don mattingly

Justin Turner Is Further Proof That Don Mattingly Is The Worst

at Turner Field on July 21, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.

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All-Star rosters were released today, and I’ve seen some mention Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner on lists of notable snubs.  That Turner could even be considered as a potential All-Star is remarkable, since he began the season as a part-time player and only became the primary third baseman for the Dodgers in the final days of May.   The relatively unknown Turner is now hitting 3rd most nights in a Dodger lineup full of superstars and multi-millionaires.

Now, if Turner really is for real and the rightful centerpiece of the Dodgers lineup moving forward, the question then is, what the hell took Dodger manager Don Mattingly so long to figure that out?  Over the last year or so (excluding July 2014 when Turner was hurt and only had 14 at bats), Turner’s monthly OPS numbers have been 1.013, .969, 1.192, .749, .991 and .999.  For whatever reason, Donnie Baseball just didn’t think that Turner looked like a real baseball player until he had been mashing for an entire year.

So fine, whatever, Mattingly was slow on the uptake.  So what?  Well, if you recall, the Dodgers lost in the first round of the playoffs last year to the Cardinals, losing three games by a combined four runs.  Turner’s predecessor, Juan Uribe, started all four games and slashed a miserable .118/.118/.118.  Meanwhile, Turner, coming off a .388/.459/.566 second half, received a grand total of two at bats in the series.  You don’t think the difference between a red-hot Turner and a clearly ineffective Uribe could have been worth a run or two over four games?

This oversight may have been lost to most at the time, likely overshadowed by the endless supply of Mattingly’s other confounding decisions.  But in hindsight, Mattingly’s failure to recognize much sooner that Justin Turner is an everyday player, if not a star, may have been his biggest bungle yet.

Bad Ausmus

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Brad Ausmus is the worst manager in the American League.

During the Sunday Night Baseball game on May 10 between the Royals and Tigers, Miguel Cabrera led off the bottom of the 9th with a walk. The game was tied 1-1, and Ausmus elected to use Rajai Davis to pinch run for Cabrera. Leadoff walks score 38 percent of the time, so removing your best hitter in a game that more likely than not will go to extra innings is facially stupid. The only justification would be if you can use that speed aggressively, i.e. a stolen base. A man on second with none out would score 60% of the time; a man on third with none out would score 85% of the time.

Davis apparently had a green light but did not run the first two pitches to the next batter Victor Martinez, then Martinez singled to left and Davis went to second. If Davis stole in the first two pitches, he would have scored on that single and the game would have been over, but fine, you could theoretically put the blame solely on Davis for failing to run. Then Ausmus decided to put the stop light on Davis when he was at second, even though (a) the increase in odds of going to third make a steal just as worthwhile as stealing second and (b) the Royals weren’t really holding Davis and he was able to establish a huge lead. What was supposed to be an “aggressive” move of pulling Cabrera for Davis ended up as mere station-to-station baserunning as the following hitters made meager outs and the game proceeded to extra innings.

Predictably, this decision would ultimately lose the game for the Tigers. The Royals scored in the top of the 10th, then the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom half. Cabrera’s spot was due up, but instead, up to the plate strode Hernan Perez, who boasted an OPS of .211 for the season. Perez did just about the worst thing possible, bouncing into an easy 5-2-3 double play with the lead runner out at home. Game essentially over.

There are many terrible managers in the major leagues, but most of them happen to be in the National League: Chip Hale, Bryan Price, Walt Weiss, Don Mattingly, Mike Redmond, Ryne Sandberg, Matt Williams. In the American League, however, it really comes down to Ned Yost, Lloyd McClendon and Brad Ausmus. I am convinced McClendon is terrible due to his close affiliation with Jim Leyland, but have no real concrete evidence to support his awfulness. Yost seemed like the frontrunner until last night, when Ausmus snatched the title away. Afterwards, Ausmus expressed no regret and stated “it’s a move you have to make.” Congrats Brad. You’re the Bossmus…you’re the Ausmus Prime of sucking.

Baseball Card Lessons

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Life lessons that baseball cards taught me as a kid:

  • When I was a kid, I managed to accumulate several thousand baseball cards.  Obviously, I had no money back then, so I would try to persuade my mom to buy me cards by telling her that they were a good investment.  This was boom-time for the sports card industry, and I think the whole cards-as-investment thing was a lie that the card manufacturers foisted on children to sell more cards.  I mean, they knew that these cards were going to end up being worthless.  If you’re printing millions of cards at a time, I don’t care how many years go by, how are any of these cards going to be worth anything?  (I encourage everyone in the world to throw their baseball card collections away.  Only then could my cards possibly be worth anything.)  Lesson learned: the basic economic principles of supply and demand.
  • Baseball cards were the original form of fantasy baseball.  I still remember the first trade I ever made:  Eric Davis for Don Mattingly.  Davis was a rising star for the Reds, and I had his rookie card.  But I really thought Don Mattingly had a cool sounding baseball name, and he was really good and he looked sweet with that eye black.  But it wasn’t his rookie card I was getting back, so it wasn’t worth as much.  I didn’t care; I just really wanted a Don Mattingly card, so I got one.  In hindsight, this was a fair trade, since both cards are now worth exactly zero dollars.  Lesson learned: that Don Mattingly was once awesome and that the dude currently managing the Dodgers is some sad impostor.
  • I was also a huge fan of Jose Canseco.  I thought he would be the greatest baseball player of all time, especially after his 40 homer / 40 steal season in 1988.  So I decided to go all-in on Jose.  I traded a Dwight Gooden rookie card (plus other cards) for nine various Jose Canseco non-rookie cards.  I really liked Jose, and I figured that when he eventually broke every record and went to the Hall of Fame, I would be rich. Lesson learned: the perils of not diversifying one’s portfolio. (I was kind of obsessed with Jose Canseco.  When I was bored I would just randomly call the operator and ask for Jose Canseco’s number.  Then I would hang up giggling.  I don’t know why, but I thought this was great fun and the pinnacle of daredevilry.  Yeah, I was a weird kid.)
  • One of the most valuable cards I owned wasn’t a baseball card, but this Wayne Gretzky card (as further described below, I didn’t have many valuable cards).   This was worth something like $15 according to the Beckett price guide, which seemed like a ton of money to me at the time.  So I went to a local card shop to try to sell it, but failed because my negotiation skills were even worse than they are now.  I then forgot that the card was in my coat pocket, and of course my mom then washed my coat and ruined the card.  Lesson learned: that doing laundry is bad.

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Despite having so many cards,  my cards all sucked.  Everyone else had all the hot cards.  The rookie cards of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens or Bo Jackson.  The cool Mark McGwire Team USA Card.  Older cards from the 70’s that my friends had gotten from their dads or older siblings. Cards from Canada.  Autographed cards.  I had none of these.  Every pack of cards I got brought new promise and turned out to be crap.  Topps used to have these stupid checklist cards, those were the worst.  I had hundreds of those.

It was embarrassing how terrible my collection was.  I would meet with my friends to trade baseball cards and I would just sit there while they ignored my sad cards and traded with each other while I sat there alphabetizing my cards by team name and deeply pondering whether “A’s” goes before “Astros”.  I was sick and tired of it.   So I told my friend Mark that I owned a Mickey Mantle baseball card.  I was smart about it (or so I thought); I didn’t claim that I owned THIS Mickey Mantle card, I just said I owned a Mickey Mantle card.

Mark was impressed but he wouldn’t let it alone.  He asked to see it over and over again until I realized he wasn’t going to stop asking.  So I told him I would bring the card over to his house and then biked over there.  When I arrived I pretended to check all of my pockets and said, “Oh no…it  must have fallen out of my pocket when I rode over here!”   Mark freaked out and insisted that we go look for it.  Now, if I really wanted to commit to this lie, I should have gone outside during the middle of a Michigan winter to scour the streets for a few hours.  I should have shed a few tears.  But that all seemed like too much work to me.  So I just said, “No, it’s okay.”  Yes, this is the best method I could conceive to resolve this situation.  Lesson learned: don’t lie; not because lying is bad, but because I suck at it.  (Once, I didn’t feel like doing my work at school so I just threw my worksheet away and then went to the corner to read Curious George.  My teacher came over to ask me where my worksheet was.  I went to the turn-in basket, did a poor job of pretending to look everywhere, and said “I don’t know.”  She then proceeded to pick my crumpled worksheet out of the wastebasket.  She asked me, “Is this yours?”  I said, “No.”  She then uncrumpled the paper to reveal a blank worksheet.  Blank except for my name fastidiously scrawled at the top of the paper.  Thus, this lesson was reinforced; I suck.)