Don Mattingly is probably going to get fired. Columnists both national and local are calling for his head as the uber-expensive LA Dodgers continue to struggle, currently residing at 18-26. The thrust behind Mattingly getting the axe isn't so much his lack of managerial ability, though a case can certainly be made, so much as there is a need for everyone to find a $216 million scapegoat.
Ever the competitor, Donnie Baseball isn't going to let himself get done like that, so it appears that he has decided to jump into the scapegoating business himself and the target he selected is none other than starting right fielder Andre Ethier. Or should we call him former starting right fielder Andre Ethier because Ethier is not in today's lineup and Mattingly's reasoning behind his benching sure make it sound like a long-term arrangement:
Mattingly on sitting Ethier: "I’m putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest."
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) May 22, 2013
And just to hammer the point home, it was also mentioned that the Dodgers are currently considering promoting top outfield prospects Joc Pederson and Yaisel Puig.
This naturally begs the question of what it is Ethier wasn't doing to help the team compete? He is mildly underachieving on the season with a .758 OPS, but that is still just shy of 100 points of OPS more than Matt Kemp. This isn't about benching Ethier because he is slumping either. In fact, it is quite the obvious as Ethier posted a .379/.441/.621 slash line over his last ten games. You can also probably rule out lack of "competitive fire" as the justification because who could ever question his will to win after this epic death stare after he was ejected the other night:
So what is it that Mattingly doesn't like about him? Ethier is far from perfect but he is far from LA's biggest problem. It isn't even a platoon thing as the Dodgers are set to face a right-handed starter today. Unless there was some unreported clubhouse incident involving Ethier, it appears that Mattingly is grasping at straws to shake this team up, so he is benching one of the alleged best players to make an example out of him… or something like that. Maybe he is just hoping the Dodgers will call up Puig to replace Ethier and that Puig will do his best 2012 Mike Trout impression and immediately turn around the fortunes of the Dodgers, thus saving Mattingly's job.
Good luck with that, Donnie.