BACK FROM THE BRINK
The manager's job was reportedly in jeopardy when the Dodgers struggled early in the season. Now L.A., which won 15 straight road games from July 7 to Aug. 6, has a comfortable lead in the NL West, and the skipper isn't going anywhere
DAN PATRICK:Is it easier doing interviews now than it was earlier in the season?
DON MATTINGLY: [Laughs.] I don't feel quite as dumb. [I've made] the same decisions—especially out of the bullpen. When they get their outs, you look like you know what you're doing. If they're not getting their outs, every move you make looks [bad].
DP:How good is your Spanish?
DM: It doesn't have to be that good. There are so many guys in the clubhouse that speak Spanish [and English]. I can understand a little bit, but when they get going [and start speaking] fast, you can't keep up.
DP:I saw Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig jawing at each other pretty good the other night.
DM: If you're not around the locker room enough, you can't tell [what's going on]. These guys can be best friends yet they're talking like they're getting ready to fight. Guys get on each other. That's what happens when you win. The chemistry turns into something so good. If you're not within the group, you don't understand it.
DP:What's the one thing Puig has done that has impressed you the most?
DM: Oh, my gosh, he's a human highlight reel. Every night he does something. He made a play in Toronto up against the wall that was one of the best plays I've seen. He went full speed, hit the wall and still made the catch. If he gets on four times, he's probably going to do two crazy things on the bases, and he'll make two crazy plays [in the field].
DP:How did you handle the news of the BioGenesis suspensions?
DM: I don't know if it was a good day or a bad day. It feels like it's going toward being good because everyone has had enough. I think the testing should get better and better and the penalties should get more harsh because it will deter guys from doing it.
DP:Are you concerned that players are coming back [from suspension] too soon and they don't really lose much?
DM: We've seen it with a couple of guys. If their team makes the playoffs they'll have a chance to play. At this point in the season, if you have 450 at bats, you miss two months. That means you're going to be right on time [to come back for the postseason]. To me, they should miss this year and the next. That keeps guys from signing that next deal.
DP:Are you trying to get ejected less?
DM: That's right, I'm staying in the game. I've made that vow.
DP:Is it more valuable for you to stay on the bench or argue with umps?
DM: [Laughs.] Sometimes I think I'm more valuable when I get thrown out.
MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner expressed to me his concern about Alex Rodriguez's suspension. "What [Bud Selig] did, frankly, was inappropriate and almost ridiculous," Weiner said. "Look at the penalties that have been meted out so far by the commissioner's office. Nothing comes close to 211 games." ... NBC NFL analyst Tony Dungy believes Riley Cooper's racial slur points to a bigger problem in the NFL. "Everyone is looking at the racial element," Dungy said. "But to me the real issue is alcohol. You have someone who does something they may or may not do if they're not under the influence." ... Falcons LB Brian Banks is finally getting a shot to make an NFL team at 28 after being wrongfully accused of rape in 2002 and having his conviction overturned after five years in jail. "I don't think a bad day in camp is possible," Banks said. "I'm living a dream that was once taken away from me."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
CHRIS WILLIAMS/ICON SMI (MATTINGLY)
FRANK FRANKLIN II/AP (WEINER)
LM OTERO/AP (DUNGY)
TODD KIRKLAND/GETTY IMAGES (BANKS)