« Sports

It is Indeed a (Rare) Virtue

by Nick Vitrano

Welcome to the NLCS, Los Angeles.  The Dodgers are the first to punch the Championship Series ticket this MLB postseason with a 4-3 victory over Atlanta last night.  Wait…LA?  What?  But I thought that was an organization in turmoil, a team goin’ nowhere with a can’t-manage-a-lick manager in Don Mattingly.  That was precisely the wisdom of the fans, the experts…well, just about everybody…back in May.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My Milwaukee Brewers, winners of just 3 games to that point in the month (May 20th), were sitting 8 games under .500 with the equally hapless Dodgers rolling into Miller Park.  As a Brewers fan, that was to be the series about which we’d reminisce in September (on our way to the postseason) and regard as the moment when our fortunes turned for the better.  That was to be our launching pad, and the funeral for the Dodgers’ skip.  The Crew took the series 2-1, but it was neither their jumping off point to excellence nor the end of the road for Mattingly.

In our just-add-water, instant gratification sports society, the story of the 2013 Los Angeles Dodgers is an excellent lesson in patience and perspective. 

Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh stated it simply and poetically (WARNING: NSFW – LANGUAGE):


But like his character in Bull Durham, Nuke’s simplicity lacks perspective.  The euphoria of winning, and the philosophy of winning at all costs, has created in us…and I mean all of us – fans and owners alike…an impractical entitlement.  It has blinded us to the reality of the difficult journey that is success.  Winning is tough.  And winning in baseball?  That’s a brutal six month rollercoaster ride. 

I’m not a myopic apologist for the manager, but we too easily default to “fire the skipper” when the team is losing.  There are certainly cases of ineptitude, or an incidence in which an otherwise solid presence has “lost the team,” but I find those to be the rarities.  Injuries, fatigue, off-the-field issues creeping into the clubhouse psyche…heck, just standard underachieving…basic human conditions tend to be the culprit.  Oh, and lack of talent – a canyon over which even the best of the best managers cannot leap.

The Dodgers knew what they had in Mattingly, took the time to diagnose the real issues, then afforded their manager the time to turn it around.  Well done, L.A.