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Donnie Ballshame: Mattingly still can't catch break

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Don Mattingly is the captain of a sinking ship in Los Angeles, the reasons for which have nothing to do with the Yankees icon.
Don Mattingly is the captain of a sinking ship in Los Angeles, the reasons for which have nothing to do with the Yankees icon.

Don Mattingly is not a happy man right now.

He'll never admit it, because decades in the game have taught him better. Nothing good can come of it, especially when a primary job as manager is to separate your players from the chaos that can swirl around them. A 13-year career under George Steinbrenner will instill that lesson in you.

"Don’t let this become an excuse," has been the manager's mantra.

That's a good way to look at it, but it doesn't change the fact that Mattingly is the face of a team that might not have enough money to meet payroll by the end of the month. The Los Angeles Dodgers are a marquee franchise — perhaps second only to the Yankees in terms of prestige — and yet they've become a bad Jay Leno punchline five nights a week.

This can happen when two filthy rich middle-aged white people use divorce as a weapon to destroy each other. Mattingly, who knows a thing or two about crazy ex-wives, has been forced to watch the proceedings like a Titanic survivor watched the unsinkable ship go down: Mouth agape, eyes bulging, "Dude, this is not happening" expression etched across his face.

And make no mistake, this ship is going down. Joe Torre knew it, fleeing to a corner office on Park Avenue, potentially to focus his attention on destroying all remaining copies of Joe Torre: Curveballs Along The Way. Mattingly didn't have the advantage of such a backup plan — nor a wretched Paul Sorvino vehicle to call his own. This was his mess.

Mattingly saw the ship speeding toward the iceberg, but what was he going to do? After years of waiting to become a big-league manager, this was finally his turn. But as so often has been the case in Mattingly's star-crossed career, timing had worked against him.

Bud Selig did the right thing last month, jumping into the fray to seize control of the Dodgers. Frank McCourt is trying to fight the commissioner off, but this is believed to be a hopeless endeavor. If Mattingly and Dodgers fans are lucky, the transition back to secure ownership will be in place by next year.

Then again, that same incoming management might come to the conclusion that the Dodgers need a fresh start, one that doesn't involve the old regime's hand-picked field manager. While Joe Girardi signs extensions, does bad Subway commercials and tells heartwarming stories to Suzyn Waldman about father-daughter dental work, Mattingly scrapes by in sunny SoCal with a perpetual dark cloud hanging overhead.

Not cool, Baseball Gods. Not cool at all.

It's not fair, but fair has never really been part of the Mattingly mystique. If it was, he'd be in the Hall of Fame right now, owner of a few rings and probably the manager of the Yankees. Who knows, maybe a desperate Ray Liotta could've played him in a TV movie.

Instead, the Hitman soldiers on, a stranger in a strange town that keeps getting stranger. Mattingly's not going to feel sorry for himself — if that was his personality he would've went Ray Finkle on us a long time ago.

Maybe he can get this team to 81 wins ... but maybe not. Maybe he'll be the manager of the Dodgers next year ... but maybe not. All we do know is that Donnie Baseball deserved better than this. What else is new?

Dan Hanzus is a contributing writer to Pinstripe Alley. He can be reached at dhanzus@gmail.com or on Twitter @danhanzus.