02/28/12 5:44 PM EST
Mattingly: Dodgers are still LA's top team
Skipper unfazed by Angels' big splash of cash in offseason
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"It's like the Mets and the Yankees," the Dodgers' manager said Tuesday. "The Yankees are THE team. I'm not badmouthing the Angels at all and Mr. [Arte] Moreno and Mike [Scioscia] do a great job and had a great run, but we're the Dodgers and that's not going to change.
"We need to play baseball. But at the end of the day, I don't worry about what other teams are doing. This isn't negative at all, but at the end of the day, the Dodgers are the Dodgers."
Mattingly's comments came moments after he held the first full-squad meeting of Spring Training and before his Dodgers held their first full-squad workout of the spring, with only Juan Uribe missing. The third baseman was still in San Francisco, where he's in court being sued for damage to a rented condo. The club expects him back at practice Wednesday.
And Mattingly's comments came despite the ongoing bankruptcy sale of the club that has impacted payroll. Mattingly hasn't spoken to current owner Frank McCourt since last year. McCourt must sell the Dodgers by April 30, as a condition of the bankruptcy.
"I kind of like the Rally Monkey, I do," Mattingly said. "It's funny. I tell guys, 'You should like the Rally Monkey. It comes out when we're ahead.' I like when he comes out."
The manager has not convinced Matt Kemp, the National League MVP Award runner-up from whom so much is expected this year.
"I don't like the Rally Monkey," Kemp said. "I'm scared of him. In the outfield, the Monkey pops up on the [screen] and he's scary. The Rally Monkey has got us before. Hopefully, it doesn't happen this year."
While scared of a primate, Kemp seems to have no such fear of 95-mph fastballs. Mattingly is expecting the center fielder, as well as NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, to carry an unfair share of the load in order for the Dodgers to succeed.
Mattingly conceded that while the Angels made a "huge splash" over the winter by signing Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, his club "tried to put the pieces in place to do what we wanted to do."
What the Dodgers wanted to do -- with the exception of an unsuccessful run at slugger Prince Fielder -- was maximize acquisitions despite a downsized payroll.
To that end, the club replaced Hiroki Kuroda in the starting rotation with Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano, re-signed Juan Rivera to protect Kemp in the lineup, added Mark Ellis to improve defense at second base, turned over the catching to A.J. Ellis and rebuilt the bench by adding Adam Kennedy, Jerry Hairston and Matt Treanor.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti also addressed the team Tuesday and discussed the sale process.
"At this stage, it will be good to get another chapter going," Colletti said. "It's been a different couple years. Change is coming. Again, our focus has got to be on the field and figuring out how to win games, because we've got nothing else we can really worry about or affect change to.
"They shouldn't be worried about it. Nobody knows what's going to transpire in the next month or two. But it's really irrelevant to winning the game. The focus has to be on preparation and getting ready to play."
On the field, Colletti urged his players to build off the last two months of last season.
"To play as well as we played, being as far out as we were, it's not easy to do," he said. "We played the top two teams in every division to do that. I told them to grow close, because we have a lot of new guys in the room, a lot of new free agents and young players. Sports is really about competitive edge."
Mattingly has said he would encourage players to ignore the ownership uncertainty and focus on the job. He added Tuesday that he spoke of the culture he has been striving to create.
"I want guys to be fearless, really," he said. "I want to create an environment for guys to be comfortable and know what we expect from them. When they walk out of [the clubhouse], they know what to expect and we'll put them in an environment to be successful.
"I'm not going to get them all fired up, banging their helmets for one game a week. There's 162 games, that's a lot of getting ready. It's a mental weardown and a battle to push yourself."
Mattingly said he expects improvement from last year's tale of two seasons, in which the Dodgers kicked it into gear after Rivera and Dee Gordon stepped in and the bullpen transitioned from Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo to Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen.
"In the second half, we had a lineup where everybody did his part," Mattingly said. "Matt has to do his thing, but we have to give him help. I like my guys. I'm not going to sit here and say we should win by 20 games or anything silly. If we play the way we're capable of, we'll be there at the end of the year."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.