It’s meant as a rallying cry for teams that aren’t playing together. It’s meant for teams that are concentrating on outside distractions instead of winning games.
It’s meant for this current Los Angeles team.
Speaking before the Dodgers' game against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, Mattingly didn’t mince words about what he thought was plaguing his squad, which has lost five of its last seven games and went into Wednesday's game seven games back of NL West-leading San Francisco.
“I think when we were starting to put things together last year, you felt a real, true team focus,” he said. “Just a collective group. We talk about numbers, guys start throwing out all the numbers, all these things. One thing you can’t measure is the feeling that you have as a team. Everybody is playing together and everyone is going in one direction.…
"I’ve played on some good teams and I’ve played on some bad teams. I’ve been around some really good teams coaching-wise. When that group gets going in one direction, and that focus is purely to win a game, no matter who gets the attention or who gets this or who gets that, I think it’s always better. That’s the one thing you don’t measure with numbers, and that’s the power you talk about with a group. We haven’t felt that as a team, and I think it’s the one area that we’re missing.
"To be absolutely honest with you, I think that’s the one thing we’re missing at this point, a collective group fighting and pulling in one direction trying to win a game, without any concept of this guy or that guy or this guy.”
Mattingly alluded to a “feel” multiple times, saying that for whatever reason, he can just tell when teams are clicking in one direction. He also made it very clear that the Dodgers problems don’t necessarily have anything to do with their league-leading payroll or star power. Much has been made of the Dodgers outfield — which includes four players making a combined $429 million — and the potential clashes of ego, but Mattingly shot down that possibility, saying, “I don’t think it has anything to do with the outfield.”
It’s only June, and Mattingly said that was that he’s been on good teams in the past that have missed the “feel” he’s referring to, only to find it later. Some teams take longer to click than others, for whatever reason, only to turn it on at the end of the season.
At the same time, it’s concerning for the Dodgers that Mattingly and his staff can’t put a finger on why the problem exists. The solution could come soon — or it might not come at all.
For the Dodgers, whether it’s Lasorda’s teams in the 1980s or Mattingly’s present-day edition, the solution is at the end of the rope.
“You can just feel it with a club that gets rolling,” Mattingly. “You can feel it. It just hasn’t been for a sustained time. It may be a day here, a day there, but it hasn’t really felt like true team at this point, where we are all at that Tommy Lasorda end of the rope, worried about the Dodgers and ‘This is where we’re going, and I don’t care what happens, we’re going to get there.’ "