What if they don’t win?

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - BILL SHAIKIN ON BASE­BALL bill.shaikin@latimes.com

In1989, the year af­ter the Dodgers last­won the World Se­ries, Peter Gu­ber pro­duced the “Bat­man” movie that starred Michael Keaton and Jack Ni­chol­son.

As Gu­ber sat in the sec­ond rowat Dodger Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day, he had a touch of the su­per­hero look about him. He sported a Dodgers jacket, but he opened it to re­veal a gray T-shirt, cel­e­brat­ing the NBA cham­pion Golden State War­riors.

Gu­ber is a co-owner of the War­riors and the Dodgers. On Tues­day, for the clinch­ing game of the NBA Fi­nals, he sat court­side in Cleve­land.

“To­tally thrilling,” Gu­ber said. “Iwas very anx­ious.”

This is not the space for in-depth bas­ket­ball dis­cus­sion, but Gu­ber’s bas­ket­ball team made an in­trigu­ing de­ci­sion last year. The War­riors, com­ing off their best sea­son in 22 years, fired Coach Mark Jack­son. They re­placed him with Steve Kerr and won the NBA ti­tle.

If the Dodgers do not win a ti­tle this year, would Gu­ber’s base­ball team fire Man­ager Don Mat­tingly?

Gu­ber’s own­er­ship part­ner with the War­riors, Joe La­cob, has said Jack­son was fired over his re­fusal to re­place as­sis­tant coaches and his some­times abra­sive per­son­al­ity.

“You can’t have 200 peo­ple in the or­ga­ni­za­tion not like you,” said La­cob, ac­cord­ing to the San Jose Mer­cury News.

That is not an is­sue with Mat­tingly, who has forged a par­tic­u­larly strong bond with Mark Wal­ter, the Dodgers’ chair­man and con­trol­ling owner. The Dodgers have in­creased their win to­tal ev­ery year un­der Mat­tingly— just as the War­riors had done un­der Jack­son.

“If you’re not will­ing to be at risk in get­ting im­prove­ment, you’re not go­ing to get im­prove­ment,” Gu­ber said. “Our view was that you have to have the dis­ci­pline to im­prove your game in ev­ery sin­gle as­pect of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“Whenwe looked at it up there, we thought we didn’t have the dis­ci­pline we should have. We thought that would make a big dif­fer­ence. Mark did a very good job. He’s a good per­son. Butwe had to go to the next level. We needed some­body to help drive that di­rec­tion to the next level.”

Those last three or four sen­tences could have been ut­tered by A.J. Preller, the San Diego Padres’ new gen­eral man­ager. Preller last­week fired the man­ager he in­her­ited, Bud Black. The Padres have an im­proved but still flawed team, and a man­age­ment that­would like to see a re­turn on the high­est pay­roll in club history.

An­drew Fried­man, the Dodgers’ new­pres­i­dent of base­ball oper­a­tions, in­her­ited Mat­tingly and has been cau­tiously sup­port­ive in his public com­ments. The Dodgers have a bet­ter and deeper team than the Padres, and a man­age­ment that would like to see a re­turn on the high­est pay­roll in North Amer­i­can sports history, and the most ex­pen­sive front of­fice in base­ball.

Gu­ber de­clined to say whether Mat­tingly’s job might be in jeop­ardy if the Dodgers do not win.

“I can’t an­swer that ques­tion, ei­ther for the Dodgers or for my­self,” Gu­ber said. “It’s not just where the Dodgers end up in the stand­ings.”

In­juries hap­pen, he said. Hit­ters don’t hit. Pitch­ers don’t pitch­well.

“With all the an­a­lyt­ics, it’s still an art form aswell as a craft,” Gu­ber said. “Just speak­ing out of a cor­ner of my mouth, this or­ga­ni­za­tion has a lot of ter­rific prospects in the farm sys­tem. You knowthat means it has a bright fu­ture. You also knowthe or­ga­ni­za­tion here is com­mit­ted to win­ning, and to suc­cess at the high­est level. You also knowthey have the cap­i­tal to do it, and have shown it.

“All the pieces are in po­si­tion. But, if you could do it by the num­bers, you’d just line up all those num­bers at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son and say you had picked a win­ner.”

The Dodgers’ own­ers have spent the money on ma­jor league play­ers, and on mi­nor league play­ers, and on the front of­fice. Fried­man last win­ter re­shaped the ros­ter, in the process clear­ing out most of the bad club­house at­ti­tudes that can com­pli­cate a man­ager’s job.

Mat­tingly has man­aged most of the sea­son with­out two starters, his closer, his left fielder and his right fielder, but he could be the most likely high-pro­file change, should the Dodgers’ own­ers de­cide another one is nec­es­sary to de­liver a win­ner.

The War­riors were win­ners, with city of­fi­cials es­ti­mat­ing at least 500,000 fans lined the streets of Oak­land for Fri­day’s cham­pi­onship pa­rade.

“It had been 40 years,” Gu­ber said. “Moses crossed the desert, and it took him 40 years.”

For the Dodgers, it has been 27 years. And what might hap­pen in Los An­ge­les if they win?

“I think it will be much cra­zier,” Gu­ber said. “Trans­for­ma­tive. You’ve got to re­mem­ber, you’ve got al­most 4 mil­lion peo­ple here just in at­ten­dance [ev­ery year]. You’ve got a ra­bid fan base, and a brand that has been here for a long time, and that is glob­ally fa­mous.

“But you’ve still got to win.”

David Zalubowski As­so­ci­ated Press

THE DODGERS have in­creased their win to­tal ev­ery sea­son un­der Man­ager Don Mat­tingly, but it has been 27 years since they have won aWorld Se­ries ti­tle. Own­ers want re­sults.

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