ST. LOUIS -- The most respected team members are the ones that hold themselves accountable for their mistakes.
The players had to answer for the manager’s mistake. That is no way for any manager to start the
You should have heard the clipped responses from
To recap: Gonzalez, representing the potential go-ahead run, walked to start the eighth inning. Mattingly replaced him with pinch-runner
It did, twice, each time with a runner in scoring position.
Was Gonzalez surprised by the move? He danced around a direct answer.
"That's part of the game," Gonzalez said.
How tough was it to see his spot come up twice more? He danced around that too.
"It was tough to see us lose at the end," he said, forcing a thin smile. "The rest, in between, it was exciting. Overall, the outcome is the only thing that matters."
To those questions and a few others, Gonzalez had every chance to say Mattingly made the right move. Gonzalez did not.
He might not be the most objective player, of course. He lost his at-bats and a chance to be the hero. It was more telling that another player thought long and hard, offered a perfect diplomatic answer, then paused and asked, "How'd I do?"
No manager can get every move right. The manager's job is to put his players in position to succeed. Gonzalez never got that chance.
Mattingly did not concede a mistake. He defended his move, saying Gonzalez might not have scored on a double and Gordon is on the roster to pinch-run.
"You've got to shoot your bullet when you get a chance," Mattingly said.
"If we don't use him there and the next guy hits a ball in the gap and he doesn't score and we don't score there, you're going to say, 'Why didn't you use Dee?' "
But we're not going to say that, because the score still would be tied and the Dodgers still would have their most consistent hitter in the game, the one who drove in 100 runs when no one else on the team drove in more than 57.
There was no mutiny in the clubhouse, at least on the record.
"Adrian is a great player," Young said. "Dee is the fastest guy on our roster. We just wanted to get him in the game."
"We've got to try to score runs," Ellis said. "We've got to try to get some offense going. Dee's speed can make the difference in us scoring a run."
He did not score. The Dodgers did not win a game in which the pitching matchup favored them. They do have
“I think the sun will rise tomorrow,”
The Dodgers say they plan to bring Mattingly back next season, that the contract negotiations can wait until after the playoffs. Plans can change, though, and it did not help that a manager whose greatest strength is his relationship with his players had some of those players wondering just what he was doing in that eighth inning.
If the Dodgers win this series, all might be forgotten. If they lose, then the question that lingers from the last time the Dodgers and Cardinals met in the NLCS will be replaced in Dodgers lore by a new one.