Ned Colletti says a new question awaits Dodgers this spring: How do they respond to failure?
A new challenge awaits the Dodgers this spring. One they knew nothing about the past two Februarys. One that began testing them from the moment last season ended.
How they bounce back from disappointment.
They will not arrive in Arizona having just played for the National League championship. Will not be the hot, young, rising team from the N.L. West. They will be a group emerging from failure.
"The question I have this year, that I didn’t have last year ago, is really rebounding from last season -- '08 and '09 were two really good years," said General Manager Ned Colletti. "We gained a lot, players matured a lot, got more understanding of the dynamics of competing at this level and playing in October.
"Then last year we obviously took a step back. We need to see a passion and an edge right from the outset. I believe it will happen, but I'll feel better about it once it's here."
Adversity was not a poor road trip last year, it was a frustrating season. Rebounding from that disappointment is a new world for this group of Dodgers.
"Especially the younger core hadn't been through a lot of losing at that point," Colletti said. "Sometimes if you go through that stretch to see what the other side looks like, to see what it feels like to be playing games the last two weeks of the season that don't mean anything unless you're the spoiler for somebody else, it's a different dynamic, it's a different feeling. It's one I haven't been accustomed to for a long time, and hopefully they understand it better now and continue to make sure we don't repeat it."
Will the Dodgers come back more determined, more focused, more driven? Stung by last season's breakdown, will they be in better condition, work harder, be more receptive to coaching?
Last year's Dodgers could never find their spark, could never quite come together. Were they too comfortable after their previous success? Was a hunger missing?
"I don't know if it was exactly the hunger, but something was amiss," Colletti said. "Injuries always play a role, but every team goes through that.
"I think when they reached back to get what they had in '08 and '09, to get through a tough series or make something really happen, they couldn't figure out where it went."
Like every parent tells their children, the one good aspect of making a mistake is to learn from it. Last season's failure was well beyond any one or two individuals. It was nearly team-wide, a collective disappointment.
Much of the responsibility for regaining that edge is on each player, though the Dodgers will do what they can to impart a fresh focus.
"You can a little bit," Colletti said. "Some of it is up to the individual, and some of it you can put things in place, people in place to require it. I think this is going to be a strength of Donnie [Mattingly].
"You don’t come from being a 19th-round pick from Evansville, Ind., and having your number in Monument Park without a true passion and focus to achieve. And I think that will carry over."
-- Steve Dilbeck