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When the Dodgers wish upon a star, it's for a very different mental approach

October 7, 2010 |  7:51 am

It was almost a throwaway question. The Dodgers had called a season wrap-up news conference on a fittingly gray and drizzly afternoon at Dodger Stadium.

Don Mattingly, now in his first official day as Dodgers manager, had seemed to answer every question, the media scrum beginning to break up, when I threw one last query at him:

If he were to reach into his pocket right now, discover pixie dust and throw it on his team, what’s the one thing he would want to add?

Mattingly thought a brief moment, then said:

"If we could be one thing -- mentally tough. I want our club to be mentally tough."

Which naturally led to the follow-up question: Was that lacking last season?

"Hey, you said one thing," said Mattingly, laughing.

"There’s a toughness that it takes to play this game. I know it’s not a football toughness type of thing, but when you have to get yourself ready 162 times, it’s a battle. It’s not always going to physically beat you up, but it’s a mental battle to get yourself ready every day."

The 2010 Dodgers as a collective clearly lacked mental toughness. So clearly, not only did management also recognize it, but it is now openly addressing it.

Too few played with the kind of daily intensity most winning teams boast. Almost from the beginning, the competitive fire too often seemed to simmer.

"I thought in the spring we should have been crisper, said General Manager Ned Colletti. "I don’t know if it’s because we played a longer season or if people thought it was going to be easy.

"We need a little more crispness to what we do, a little more intensity. More relentless to what we're trying to accomplish. But that doesn't fall on one person or a small group of people. That falls on everybody."

Players, coaches, management -- and you could argue -- ownership.

The Dodgers are a team full of holes. But when Mattingly was asked the one thing he would add, it wasn’t a power outfielder or an ace or closer.

It was to change the team’s mental approach. And since Kirk Gibson is currently occupied, that addition will have to come from within.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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