Hmm, what to do, what to do?
I would love to tell you exactly what the right thing is for Manager Don Mattingly to do over the season’s final eight games, but I don’t know. Neither do you nor Mattingly nor anyone else on this planet.
It’s been done different ways, with different results over the seasons and there is no perfect road map, just general directions and common sense.
The Dodgers were the first team in baseball to clinch a division title, which gives them the most time to set things straight for the postseason.
And there is plenty to consider, to do and think over twice.
Still, Mattingly and the Dodgers know what their priority is: have the healthiest team possible to start the postseason.
Yes, they would very much like to have the home-field advantage the first two rounds of the playoffs, but not if it means taking chances with someone’s injury. They still have the best road record (42-34) in the National League.
Yes, they would like to finish the season strong and on a roll heading into the playoffs, but it’s hardly required.
What the Dodgers do believe is, when they are healthy, they can beat anybody. On any night, anywhere.
It’s more important that shortstop Hanley Ramirez be fully healthy and in the middle of their Game 1 lineup, than his starting X-amount of their final games.
“I want to get these guys as healthy as they can [be] and keep them sharp. And if they can play and it's no risk and that's the best thing, we're going to play,” Mattingly said. “But not at the risk of when medical says, ‘Hey, Hanley's a little tight.' Well, I'm not going to go ‘I'm going to use him anyway.' We're going to be more safe than sorry later.”
This is the prudent approach. Each player warrants his own decision, but if they’re rested and strong, it’s better they play.
Which is why one day after sending out a weak spring-training lineup against the Padres on Friday, Mattingly was back to using the big boys. His Saturday lineup:
Ramirez has a bad back that affects his leg and will have to be handled carefully. Andre Ethier has missed the last seven games with a foot injury; he needs to fully heal, and then hopefully, be given enough at-bats to get his timing down.
It’s a fine balancing act with each guy, with eight games to play with. If they should somehow overtake the Cardinals, or even the Braves, in the process to earn home field, great. Should they go into the postseason with the healthy lineup and staff they want, better.