There are certain inevitabilities in life: death, taxes and the Los Angeles Dodgers doing sudden battle with a glut of injuries.
The key names on the shelf currently include Hyun-Jin Ryu, Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Beckett, which makes the absence of a lower profile dude such as Paul Maholm feel even more pronounced. As such, some will be tempted to regard this 70-win team as suddenly vulnerable, particularly after consecutive losses to the Milwaukee Brewers and a 10-game stretch of just .500 baseball. The Dodgers fan base's nerves grow a bit frayed. The local media will turn more pessimistic. Both contingencies will curse general manager Ned Colletti for not making a blockbuster move at the trade deadline.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
Then again, should recent trends hold, there's another inevitability in the works. The Dodgers are no strangers to chunks of time without core members, whether this year or over the past few under manager Don Mattingly. And by hook, crook or just a collective belief rather than panic, they typically figure out a way to make it work.
Despite Saturday’s 6-3 loss to the Brewers, to a man, that's the story, and they're sticking to it.
What's the secret to developing a "next man up" mentality? It begins by remembering this situation is by no means special.
"This is part of the game every year for every team," Mattingly insisted after the loss. "Very seldom does a team go through not having a period where there's injuries. We've had a couple different periods, but I bet if you went down every team, they would say they've had injuries. Look at St. Louis: Yadi's [Molina] out. Everyone goes through it. We're no different. We've just got to continue to get ready to play, do what we do and find a way to win a game, and then move on to the next one."
But while their situation might not be special, converting Mattingly's philosophy into tangible success becomes a matter of remembering the roster itself actually might be.
"We do a good job, when these situations arise, of picking up the slack," A.J. Ellis said. "There’s guys who are able to step in and do that. Justin Turner did it earlier in the year when Juan was beat up, and we have all the confidence in the world he'll do it again. He's kind of been an unsung MVP on the offensive side for this team with the work he's done this entire season filling in and spot-starting. Guys in the rotation have stepped up. The acquisitions that our front office made, with Roberto [Hernandez] and Kevin [Correia], are gonna be veteran guys that can pick up starts for us while we wait for Hyun-Jin to get back. We're piecing together our bullpen and getting the right mixture down there, and we're gonna be just fine."
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez concurs.
"We have a lot of guys who can produce," he said. "We got guys on the bench that can produce, guys that would be starting for other teams. So when a guy goes down, we're really not necessarily losing a guy -- we're going to a different guy."
As Ellis notes, that "different guy" is always working off the same page of the same playbook as everyone else.
"I think everybody has a pretty good knowledge of what their role is on the team," he said. "That's what great about our bench. There's no egos in there. There’s no guys who are bickering or complaining about playing time. Even with the four-outfielder situation, I think Andre [Ethier] has really adapted to his role and the player that he is now for this ballclub through the end of the season. Obviously, these guys all want to play, but they know their role. They're great team players, and when the opportunity arises, they’re prepared."
To be clear, the onus to put their money where their mouth is starts new with every rash of injuries, which put this squad right back on the clock again. It's never a fun nor an ideal process, and nobody enjoys operating at less than full strength.
Still, the Dodgers would advise betting against them at your own risk.