Folks in Los Angeles spent much of April wondering if this was really it for Mike Scioscia in Anaheim after a long career marked by the 2002 World Series title and several other playoff appearances. It looks like Scioscia is hanging on, but the real heat in Tinseltown is now getting beamed across town at Don Mattingly.
The Dodgers look like anything but a team that mirrors the image of Mattingly we all remember from the 1980s and '90s. And Donnie Baseball let loose on their makeup Wednesday before their game in Milwaukee.
“We got to find a team with talent that will fight and compete like a club that doesn’t have talent,” Mattingly said. “I felt we got more out of our ability” last season. “I don’t know about being tougher, but I felt we got more out of our ability.”
The Dodgers, remember, have a payroll that’s north of $215 million. They made that huge trade with the Red Sox last year to take in Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, then added Zack Greinke over the winter.
And yet, only the Astros, Cubs and Marlins came into the weekend with a worse record in the majors.
“There has to be a mixture of competitiveness,” Mattingly said. “It’s not, 'Let’s put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.’ It’s finding that balance of a team that has a little bit of grit and will fight you. And also having the talent to go with it. All grit and no talent isn’t going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit isn’t going to get you there either.”
Several outlets in Los Angeles have reported that GM Ned Colletti has no intention of firing Mattingly and didn’t even take offense to the remarks. A late-night meeting Tuesday in Milwaukee resulted in Mattingly benching struggling outfielder Andre Ethier on Wednesday.
“There’s a touch difference between, ‘I’m giving you best effort’ and being willing to fight you for that prize, to do whatever it takes to win,” Mattingly said. “It’s almost something inside you that says, 'You’re not beating me today. You’re not getting me out.’ ”
The Dodgers have been an easy out much of the season. Only the Marlins entered the weekend with fewer runs or a lower slugging percentage, and only the Marlins and Royals had fewer home runs. You wonder how much patience the Stan Kasten/Magic Johnson ownership group is going to have.
The Nationals are worried that Bryce Harper simply can’t go 110 mph at all times if he wants to have a long career. Veteran observers of the D.C. baseball scene are already channeling the names of Ken Griffey Jr. and Grady Sizemore, as well as Brooklyn’s hard-nosed Pete Reiser (for the oldtimers) as examples why.
Harper had a huge run-in with the right-field wall at Dodger Stadium during the Nats’ West Coast road trip, failing to sense the warning track and going face-first into it. He was stunned and suffered an 11-stitch cut on his chin but it could have been much worse.
When the Nats got to San Francisco, Harper short-armed a catch by the wall, allowing the tying run to score in the ninth inning of what turned into a 10-inning loss. The next day, fear of the wall was something Harper acknowledged he’d have to overcome “or I’m going to be in Triple-A. That’s how I feel.”
When he made a catch nearing the wall during that day’s game, several teammates knew what it meant.
Joked Ian Desmond: “I was just glad I was going to be able to see him for another day. He didn’t get sent down to Triple-A.”
One thing Harper got out of the whole situation was a visit from legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, who read a Washington Times story that said the 20-year-old wanted to meet the 85-year-old Scully and have a picture taken. Because of Harper’s stitches, he was clean-shaven for the photo.
Cracked Scully to the Los Angeles Times about the wall collision: “It knocked 10 years off his age.”
Ch. 17 talks Bisons
WNED-TV will premiere a half-hour special on the new relationship between the Bisons and Blue Jays tonight at 10:30. The program will be repeated Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Friday at 1 a.m.
Entitled “A New Season for the Bisons and Blue Jays”, the program features interviews with Bisons and Blue Jays officials, including Toronto President Paul Beeston and General Manager Alex Anthopoulos.
This corner watched a preview version of the show and the photography is excellent, both from Opening Day at Coca-Cola Field and an early April game at Rogers Centre in Toronto. And it’s always good to see old footage from the April 14, 1988 opener in downtown Buffalo of then-Pilot Field.
Set your DVRs. It’s worth it.
Cast your ballots
Online voting for the Triple-A All-Star Game opens Wednesday and runs through June 26 at MILB.com. For both the International League and Pacific Coast League, fans can select one player for each infield position, three outfielders, a designated hitter and four pitchers (two starters and two relievers). Fan balloting counts one-third of the vote, along with ballots cast by the media, Triple-A managers, coaches and general managers.
The 26th annual game, which was played here last July, will be held July 17 at Aces Ballpark in Reno, Nev. Bisons who figure to get heavy action in the voting include infielders Jim Negrych, Luis Jimenez and Andy LaRoche, outfielder Moises Sierra, catcher Josh Thole and closer Neil Wagner.
A Master Griff
Brewers pitcher John Axford tweeted Tuesday, “After 7 years … I finally have my Master’s degree!” and then added an Instagram link to a congratulatory email from Shawn O’Rourke, associate dean of Canisius’ School of Education and Human Services.
Axford earned his Master’s of Science in Sports Administration from Canisius, where he pitched in 2006 following his transfer from Notre Dame. His bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame was in film.
Around the horn
• The clock is ticking for Ike Davis in New York as the Mets first baseman seems ticketed for a trip to Las Vegas at any moment. Manager Terry Collins and GM Sandy Alderson keep saying it’s not in the cards but Davis entered the weekend batting .147, lowest in the big leagues for batting champion qualifiers.
And his defense is starting to crumble too. He needs time away from the New York City spotlight – far, far away. Ruben Tejada and Jordany Valdespin could probably use a similar break.
• Mike Trout’s cycle Tuesday night against the Mariners made the 21-year-old the youngest American Leaguer ever to pull off the feat. The only National Leaguer to do it at an earlier age was Hall of Famer Mel Ott in 1929, when he was 20. Trout had a pedestrian April (.261-2-16) but entered the weekend downright molten in May (.359-8-19).
• The Pirates have that winning feeling again and they’re going to hope the karma keeps rubbing off from their crosstown brethren by wearing Penguins jerseys throughout their current road trip.
Manager Clint Hurdle has exchanged texts with Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and admits he’s been watching plenty of late-night NHL games. On the Penguins run, Hurdle said of his team, “We’re all in.”
• Still can’t believe where all the fans in Cleveland have gone. The Indians are last in the majors at 16,166 per game in Progressive Field, even worse than the Marlins and Rays. Times are tough in plenty of places but the loss of season-ticket holders, and plain daily buyers, from the glory days at the start of this century is amazing. And you can’t blame the presence of LeBron James for stealing dollars either.