Are Dodgers finally feeling the weight of ownership chaos?
Only right now, I’m thinking not. Thinking it sounds good, sounds right, and yet is very wrong.
For the last two seasons, to a man, the Dodgers have said the turmoil surrounding team ownership does not affect their play.
That they’re hardly thinking about Frank and Jamie McCourt’s divorce when stepping into the batter’s box or on the pitching mound. Of course, they’re not.
"I don’t think guys really pay that much attention to it," said Manger Don Mattingly. "The guys are focused on the year. I know it gets a lot of attention but I don’t think it’s something that’s in our clubhouse, that guys are worried about on a day-to-day basis.
"It doesn’t really matter to them. If it does, it’s really an excuse."
It’s the old "worry about the things you can control" approach. So sensible, no one’s even questioned it. Me, too, at least until now.
Now I think it is having an impact, at least subconsciously. The Dodgers cannot believe they are playing for an organization dedicated to winning. That will do everything it can to produce a champion.
An organization that does gives players a mental edge, brings a touch of enthusiasm and energy to the clubhouse that currently is not there for the Dodgers.
They’re so lethargic right now, it’s truly sad. Losing does that, of course, but all teams go through losing periods. This is beyond that. This is knowing this is all they have, it’s not good enough and is not going to get better as long as the ownership circus continues.
When a team picks up a good player at the trade deadline, a new energy can surge through the clubhouse. It’s in knowing everyone is doing everything they can to produce a winner, on the field and up stairs.
"I believe that," Mattingly said.
This is the same thing, only in reverse. The team has no spark and no deep-seated belief things will improve in the foreseeable future. A heavy shroud hangs over the team and franchise. The organization takes a daily beating by the media, in the empty stands, in rumors of payrolls that may go unmet.
Does this team truly believe they are on equal footing with the top organizations in baseball?
Subconsciously, it has to wear on them.
"It’s possible," Mattingly said.
Do the players really believe the organization will add that extra player or two to lift the team?
"Being on a team that gets somebody, it’s usually a surprise," Mattingly said. "When we picked up Manny [Ramirez] and Casey [Blake] a couple of years ago, that’s definitely a lift. They come in and bang the ball around, it changes the perspective all of a sudden."
This is a team in bad need of a new perspective. Because all these months of ownership uncertainty has taken a toll.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers starting pitcher Ted Lilly watches from the bench after being removed from the game against the Houston Astros on Friday night at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea / US Presswire