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July 21, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Donnie Baseball's Inexperience is Exposed

by John Perrotto

There is a school of thought that one doesn't need previous managerial experience to become a successful major-league manager. After the Giants rallied for two runs in the ninth inning to beat the Dodgers 6-5 on Tuesday night, those who believe that to be an absolute truth might want to rethink their stance.

Bruce Bochy is in his 15thseason as a major-league manager, his fourth with the Giants after an 11-year run with the Padres. He also spent four seasons as a manager in the Padres' farm system.

Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly has never managed, other than filling in when manager Joe Torre is ejected. Yet Mattingly is considered the likely successor when Torre retires, which could happen at the end of this season. However, after the events of Tuesday night, the Dodgers might want to reconsider their succession plan and Mattingly might want to think about heading to the minor leagues because his 2,153 career hits meant nothing as his managerial inexperience was exploited badly by Bochy.

Mattingly, who took over in the seventh inning after Torre was ejected, walked to the mound to talk to closer Jonathan Broxton with one in the ninth. The Dodgers led 5-4 but the Giants had the bases loaded. Mattingly stepped off the mound and took a step toward the dugout when he stopped, turned around and walked back toward Broxton. Mattingly stepped back on the mound while finishing the conversation.

It seemed all rather innocent until Mattingly returned to the dugout and Bochy emerged from the Giants dugout to talk with home plate umpire Adrian Johnson. Bochy argued successfully that Mattingly's stepping on the mound a second time constituted a second mound visit in an inning to the same pitcher, which forces the removal of that pitcher under baseball rules.

Thus, Mattingly was forced to call on embattled left-hander George Sherrill, who hurriedly threw two pitches in the bullpen during the confusion before being summoned into the game. Sherrill had just the standard eight warm-ups pitches off the mound to get loose and Andres Torres continued his most improbable season by hitting a two-run double that proved to be the game-winner.

While it is difficult to call any July game pivotal, the outcome made an impact on the National League West standings. The surging Giants drew within three games of the first-place Padres while the Dodgers remained six games off the pace.

In a division that seems destined to be decided in the season's final days, a blunder by the inexperienced Mattingly and a sharp observation by Bochy could very well make a difference.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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