“We’ve got to do better.”
— Don Mattingly
“I did my best, but I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”
— James Ingram
* * *
I tell myself to do better all the time. I do it so often that for the most part, other people don’t have to. Not that it does a whole lot of good.
Thursday, just as the rainbow was receding from Dodger Stadium, I was leaving a film screening that, as happens from time to time, left me really inspired to do exactly that with my life. Do better.
Basically, there are three ways to “do better.”
- Try harder.
- Be smarter.
- Have better luck.
I don’t see any indication that Dodger players are doing any less than the best they can on the first two points. The third, of course, is out of their control.
In the Dodgers’ latest loss, 2-0 to Arizona on Thursday, Clayton Kershaw had a good but not great game. He allowed only two runs, but it could have been worse, given that he served up 12 baserunners in six innings. You want him to do better, but do you really think he could have consciously, proactively done anything more to make himself do better?
The Dodger offense had a poor game, against a great 2011 pitcher having a not-so-great 2012 season. In nine innings, the Dodgers had five singles, two walks and no hits with runners in scoring position. Their best chance to score was thwarted by Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill, whose full-body diving stop of a Juan Rivera grounder up the middle turned what would have been a one-out RBI single into an inning-ending double play.
Was the Dodgers’ effort not there? The first thing many people do when a theoretically talented team is losing is conclude that the team is playing with no heart, no fire, no guts. But not succeeding doesn’t mean you’re not trying.
These guys know what’s at stake, individually and collectively. They know they’re behind. Show me where there was a lack of effort. Show me where they made a mental mistake that made the difference. Show me something meaningful that you’re not just imagining out of frustration.
Now maybe Don Mattingly sees something that I can’t see, and that’s what prompted his closed-door clubhouse exhortation after Thursday’s game. Perhaps he saw something we didn’t in the shadows of pregame preparation, rather than in the gametime spotlight.
More likely is that he is telling his players to “do better” because there’s nothing else really to say. And it’s a little ironic, because, although I’m generally supportive of Mattingly’s efforts as a manager, probably the easiest way for a Dodger to do better might be Mattingly in some of his batting order choices and strategic decisions. But even that’s pretty small potatoes.
Last night, I arrived home hoping to do better. By the time I went to sleep, I was exactly who I was. The Dodgers will do as well as they can, and then they’ll see if that’s good enough. Because everyone can try to do better, but only one can be the best.