People are always asking me on Twitter whether Dee Gordon will be demoted. Demoted? Please. Don Mattingly won’t even budge on dropping him from the top spot in the lineup.
For whatever reason, Mattingly absolutely refuses to consider dropping Gordon from the top, and judging by what he said to AJ Cassavell yesterday, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be changing that stance any time soon.
“Dropping Dee in the order sounds really easy,” said Mattingly, who rested Gordon for Sunday’s series finale against Colorado. “But then who do you want me to hit there?”
Mark Ellis? A.J. Ellis? Bobby Abreu? Juan Rivera‘s ruptured hamstring? Davey Lopes?
Basically anybody or anything with an OBP higher than .250.
Newly acquired outfielder Bobby Abreu could lead off, Mattingly said, but that would take a potent bat out of the middle of the order.
But Abreu doesn’t even have power anymore, so hypothetically, all he’s good for is walking (hollow OBP, as Beyond The Boxscore put it).
It’s not like he’s being asked to put Matt Kemp in the lead-off spot.
Second baseman Mark Ellis could bat first, but Mattingly likes him in the two-hole, hitting ahead of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and doesn’t want Ellis’ role changing on a day-to-day basis.
Ellis’ spot in the lineup has nothing to do with his success though. Even if it did, unless he drops over 100 points in OBP, it’s not exactly going to kill the team any more than Gordon already is.
“He kind of needs to be that guy,” Mattingly said of Gordon. “I know we can’t force a square peg into a round hole, but we have been able to sustain so far without Dee kind of getting going.”
“I know we can’t force a square peg in a round hole … BUT I’M GONNA DO IT ANYWAY! TROLOLOLOLOLOLOL!” – Don Trollingly
Left fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. got the start on Sunday afternoon in the leadoff spot, but as a platoon player, Gwynn won’t be in the lineup with Gordon very often. When Gwynn does play on the same day as Gordon, Mattingly said he’d be fully comfortable moving Gordon down because of the speed and on-base ability Gwynn brings to the table.
This reveals the exact reason Mattingly refuses to demote Gordon. It’s basically because he can’t come to grips with the idea of using somebody without plus speed in the lead-off spot.
It’s why he’s comfortable with Tony Gwynn Jr. leading off despite his career .320 OBP, yet he makes excuses as to why the Ellis twins and Abreu can’t do it.
It’s like Mattingly’s decision making was imported from Dusty Baker and his dugout dice.
Mattingly dismissed that notion, saying he is content with leaving Ellis lower in the lineup, where he can drive in runs and turn the order over.
“You try to have a balanced lineup where you have a chance to score in all parts of the game,” Mattingly said. “Obviously the more guys you’ve got that are productive, the easier that is.”
Besides the fact that the lineup gets turned over regardless of batting order position, you know what else helps? Being productive in front of other productive players instead of walking, having the pitcher come up to create an automatic out, and setting it all up for … Gordon.
I love prospects, and I understand that Mattingly has to defend his guys, but moving a rookie shortstop down in the order so that there’s less pressure on him isn’t exactly some world ending move. In fact, it’s pretty standard, isn’t it? Joe Torre bat Kemp eighth for an eternity, so I think Gordon can stand a few plate appearances down there without imploding.
His .282/.363/.388/.751 career line in the minors basically sums up his skills. He can take a walk, but offers little else.
So why does he get chosen? I don’t know. He’s a utility player, basically. He has played 2B/3B/SS/CF/LF, so Ned Colletti is inching closer to his dream of having an entire starting lineup of utility players.