Don Mattingly! What the hell are you doing?
Perhaps I should be more specific because people have a tendency of yelling that at you in October.
You forgot the cardinal rule… or more to the point the DODGER rule: NEVER TAKE OUT KERSHAW OR GREINKE IN A CLOSE GAME!!!!
After making decisions that are peculiar at best in the last few post seasons and all throughout the regular season, you have somehow, someway found yourself back in the Division Series and with the home field advantage.
Actually it isn’t hard to figure out why. Every 5 days you hand the ball to Clayton Kershaw. Every 5 days you hand the ball to Zack Greinke. You do that enough times, you will win a lot of games.
The formula of “Hand the ball to the stud” is what was going to open up the lane to the World Series appearance that has somehow eluded you despite nearly 20 years as a Yankee player and coach and managing in Los Angeles with a payroll that resembled Scrooge McDuck’s home.
Think about it. If the Dodgers won every single Kershaw and Greinke start in the post season, they would win the World Series. You could screw up all the double switches and lift Adrian Gonzalez for a pinch runner until you are Dodger blue in the face and you would still win the World Series.
3 Kershaw or Greinke starts in the Division Series.
4 Kershaw or Greinke starts in the NLCS.
4 Kershaw or Greinke starts in the World Series.
BOOM! Start the parade.
But in order for that formula to work, you need to WIN THOSE GAMES.
A team like the Mets, who have stock piled quality pitchers themselves, have an equally simple strategy: Steal a game against Kershaw or Greinke and win the other games at their home.
In other words, winning Game 1 was critical. And guess what, despite giving up a homer, Kershaw was fantastic through 6 innings.
Yes, he started walking batters in the 7th. Yes, a tiny but alarming sample size of post season starts have shown his Achilles Heel seems to be the 7th.
But he was still one pitch away from getting out of the inning. He was one pitch away from going to the bottom of the 7th behind only 1-0.
And while Jacob deGrom was pitching an amazing game, LA would be one proverbial mistake from tying it and putting the pressure on the young pitcher.
Instead you broke the rule. You took Kershaw out of the game. And in the single most critical moment of the season… a moment that basically could mean home field advantage and put the Dodgers in a position where a Matt Harvey Game 3 win would mean Game 4 would be an elimination game with a short rest Kershaw on the mound… you said “I would rather have Pedro Baez pitch than Clayton Kershaw now.”
Which pitcher would you rather have throw the one pitch to get you out of that inning?
Kershaw or Baez?
Forget Kershaw was tiring. I’d rather have Kershaw ASLEEP than any middle reliever on the Dodgers now.
I am struggling to find an analogy of how insane that is. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Daniel Day-Lewis has a little cough right now, so the rest of the performance will be by Tony Danza!”
“Folks, I’ve decided this Prince concert will be finished by Warrant.”
Bill Plaschke of the LA Times thinks it was the right move to take Kershaw out because of his post season struggles. Not sure I follow him.
“Why are you taking out the Cy Young candidate in the 7th?”
“Because Matt Adams hit a home run off of him a year ago.”
“Ok. Wait HUH?”
Even if you MUST remove him (which you mustn’t) the magnitude of the moment called for you to bring his best pitcher out. Is Kenley Jansen coming in that situation? Not in the regular season, but he is their best reliever and this is a moment they needed the best option.
If not Jansen, then why not Chris Hatcher? He had struck out 11 batters in his 9 1/3 innings and in the final month pitched to a 0.96 ERA.
Yeah, I know the pitcher’s spot was coming up in the order. But the top of the 7th had potentially the entire post season on the line. Maybe THEN do one of the double switches you love doing, Donnie!
The most important thing was preventing the Mets from adding to the score. I content Kershaw was the best option. Jansen would be the second best option. Hatcher would be the third best option.
What you chose to do with everything on the line was go to your FOURTH best option.
This is NOT a second guess. I’ve been screaming about never removing Kershaw nor Greinke from a close game since at least my August 24th, 2015 Podcast.
It is the rule you should tattoo on his arm and read it more often than Guy Pearce in Momento. DON’T TAKE OUT KERSHAW AND GREINKE.
You did take him out. David Wright gave the Mets the insurance they needed.
And now it doesn’t matter if Zack Greinke throws a perfect game and strikes out 27 and the Dodgers win the game 28-0. The Mets did exactly what they needed. All THEY have to do is win their two games at home and the Dodgers season (and possibly the tandem of Clayton Kershaw and free agent to be Zack Greinke) will be done.
You held the World (Series) in your hands, Don Mattingly… if only you listened to my rule.