LOS ANGELES — On June 21, the Dodgers were an injury-ravaged ballclub, floundering toward the abyss with a 30-42 record.
The team had a payroll of over $200 million and a turnaround seemed impossible — or at least improbable. The team that was chosen by many pundits to represent the National League in the World Series was in danger of playing out the string for the entire second half of the season.
While manager Don Mattingly was being skewered by fans and media alike — even by his own front office, which told him that if things didn’t change in a hurry, he’d likely be out of a job by the All-Star break — things were about to change. Not in a hurry, but a change that would see them dominate baseball like few teams ever had.
From that dark day in June until Aug. 27, the Dodgers put together one of the most impressive streaks in the history of pro sports, going 48-12 and taking control of the National League West. They are currently tied for second in the National League with 78 wins and are just two games behind the Braves and Red Sox for the best overall record in baseball.
In the Joe McDonnell Podcast (click here to listen)
Mattingly talks about the job he’s done, his feelings about still not
being offered a contract extension and the Dodgers’
chances to bring home their first World Championship since 1988.
How did the impressive run happen? Well, Yasiel Puig came up from Double-A Chattanooga and began destroying big league pitching. Great starting pitching — led by Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke — was a huge factor, as well as Kenley Jansen taking over from Brandon League and becoming one of baseball’s top closers.
There was lots of credit to go around, yet the one name you rarely heard praised was that of Mattingly.
In his third year guiding the Dodgers, the former Yankee great stood strong against the hourly criticism and speculation — even after being told that he might be dismissed in a couple of days — and made the moves that turned the team around.
“I always believed that we had enough to be a really good team,” Mattingly said, “even when we were playing bad baseball. There was too much talent here not to make a run. But the big question was, would everyone heal quickly enough to give us enough time to do it? Except for Matt Kemp, we did, and now we just have to be patient with Matt and see how much he’ll be able to give us in the last month and hopefully the playoffs.”