The Los Angeles Dodgers won game 5 of the NLCS Wednesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. They trail in the series against the Cardinals 2-3. Here’s what didn’t happen in the Dodgers clubhouse before the game.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly gathered his players and coaching staff before the team was scheduled to take the field for batting practice. “Gentlemen,” he said dourly, “we’re down three games to one. We can’t win three games in a row. We can’t win this series. We have to forfeit.”
The players and coaches looked at each other in disbelief. Was their manager serious?
“Don, we want to play. We can beat these guys,” pitcher Zack Greinke, slated to start game 5, said.
Mattingly shrugged. “Statistically, it’s possible. But not likely.”
“What about the fans? They came to see us play. They paid to see us play,” another player spoke up.
“They’ll understand. What are they going to do next year? Cheer for the Cardinals?”
“They sure as hell won’t cheer for us. Not if we give up.”
“But we didn’t give up,” Mattingly said. “We played last night, remember? That was our chance to even the series at two games apiece. We lost.”
“We have another chance, though! And if we win, another chance. And if we win that game, another chance.”
Mattingly tapped his foot impatiently. He didn’t expect disagreement on this. His veteran eyes swept over the clubhouse. In most of their faces he saw shock and disbelief, but also a hint of resignation. But in the faces of six players he saw stern resolve, anger even.
“There’s no debate about this, gentlemen. I’ve already informed the league of the team’s decision.”
“That decision was not yours to make alone. You should have consulted us,” first base coach Davey Lopes said.
Mattingly looked at Lopes with surprise. Before he could respond, third-year player Juan Uribe stood up. “Have they announced it yet?”
“Not yet, but I imagine it will be soon. Fans usually start showing up two hours in advance of the game.”
Uribe clapped his hands together. “Good. There’s time to fix this.”
Mattingly stood back, hands on hips, amazed one of his players would challenge his authority. “What?”
Uribe gathered his glove and bat. “I don’t care what you say, Don. I’m playing.”
“Me too,” Greinke said.
In all, five rotation players and two bullpen relievers joined Uribe. It was almost enough to field a team. They were just one player short.
“Who else wants to beat the Cardinals?” Uribe said. A couple of players looked like they might take Uribe up on his offer, but Mattingly shot them withering looks.
“You think you can win with eight players, Juan? I can’t remember the last time you had a hit in this series. And who’s going to play outfield for this ragtag bunch?”
Uribe looked at his teammate, Andre Ethier. “We need you at center field, bro. What do you say?”
Ethier looked down at his iced-up ankle, which he had injured earlier in the season. “Guys, I can barely move out there. Don is right. We have to forfeit.”
“To hell with it. I’ll play center field,” bullpen reliever Brian Wilson said.
Mattingly scoffed. “You don’t have the athleticism or the arm to pull that off!”
“I’m a baseball player, aren’t I?” Wilson glared at his teammates who were still sitting. “A baseball player plays baseball. He doesn’t forfeit in the middle of the series. Aren’t you baseball players?”
“We can’t win three games in a row. Not against the Cardinals’ pitching,” Ethier said.
“But we can win tonight!” Greinke exclaimed.
A staunch silence hung think in the air. Uribe found himself in a staredown with Mattingly. “You’re not going to keep me off that field tonight.”
Mattingly’s cheeks burned. “Go ahead. Play. When you lose, you’ll see I was right.”
“I don’t play the game to avoid losing,” Uribe shot back. “I play it because that’s what I do. It’s who I am.” He turned to face Davey Lopes. “Davey, we could use you in the dugout, calling the shots for us out there. What do you say?”
Lopes shot a sideways glance at Mattingly. “Sorry, Juan. As much as I hate to forfeit, we’re a team. A team sticks together. I’m with Don on this.”
Uribe was furious. “This isn’t a team! This is a bunch of quitters!”
“The people claiming this outcome was ‘predictable’ aren’t self-reflective enough to understand that it was specifically their opposition that helped make it so predictable.” –Ben Howe