On Don Mattingly’s hot seat, the need for a manager with ‘fire’, and potential replacements

NedCollettiDonMattingly

The discontent with the Dodgers was loud and clear after yesterday’s loss, and for good reason. The team is last in the NL West, have the sixth-worst record in the MLB, and are tied for the fourth-worst run differential in baseball.

It’s a horrible time to be the manager of the Dodgers right now, and we all know it, including Eric Stephen at True Blue LA, Mike Petriello at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness, Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts, and even I’ve previously given my thoughts on Don Mattingly. However, the negativity certainly seems to have peaked after getting recently swept by the Braves in excruciating fashion, so the managerial issues merited a deeper look.

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On Don Mattingly’s Assumed Firing

For all the articles being written about Don Mattingly’s imminent demise, I haven’t actually seen anything of substance from the people that matter. Yes, he’s gotten variations of the dreaded vote of confidence, but all the talk has either been from people asking the upper management about his status or pure speculation by journalists, local and national alike.

Usually though, there’s some leak or sign that the higher-ups are unhappy with the job the manager’s doing and are about to drop the hammer. The running assumption seems to be that he’ll be fired today or sometime very soon, but that seems to be a lot of noise without much to actually indicate he’s going to be let go.

Obviously if things continue down this road he’ll be the fall guy no matter what, because that’s what managers and coaches exist for, but as of right now? I would have expected to hear at least one insider source say he’s close to done before anything final happens, so I’m not sure I see him being fired right away.

Then again, Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk seems to believe that Ken Rosenthal was teasing out inside info that Mattingly is about to be canned. So maybe I’m not reading between the lines enough, but either way, my point is that we’re all sort of guessing and speculating right now instead of going off anything reliable.

On A Need For “Fire” From The Manager

Many people — some who I respect and some who I don’t — seem to be of the belief that Mattingly isn’t right for the job because the team is flat and he’s not the yelling and screaming type. Judging by the complaints I’m fielding about Mattingly on Twitter, it’s the popular theory among fans as well.

Given the trend in what people seem to want out of a manager, it seems like a good time to remind everybody that yelling and screaming types generally don’t make the best authority figures, and the ones that do get appointed usually don’t last long. Give your boss at your job that personality and it’s not hard to figure out why it wears on people over time, and that rings especially true with the modern athlete, as they are even less responsive to the mad dictator personality.

I do understand why people want to visually see “fire” though, because the fans are mad and frustrated, so it incenses them even more to see managers or coaches or players not as mad as they are. But we go through this discussion every time there’s a struggling player who doesn’t go around throwing stuff daily like Andre Ethier used to after a strikeout. No, it doesn’t mean they don’t care or they don’t try, it just means everybody internalizes disappointment differently and goes about trying to solve their problems differently. After all, remember that Ethier was told to tone down the outbursts, specifically because the coaches thought it was affecting his play. Now people want a manager doing all that?

Besides, it’s ironic timing to be complaining about Mattingly being soft when just yesterday he publicly called out Kenley Jansen and Dee Gordon for what he perceived as mistakes by them. But those types of things seem to be widely glossed over because it doesn’t fit the narrative people have of Mattingly’s persona.

Even disregarding all the above, I can’t honestly believe anybody thinks that Mattingly yelling at the team will reset Ethier’s aging curve, or loosen up Matt Kemp‘s shoulder, or magically work to prevent injuries, so what people really want is making a move just for the sake of making a move. I just can’t see the sense in that.

On Potential Replacements

If Mattingly is going to be replaced, then a replacement needs to be found. Everybody would want a Joe Maddon, but that’s obviously impossible at this point. Also, names like Brad Ausmus (who I find interesting) and others outside the organization have been suggested (please no Mike Scioscia or Tony LaRussa), but I can’t recall the last time a manager got canned and the team hired a high-profile candidate outside the system to swoop in.

As such, I have to assume any replacement will come internally, specifically either Tim Wallach or Trey Hillman. Wallach is an interesting candidate, though I’m not exactly sure what he’ll do differently to make the team better. He has no MLB managerial experience, so if an authority figure is what the team is lacking, I fail to see how he would help change things. Then there’s Hillman, whose track record includes a glorious stint with the Royals where he made much of the same mistakes Mattingly is ripped for, plus his players rebelled against him for being a phony. Since that disastrous stint with the Royals, maybe he’s learned? Who knows, but if you want to stick with track record and what we know so far, he’s a downgrade if anything.

So again, if you can give me a Joe Maddon-type candidate, I’m all for replacing Mattingly right this second. Unfortunately, that guy is not available, and I have more confidence in Mattingly’s ability to resist bunting with a runner in scoring position than I do relying on Ned Colletti to find the next progressive, genius manager.

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I’m personally of the belief that a move doesn’t have to be made. That said, do I care a ton if Mattingly gets fired or not? No, not really. I’m not a fan of Mattingly’s decision-making at all, so the clubhouse aspect is the only thing that’s keeping me on board right now. However, any replacement, especially one found by Colletti, is unlikely to be much more progressive in his handling of just about everything. Therefore, what I really don’t get is people who are passionate and insistent that Mattingly gets canned, as if changing the manager will magically make everybody better at baseball.

The fact of the matter is that this team is not this bad, and — barring even more injuries — they’ll be better in the future, with or without Mattingly. Why? Because players win and lose games, and as the people on the field begin to regress to the mean, so will the team’s record.

So focus on the manager all you want, but the roster is what will get the team over .500 or to the playoffs or to the World Series, and that responsibility lies above the authority of any coach.

About Chad Moriyama

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