took the helm.
With the score still 5-4 Dodgers, the Giants loaded the bases in the 9th and Manager Mattingly went to the mound to discuss strategy with ace closer Jonathan Broxton. Mattingly then turn around and walked just off the dirt area of the mound onto the grass before he turned back around and went back to the mound to say one more thing to his pitcher.
MLB rule 8.06D states a manager or coach can only make one trip to the pitcher’s mound in an inning; a second trip means the pitcher is automatically removed from the game. Giants Manager Bruce Bochy saw Mattingly’s slight misstep, bounded out of the dugout and informed the umps of the violation. Bochy also told them he was prepared to protest the game if Mattingly wasn’t called on the gaff. Although the homeplate umpire also recognized the violation, for some reason he kept it to himself and waited for Bochy to protest it before taking action.
As Broxton was removed from the game, Dodger coaches made another mistake by not getting someone immediately up in the bullpen, and Mattingly graciously accepted the ruling instead of going into a tantrum to give his reliever more time to warm up.
George Sherill replaced Broxton and promply gave up a two run double to Giants right fielder Andres Torres to make the score 6-5 Giants. After a Buster Posey RBI single, the Giants held on to win 7-5.
Amazingly, Bochy called the exact same violation against then Dodger Manager Grady Little in 2006, forcing Little to remove his starting pitcher from a game.
The Dodgers are giving the appearance of being in complete organizational disarray. Billionaire owner Frank McCourt is about to go through a bank account-draining divorce, Manager Joe Torre is contemplating retirement, and the team itself appears to be sleep-walking through the season while heir-apparent Don Mattingly apparenty has just a little more to learn about baseball.
The good news? The storied San Francisco Giants-Los Angeles Dodgers rivalry, begun in 1890, is still cooking filthy 120 years later.