When season was a disaster, these Dodgers held together

So when the Dodgers were losing game after game for two solid months, why didn’t the team blow up into 25 selfish fireballs like everyone said they would?

Before going 21-5 in their past 26 games, the Dodgers were 30-42. In reality, it was even worse than that. Los Angeles started its season 6-3, then went 24-39, a .381 winning percentage that placed them among the worst teams in baseball.

Through that entire stretch, there were only two off-field issues of any note at all, and each of the people involved handled them gracefully.

Don Mattingly became the subject of daily rumors of his impending firing. Mattingly didn’t lash out, but kept his focus on the task at hand.

Mattingly did say the following on May 22:

“We’re last place in the National League West. Last year, at this point, we’re playing a lineup that basically has nobody in it, that fights and competes and battles you every day for every inch of the field. We talk about it as an organization. We’ve got to find the club with talent that will fight and compete like the club that doesn’t have that talent. If there’s going to be a message sent, it’s going to be over a period of time.”

Though Mattingly was speaking about the entire squad, Andre Ethier was benched the day Mattingly made these statements, something few people thought was a coincidence — including Ethier, who was clearly hurt by the comments.

Whatever negative reaction Ethier might have had after that day, however, he kept in the clubhouse, without pouting or making a stink in the press. And in the past two months, Mattingly has singled Ethier out for praise for his efforts.

And that’s it. No tabloid stories have come out of the Dodger clubhouse. No tales of infighting or finger-pointing. Beset by injuries and slumping players, the losses kept piling up — June began with an 8-14 record — and everyone had every reason to be frustrated. But no one, not even the so-called troublemakers from outside (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford or Josh Beckett) caused trouble. Yasiel Puig has ruffled feathers, but those angry birds are opponents, not teammates, unless you call statesman Juan Uribe’s reactive counseling a conflict.

Maybe the Dodgers have just become experts at running an airtight clubhouse, but I doubt they’re that competent. More likely, the minor stuff has been settled in-house, but the major conflicts just haven’t happened.

I’m not crediting chemistry for the turnaround. It seems clear that improved health, solid pitching and a red-hot Ramirez have been the keys.

But I do think it’s worth noting that the narrative of the Dodgers as a chemistry-challenged team was severely tested this spring. And like so many other invented tales, it was found false.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts:

March 31: The Giants’ 2012 title: Dealmaking trumps chemistry

May 28: Twenty examples of Dodger grit in five minutes

  • Anonymous

    But can the Dodgers grind and scrape for runs and wins like the virtuous San Francisco Giants of earlier in the year?

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      And do they have the True Grit™ of the Arizona Fingerwaggin’ Diamondbacks?

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Amen! And for those many of us here who did not give up hope, a pat on the back. ;) (T’aint over yet of course.)

  • Joanna Casey

    Great read, Jon. Especially on a day like today with all the PED nonsense swirling around. It just really helps to read something positive!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Re-posting so Linkmaster sees Hanley’s guard we were talking about:

    http://i.imgur.com/USgScv8.png

    • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

      Thanks. I have no idea what to call that. “The Club?”

      • Anonymous

        I imagine it’s just a pliable piece of blue plastic with some velcro on it.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, but its got to have a cool name for marketing.

          • Anonymous

            I think it’s a W-117B

            http://www.benik.com/athletics

          • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

            but it extends way passed his fingers so I think it’s custom made

          • Anonymous

            I think that could just be how he wears it. Hanley Ramirez can’t be held in by typical uniform standards. Exhibit A: his jersey being opened about three buttons.

          • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

            I picked the W-106B on that same page yesterday, but I hadn’t seen it being worn.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman
    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      Word is now he can’t officially sign yet so people may have jumped the gun. Hopefully there is a deal in place and they just have to wait for him to be cleared, looks like he’d be a nice addition.

  • Anonymous

    To all of us who hung in here together through the rough first half, this winning time is pretty great. Now my challenge is to stay in the present moment of enjoyment without adding too much angst. I had “let go” of the Dodgers going anywhere this year, and was learning to enjoy the little things each game. Hopefully I can stay there, even though we are back in contention.

  • Anonymous

    With all due respect to Puig and Kemp, props to Hanley Ramirez’s leadership and hustle.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    ICYMI, Babe Greinke is having one hell of a season at the plate: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/zack-greinkes-babe-ruth-season/

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Carlos Marmol is in the Dodger clubhouse, per the beat writers.

  • Anonymous

    Call it chemistry, character, or whatever you like. The reasons this team didn’t throw it into the tank were several decisions made by individuals to keep playing hard. Ethier didn’t pout. Uribe cut down his swing. Greinke worked hard to get back quickly from the DL. Gonzalez didn’t bitch about having no help around him in the order. Kenley Jansen kept throwing up zeroes quietly while Brandon League faltered.

    The reason we like this team is because it seems to be made up of good guys. Josh Beckett notwithstanding.

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      Can’t be — we were told the Dodgers just didn’t have the right chemistry, you can’t buy chemistry, etc. Even though we saw plenty of evidence to the contrary all season, even during their struggles (as you note). Nope, the media hacks and kruks of the world had spoken so you must be imagining this. ;)

      • Anonymous

        See previous comment re: Simers.

  • Anonymous

    Another reason: TJ Simers was busy picking scabs off the Lakers, Clippers and Kings for most of the spring.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Simers – who is MIA right now – laid into Ethier pretty good.

      • Anonymous

        Wasn’t very nice to DM either, as I recall (I only read him when he comes up in discussions here)

      • Anonymous

        Thank heavens for small things.

  • Anonymous

    LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Dodgers today selected the contract of right-handed reliever Carlos Marmol from Double-A Chattanooga and optioned right-hander Jose Dominguez to Triple-A Albuquerque.

    Marmol recalled, Dominguez returned. I guess we’ll see if he has anything left, but I don’t know that I like having two failed closers in the pen.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Brandon League has a career 6.6 K/9. Marmol has career 11.7 K/9. There are obvious perils w/Marmol, but they are not the same pitcher.

    Plus, Marmol can be cut at a moment’s notice, while the Dodgers continue to try to justify League’s contract.

    I’d be willing to work through Dominguez’s rough start, but he was having trouble completing innings. I don’t mind taking this flyer.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT