What if they don’t win?
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.”
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.