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Don Mattingly didn’t dodge difficult subjects

Don Mattingly was a coach on numerous Yankees teams that had plenty of All-Stars, and made the playoffs. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Don Mattingly may lose his job as manager of the Dodgers, but he gained respect around baseball for saying you just can’t “throw an All-Star team out there” and expect to win.

You see, Mattingly knows this from experience. He was a coach on numerous Yankees teams that had plenty of All-Stars, and made the playoffs.

We all knew the Dodgers acquired three players last season who didn’t mix well in the Red Sox clubhouse. We wondered why they would do this. Why would you take on declining sour puss Josh Beckett and pay all that money? Why would you take an injury-prone whiner like Carl Crawford and clubhouse lawyer Adrian Gonzalez? Before that, the Dodgers went after another guy with a reputation, Hanley Ramirez.


Add those players to an underachieving Matt Kemp and an erratic Andre Ethier.

All-Star team?

“They wanted to make a big splash with the new ownership,” said an American League executive. “They wanted to show their fans they were going to spend the money and put what they thought was the best team on the field money could buy. Well, not so much. You can win with All-Star teams. The Yankees have won with one. But the mix has to be right.”

Mattingly doesn’t deserve to be fired. Neither does general manager Ned Colletti. The big names probably helped in securing the Dodgers’ incredible TV deal. Maybe Gonzalez has helped them market the Mexican-American community. Maybe the deal helped season-ticket sales.

Assembling this “All-Star team” came from the ownership level. They’re the ones who wanted to take that $265 million off the Red Sox’ hands. The Dodgers couldn’t even make the playoffs last season after making the deal, which they claimed wasn’t meant for just last season. OK, so now it’s 2013, and this team looks like one Bobby Valentine managed last season in Boston.


Ben Cherington, Larry Lucchino, John Henry, and Tom Werner pulled off the biggest heist since the Plymouth Mail Robbery. Frank McCourt, who sold the Dodgers for $2.2 billion, is laughing all the way to the bank.

The good news for the new ownership is they have the resources to change course. Team president Stan Kasten always has maintained that the goal of the organization was to take the current team and turn it into a player development machine. The Dodgers can do that, no question. In the meantime, they wanted a roster that would be Hollywood, but it’s far from that. It’s like a bad B-movie and the actors don’t know their lines.

Ethier, Dustin Pedroia’s pal, was the first to be benched by Mattingly after a meeting with coaches and staff last week.

Mattingly told MLB.com he wanted “a team with talent that will fight, and compete like a club that doesn’t have talent. I felt like we got more out of our ability [last year]. I don’t know if that team was tougher. I don’t know why, and it was only for a short period of time. Part of it is the mixture of competitiveness. It’s not just putting an All-Star team out there and the All-Star team wins. You try to find that balance of a team that’s got a little grit and fight, and has enough talent to get there also. It’s not all grit and no talent that gets there, and it’s not all talent and no grit. It’s a mixture of both.”


Shane Victorino, who was a Dodger for the second half of last season, was never quite sure how it was going to work in LA. Victorino wasn’t as productive as Ethier, but he was tougher. Sometimes you need that type rather than a superstar.

“I think it’s just tough to play in LA,” Victorino said. “You have to be really strong mentally. It’s one of those places where things can get away from you because every night at the ballpark, you’re wondering what celebrity is going to show up. It takes the right kind of player to really focus on baseball.”

Victorino isn’t selling the Dodgers’ talent short. He respects the players because individually, they’re all really good. Who hits or fields better than Gonzalez? Who runs faster than Crawford? But that competitive fire Mattingly is looking for hasn’t been there.

He may blame himself for that because he’s the manager, but he has inherited players managers such as Terry Francona couldn’t draw that out of. Beckett, once one of the most competitive pitchers in the game, lost his fire a long time ago.

So, bravo to Mattingly for telling it like it is. And if it’s not what the higher-ups want to hear and he’s fired, he won’t be unemployed for long. He’s getting votes of confidence from Colletti and Kasten, but we all know that if the owners want a change, a change will be made.


At least Mattingly will have gone out telling the truth.


Iglesias seeingtime at third

Have the Red Sox done right by Jose Iglesias? The terrific shortstop is now playing some third base with Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list. If he was pouting before, at least they gave him a job with the big club. However, it’s not always at short.

Scouts who have watched Iglesias wonder if the Red Sox have messed with Iglesias’s psyche. Obviously, nobody knows Iglesias better than the Sox. There seemed to be a lot of backseat quarterbacking on this one, but if Iglesias was negatively impacted — and he will never say he was — then there’s a chance to turn it around now that he is back in the majors.

“He obviously had some maturity issues,” said one American League scout. “He had to come down after he thought he proved to them that he was hitting and doing all of the things they asked him to do. He obviously doesn’t understand the business side of it, that they paid a lot of money to a veteran shortstop like [Stephen] Drew.

“He goes down to Pawtucket and sulks a little, and gets himself benched. He comes back, does OK, and then they ask him to play third base and move around the infield like he’s a utility guy. Now they probably explained, ‘Hey, we just want to get you ready in case one of our infielders go down.’ I’m sure they’re thinking about team first. But this kid is a great shortstop. In his head he’s probably thinking, ‘Now they don’t think I’m a shortstop either?’ ”


The Iglesias situation is intriguing. The Red Sox wouldn’t include him in a deal with the Pirates for Joel Hanrahan. Certainly, teams will come calling again, feeling they can get Iglesias now that the team seems a little down on him.

But the Red Sox covered their bases. They had him play third, and then Middlebrooks went down.

Pedro Ciriaco, who performed so well when he was playing every day at third base, has had problems with consistency both at the plate and in the field.

It appears as if Ciriaco needs to play every day to get a rhythm going, because he’s lost it after Bobby Valentine played him every day in Middlebrooks’s absence last year.

Aproposof nothing

1. White Sox broadcaster Ken Harrelson was one of Tony Conigliaro’s best friends. He said of his old buddy, “Tony is the only hitter I’ve ever seen who had no fear at the plate. He would stand right in there, right over the plate, no matter who was pitching.”

2. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf is resigned to the fact that coaches will not get into the Hall of Fame on their merit, so he’s now trying to devise an award for coaches to be recognized by the Hall, as are broadcasters and sportswriters. Reinsdorf has employed some who are worthy, including hitting coaches Charlie Lau and Walt Hriniak, and pitching coach Dave Duncan. There are so many coaches who work long hours year after year to make players better.

3. Miguel Tejada, still kicking as a utility infielder with the Royals, said, “I would have loved to have played at Fenway Park. I would have done some damage there. The ballpark was just made for me. I would have hit a lot of doubles. That’s one of my regrets.” Tejada, 39, is a career .285 hitter with 306 home runs and one MVP award, coming in 2002 with the Athletics when he hit 34 homers and drove in 131 runs. He’s hit .304 at Fenway with 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 273 at-bats.

4. Things that make you go huh: The Rays entered the weekend as the top offensive team in the majors since April 17 with 183 runs, a .279 average and .349 on-base percentage. How can this be? For one, James Loney’s start, and two, Evan Longoria would be having an MVP season if not for Miguel Cabrera. Longoria has been incredible in the field and very consistent at the plate after early issues with his legs. Another thing: The Rockies’ rotation is actually better than the Giants’. Entering the weekend, Rockies starters were 20-15 with a 4.39 ERA, 12th in the NL; the Giants were 15-14 with a 4.64 ERA, 13th in the NL.

5. Major League Baseball recorded more ejections in April than in recent years. Umpires or managers seem to be getting hot under the collar more often.

6. MLB doesn’t think it has a monitor problem at ballparks. It appears that all the monitors are HD, even though they aren’t very big. No 52-inch screens anywhere for umpires to review calls.


Updates on 9

1. Chris Bootcheck, RHP, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre — Bootcheck is having quite a resurgence at the Yankees’ Triple A affiliate with 4-0 record and 2.80 ERA. Bootcheck was a closer for Toledo last season, then joined the Yankees, becoming a starter. The Yankees haven’t turned to him yet, and Bootcheck has a late-June opt-out. If he’s pitching well, he would be in demand.

2. Mike Napoli, 1B, Red Sox — Napoli already has reached one $500,000 incentive based on playing time and is about to reach a second $500,000, in what will likely be a $13 million salary if he stays healthy on the roster for 165 days. The question is, what happens next year? The Sox have not discussed an extension with Napoli, who loves it in Boston and has told his agent, Brian Grieper, that the environment around the team is even better than it was in Texas, which Napoli thought was phenomenal. Grieper said he’s open to talks, but “we’ll let it play out and show during the course of the season that Mike is healthy.” Napoli, by the way, won’t catch unless there’s an emergency. Looks like David Ortiz may sit in all interleague games.

3. Chris Martin, RHP, Pawtucket — The Red Sox hit on independent leaguer Daniel Nava, and now they may have done the same with the 6-foot-7-inch, righthanded Martin, who played for Pete Incaviglia’s Grand Prairie team in 2011. Martin has an overall string of 26 scoreless innings, five for Pawtucket since his call-up from Portland. A sinker/slider guy, he was working in a factory, then tried out for Grand Prairie and made the team. The Red Sox signed him for $1.

4. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Portland — One National League scout who just finished his evaluation of the Red Sox’ Double A squad said of Bogaerts, “He’ll be a major No. 3 hitter. I don’t see him as a shortstop. Jose Iglesias outshines him by far, but if he hits maybe you keep him there. It would appear he moves to third or even to center field. He’s so talented he gets down on himself if he doesn’t perform.”

5. Reid Ryan, president and CEO, Astros — Nolan Ryan’s oldest son, who has been running two minor league teams the family own, will likely put his stamp on the Astros. Now, we don’t know this for sure, but if he’s similar philosophically to his father, it doesn’t appear the way the Astros are currently run, with an overdependence on statistics, is in line with a Ryan-run team. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had success with a stats-oriented approach in St. Louis. Obviously, it’s tough to project if that approach will work in Houston with the team so far away from winning.

6. Elliot Johnson/Chris Getz, 2B, Royals — The combination just isn’t getting it done, which has Kansas City scouts on the lookout for help. Not an easy thing to find, and with Miguel Tejada now 39, he wouldn’t seem to be the answer, either. Entering the season, the Royals knew they might struggle offensively at the position, and they have. Johnson hasn’t hit that badly, but the platoon isn’t ideal.

7. Roy Oswalt, RHP, Rockies — Oswalt will make four more starts in Double A before being considered for the parent team. Some thought he’d lost his fire to compete, and the next few starts will determine whether Oswalt still has anything left in the tank. The Rockies could use him if he’s right, even though their rotation has produced 19 quality starts in 47 games, after 27 all of last season.

8. Chris Colabello, OF, Twins — We wondered why it took so long for the Team Italy hero of the World Baseball Classic to get called up from Triple A. He was hitting .358 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs, while guys like Chris Parmelee, Brian Dozier, and Aaron Hicks were flirting with the Mendoza Line. Like Nava, Colabello, a 28-year-old Massachusetts native, has to show a little more than normal to be taken seriously. He said of his first major league game Wednesday, in which he went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts, “It was everything I could ever imagine it to be. Overall, an amazing experience. I’m kind of at a loss for words.”

9. Charlie Manuel, manager, Phillies — Don Mattingly may be under fire in Los Angeles, but Manuel is not escaping the heat in Philly. Despite a World Series title under his belt, talk shows seem filled with anti-Manuel sentiment. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. also is under fire. And even mainstay Jimmy Rollins has brought up the topic of when the Phillies might “blow it up.” Attendance is down some 7,000 per game. Chase Utley is back on the disabled list. Tough times, and it appears there may be a price to pay soon.

Extra innings

From the Bill Chuck files: “Clay Buchholz leads the majors with nine Ultra Quality Starts (at least 7 IPs and no more than 2 ERs). In 2010 and 2012, Buchholz had 11 UQS. The Red Sox’ record for Ultra Quality Starts is held by Babe Ruth with 26 in 1917.” Also, “Since 2000, there have been 57 cycles hit and 29 complete game no-hitters thrown. But since 2008, there have been 24 cycles hit and 18 complete game no-hitters thrown.” . . . Happy birthday Rob Murphy (53), Chuck Hartenstein (71), and Jim Mahoney (79).

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.