Why isn't this man smiling? Although the Los Angeles Dodgers have thrown millions at free agents and traded for top talent, manager Don Mattingly lamented that people's expectations are too high for his team in 2013. Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Don Mattingly Talking Silly


So Donnie Baseball thinks the expectations are too high for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his team’s new owners spent about as much money over the last few months stocking up on quality baseball talent that could have otherwise have helped the U.S. Treasury reduce the deficit by a trillion or two.

Sorry, buddy, that won’t fly. The proper public comment from LA manager Don Mattingly was to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you” to his bosses for giving him oodles of talent to play with. Just because the hierarchy traded for Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, made Zack Greinke the highest paid pitcher in the universe, aand spent a fortune to corral Korean pitcher Hyum-Jim Ryu for millions more, imagine that fans and pundits expect the Dodgers to win a lot in 2013.

Well, yeah, that’s the idea. Mattingly should pretend he is still with the Yankees who have been doing this big-bucks thing for more than a generation. Guess what? Every time George Steinbrenner opened the vault it came with expectations and those expectations were not merely that New York was going to win the American League East, but the American League pennant, and the World Series, too.

It was a foregone conclusion that the Dodgers were going to have the highest payroll in baseball next season–until the Angels went out and bought Josh Hamilton for $25 million per, adding him to their own fleet of Cadillacs. So the Dodgers might only end up with the second highest payroll (though the Yankees aren’t done yet and the Red Sox have hardly started, they’re just searching for commodities to invest in).

Mattingly making such a comment is a little bit like a manager complaining that he has too much talent. He is, of course, quite familiar with the Yankee way and he said it kind of bugged him that if one of those teams had a great regular season and won a couple of playoff series, but didn’t win it all, the whole thing was a “horrible season.”

Yes, certain people do think that way–that winning is the only thing and second place might as well be 10th. Believe me, if one of those runner-up teams really finished 10th the howling would be heard from here to Jupiter. It is good to be hardcore hungry in sports and going for the gold at all times. No, it’s no disgrace to take home the silver or bronze, but what you do is prepare to win gold, give it your all, and try to impose your will and make it happen.

This is the big-boy poker table, not the $2 ante game, and Mattingly has got to realize it. Surely, he wouldn’t rather be managing the hopeless Houston Astros or the hopeful Cleveland Indians, or some other team in some other city where they’re used to the team being out of the pennant race by July 4. There’s a good chance that a whole bunch of Major League managers would willingly trade their roster for Mattingly’s next season, and as for the pressure of great expectations…they would cope, even if it meant chowing down on Rolaids with breakfast, lunch and dinner.

If Mattingly can steer this ship to the National League West Division title ahead of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants and take out the Giants and Cincinnati Reds in the playoffs to reach the World Series, nobody is going to rank his season a failure. If the Dodgers stumble their way out of a wild card playoff spot then yes indeed there will be screams for his head on a platter.

Mattingly has been dealt what seems to be a winning hand. Going back to that poker thing the Dodgers said to the other serious contenders in the NL, “I see you and I raise you. We’re  holding aces. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

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