LOS ANGELES -- Say what you will about Don Mattingly -- and many Los Angeles Dodgers fans seem predisposed toward being critical -- but he has ferreted out the right button to push two straight seasons.
In 2013, he called out his team's effort level and willingness to fight, and that, combined with Yasiel Puig settling in with no lack of either, propelled them into the playoffs with surprisingly little resistance. Then, on June 4, he called out the 2014 Dodgers for selfishness, belaboring the point before the game and putting an exclamation point on it afterward, calling the team "basically s-----."
Since then, the Dodgers are 30-17 (.638), have taken up residence in first place, have the best record in the National League and, after nights like Wednesday's 3-2, 10-inning win over the Atlanta Braves, seem to play with as much togetherness as any team in baseball, the chemistry-famous San Francisco Giants included.
So, will the team's sudden five-game winning streak dim general manager Ned Colletti's desire to add what could be the missing piece to a championship puzzle? It was hard to read Colletti on Wednesday night. He seemed to be saying he didn't find the team's needs particularly pressing when he said, "We're trying to take it from 'good' to 'great,' perhaps. It's not like we've got many holes to fill."
If you're a die-hard Dodgers fan and haven't seen your team play in a World Series in 26 years, this is a good time to ask yourself, "What's wrong with going for great?" In fact, this seems like the perfect time, with the Dodgers finally living up to their vast potential, to wonder whether go-for-broke isn't exactly the right attitude to have about this season.
If you believe Colletti when he says he's not inclined to trade any of the team's top three prospects for any of the players being offered in talks, shouldn't you find that a little disappointing? Yes, the Dodgers have few holes, but one of them is near the back of a rotation that seems to be sputtering out with two months left in the season.
The top three starters, who include the man who piled up 13 strikeouts Wednesday night, Zack Greinke, is an extraordinary starting point. Add Jon Lester -- even at the Dodgers' expense of talented center fielder Joc Pederson -- and now you've got, hands down, the best playoff rotation in baseball, maybe the best in a generation or two.
Former Dodgers infielder Alex Cora tweeted Wednesday night, "Kershaw/Greinke/Lester is too good to be true and for a franchise that last won a WS in 1988, the time is NOW #Dodgers."
Now seems to be as good a time as any to go all-in, with the rest of the National League showing serious signs of mediocrity.
And, let's face it: Where are the Dodgers going to play Pederson even if they do hold onto him? Puig is the Dodgers' best player, he's showing signs he can be relied on in center field and he's signed for five more seasons beyond this one. Colletti said before the game he hopes Matt Kemp is a Dodger "for a long, long time," and Kemp is signed through 2019. Carl Crawford is virtually untradeable, and the Dodgers will be paying him $62 million for three more years after this one.
Giving up two of the Dodgers' best prospects -- say, tossing in Corey Seager or Julio Urias -- would be an overpay to land Lester's services for two months. But trading one -- the guy least likely to have a role next spring, whom some in the organization view as having the lowest ceiling of the three -- seems like a reasonable gamble in exchange for instant World Series-favorite status.