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

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

Comments () | Archives (9)

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If lack of hustle was part of the problem with this Dodger team, what better leader would you want for this team than Kirk Gibson. Can you imagine Gibson tolerating Matt Kemp's half a$& effort.

Mattingly will have very little to work with, since he will not be getting any help from the owner. Changing this team's mental outlook is about the only choice he has. I know I'm in the minority here, but I think he'll do everything he can to get into the underachievers' heads and make them a tougher=thinking group. If he fails, it won't be for lack of trying. It sounds like he knows what he's in for. We all do, because we all know there will be no real attempt to improve the personnel on this team, thanks to a debt-ridden crook of an owner.

Great final point, Steve, i've been thinking how lucky the D-Backs are for having the ken to install Kirk Gibson as field mgr. If he turns that team into a reflection of himself, look out. Another former Dodger, who showed he had It, allowed to bring another team to achievement---some day maybe soon.

I'd put $ down in Vegas the D-Backs finish 4th in '11. You know where that puts this year's 4th.

Donnie's answer to you shows he knows who signs his paycheck, which btw is what? A couple hundred thou? If Mattingly wants mental toughness, he better crack the magic whip that can turn scrubs into titans, unknowns into Philadelphia-level quality, throwers (Broxton) into pitchers, and underachievers into overachievers. Does anyone believe he can do any of that?

I have a feeling this coming season is going to be a masochist's dream. It's all on Mattingly. He better know how to get Mission Impossible done, or quit and trade places with Wallach until he learns how.

If I am correct, the Dodgers spent part of spring training outside the country. They did this before. Does it throw them off? I wonder.

As for mental toughness, if a team is not ready to play, isn't there some reason to think that has something to do with the manager? And if so, what was Don Mattingly saying about his mentor? And since Joe Torre relied so heavily on Larry Bowa, I guess having a big baby around to throw temper tantrums whenever something goes wrong didn't rub off. Uh, how many World Series rings did Bowa win, again?

So it's mental, uh. Wow, we're in more trouble than I thought. Yeager, Lopes, Garvey, Cey et al aren't on this team anymore. THOSE dudes were mentally tough.

getting Scott Posednick and Ryan Theorit instead of guys who can actually hit the ball more then 45 feet is CRISP. Coming outta spring with no fifth starter is even crisper.

Let's get one thing straight here. Larry Bowa was not the bench coach for Torre and he didn't have the input to Torre like Schaefer did. Did you notice that Schaefer was always standing next to Torre in the dugout? I do not believe that Bowas' back was protected by Torre.

Since Mattingley is the manager, we have to give him his due but the pressure will be on him. 2011 will be no honeymoon type season for Mattingley regardless of the owner and the GM. Somewhere this team needs a leader as none of the so called core players stepped up this year. They are all followers. I hate to say it, but this Frisco kid, Buster Posey, has shown more leadership qualties in his short time than all the Dodger core players have in all the time with the Dodgers.

Gibson's 1988 season was legendary and yeah, he was mentally tough, but that doesn't necessarily mean he can convince all of his players. Bowa is mentally tough, how influential has he been on the Dodger players? The players have to want it and be embarrassed by their poor finish this year and get the mental toughness from themselves. Gibson, Bowa, Mattingly or anybody else can't make them mentally tough.

I agree the Dodgers lacked some degree of "mental toughness" but I think a power hitting outfielder to go along with Ethier and Kemp along with an ace would definitely help with the "mental toughness".


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