Thursday, May 23, 2013

Lack of "Grit" and "Compete Level" has been an Issue for a Long Time

It occurred to me last night that the issue Mattingly spoke of yesterday has been a problem surrounding the Dodgers for quite a while.

Think back to when the last time the Dodgers where perennial playoff contenders.  It really wasn't too long ago.  Back then names like Kent, Garciaparra and Gonzo filled out our roster. They were veterans who had been through the grime and muck, only to came out as chiseled sages ready and willing to impart their knowledge.  No doubt, they were also willing to give everything they've got to win. 

Now, we stand here wondering what happened?  Did the kids on the team back then gain from their tutelage? 

That answer appears to be, no.

Let's take a quick look at some of things that were said back then.  Via Dylan Hernandez' reporting at the LA Times from September 2007, entitled "A Shot to Generation Gap".
Upon being swept in a four-game series in Colorado, Kent said he was "disappointed," "angry" and "perplexed." He spoke in vague terms of the "many things" responsible for the Dodgers' slide from playoff contention. When asked if that included Little's lineups and the coaching staff's strategy, he said, "Everything."

"We've got some good kids on the team," Kent said. "Don't get me wrong, please don't misinterpret my impressions. [But] it's hard to translate experience."

He said of the younger players: "I don't know why they don't get it."

Of what they don't get, Kent said, "A lot of things. Professionalism. How to manufacture a run. How to keep your emotions in it. There's just a lot of things that go on with playing 162 games."
My Translation: These kids lacked the "grit" & "compete level" it takes to win.
He added: "It's close to the end of the season. And a career for me too. I'm running out of time. A lot of kids in here, they don't understand that."
A sense of urgency can create an attitude that often leads to taking it up a notch.  Clearly, the kids didn't have it back then, and I am lead to believe it may still not exist in the clubhouse today.

How did the kids respond when told of Kent's criticism back in 2007?  Here's what Loney said:
Asked if it bothered him to be criticized by one of the team's leaders, Loney said of Kent, "Who said he was a leader?"
Kemp said:
"Having fun is part of the game," Kemp said. "If you came up here and you were serious all the time, that's not fun. Joking with your boys, that's fun. It helps you relax.
Now, let's look at what Ethier said yesterday.  Via Ken Gurnick at
"Yeah, I take offense to that, without approaching me first," said Ethier. "Other than that, I show up every day and find ways to compete, to work hard whether I'm going good or bad. Just like everyone here, I have to get a grip and a handle on what's gone on. We can never lose hope to get back on top of the division. That's my approach every day."
Wrong attitude.  There is nothing to be offended by what Mattingly said.  As a professional you have to take the criticism as an opportunity to be better.  That's it.  Saying you're offended has no meaning.  The rest of it sounds like a series of cliche's to me.

So, what's the solution?

I haven't the foggiest idea, but I think Chad Moriyama touched on it a bit in his post this morning.
Over the years, basically everybody I’ve talked to that’s been close to the team has not exactly come away with a glowing impression of Ethier, and it wasn’t Mattingly that tried to eat the contract of a recently-extended Ethier just this past winter.
Mike Petriello affirms the same general feeling about Ethier, as well as the trade aspect of it.
I don’t know what happened with Ethier behind the scenes, though anyone surprised that he’s got a reputation as being difficult hasn’t been paying attention — and yes, they did try to trade him over the winter.
So while I’m not all that sure what happened behind closed doors, and I’m not saying it’s absolutely justified, I am leaving open the possibility that this was a necessary action due to something that might be happening behind the scenes.
I would add that this is not to say that Ethier is the only problem.  Maybe something endemic has happened - a kind of culture has been allowed to permeate within the clubhouse and something needs to be done to change it.

Management, it's your move!


Yesterday evening, Left Field Pavilion posted up a couple of great graphics that I think perfectly encapsulates what I'm trying to say.  So, with apologies to him (for putting this up here) check out the first one that I thought was the best.

(pic link)

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  1. Could not disagree more.

    The '08 and '09 Dodgers were good teams, but they were hardly "perennial contenders". It was the middle of four year span that featured two LCS teams and two fourth place teams. Jeff Kent was only involved in one of the play-off teams and didn't distinguish himself. Bowa didn't exactly cover himself in glory as a Manager, although he was fun to have around as a Coach.

    Neither guy is going to wear a Dodger hat in the HOF.

    The last time the Dodgers were truly perennial contenders was '94-'97. That is a four year span with (essentially) three play-off teams and a near miss. The Manager was llife-long Tommy Lasorda and the leaders were products of the Dodger system: Piazza, Karros, Ramon Martinez.

    In other words, there are no short-cuts to perennial contender status. The team needs smart management, a plan and the willingness to stick with it. The last time the Dodgers were near that path was immediately prior to the McCourt sale with Dan Evans, Logan White, Kim Ng and Jim Tracey running things. No amount of chest beating by Mattingly is going to fix the stupid, short-term decisions of the McCourt-Colletti years.

    1. Point taken. Perennial contender is a poor way to describe those teams.

      And you're probably correct in say that the McCourt/Colletti years have been disastrous.

      I just think that both Kent and Bowa were on to something. Maybe the lack of a cogent plan has lead to what we are experiencing today.

    2. I agree that the current nucleus is a group of talented guys that are not exactly gritty. As you point out, we've known that since '08 at the latest. Kemp, Kershaw, Ethier, Billingsley, Loney and Martin were kind of pampered. Of that group, only Kershaw has much grit.

      To me, the answer isn't to trade the talent or rip them for being what they aren't. It is to surround the talent with guys who have the qualities they lack. There are plenty of guys with fire and intangibles available every year.Once they had Hanley Ramirez in the fold, the Dodgers didn't need another big bat. They needed infield defense and a guys that would get hit by pitches and hit a sac fly and dive into the stands for a pop up. Instead, they got three more pampered "names" with "veteran experience".

      Same thing on the pitching side. With Kershaw and Greinke, you have starting pitching. The key to a long season is the unglamorous bullpen guys. The long relievers and the lefty specialists and set-up man are what make the starts of the 3,4 and men in the rotation consistently winnable. Instead, we have the ringleader of the worst modern Red Sox clubhouse.


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