Yesterday, in a bit of candidness, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly admitted to the press that he was on the verge of being fired earlier in the season, and that he knew that because he was told so directly by president Stan Kasten.
“[Team president Stan Kasten] was really honest, because I think he didn’t want to do anything, but he says, ‘Donny, at some point I’ve got to do something,’” Mattingly said of their late May conversation. “If they’re not listening and it’s not going good, you’ve got to make a change just to be making a change. And you could be doing the best job you could possibly do and it still wouldn’t make a difference. At some point, I get it. I got that.”
“I told him I understood. I didn’t mind it because I thought it was just honest and he wasn’t like trying to make me feel better or do anything else,” Mattingly said. “He was just basically telling me the truth.”
“It wasn’t that much fun,” Mattingly said. “You take it personal that you’re team is not doing well and you understand the business, but I didn’t really take it personal with any of the writers or anybody else because that’s just a job that you had to do. I understand that’s the way the game is. When the team doesn’t play well, the manager usually gets it. And when a team is going good, [players] are playing great. It is true, honestly, the way it is.”
1) I’m surprised that Mattingly was so candid.
2) I’m surprised that Kasten is fine with him being candid.
3) Kasten copped to being on the verge of making a change just for the sake of it.
Update: Mike Petriello noted this:
@ChadMoriyama bullet point 4: fun that Kasten had that conversation, not Colletti.
— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) August 7, 2013
Firing a guy just to fire him is not the most logical move, as Kasten intimates himself, but they can’t fire the players, so it’s an understandable conclusion. All coaches know they exist to absorb blame for poor performing players, so Mattingly’s reaction to all this is unsurprisingly measured.
What both of them don’t realize, however, is that they saved the Dodgers blogosphere from a potential lifetime of hell.
See, in the team’s current state, Mattingly is getting credited for the team’s success to an extent, but not a ton of it. That’s because he’s been with the team the whole time, and most fans and media basically called for his head two months ago. Articles about how he was about to be canned were flowing, and every other tweet from fans was about how he needed to go now because … uh … just because.
Now that Mattingly’s still around and we’ve seen the ship shape up, we all know the reality of what actually changed: the players started playing better, the team got healthier, and Yasiel Puig went … um … whatever this is on the league. However, were he fired, we were on the verge of being inundated with article after article and tweet after tweet about how the “breath of fresh air” from Tim Wallach/Trey Hillman/Mike Scioscia/Tony LaRussa changed these poor underperforming chumps into hardened productive behemoths.
The thought is true nightmare fuel.
And with that in mind, I mention that I still feel the same about Mattingly as I did in May.
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.
The point is that he’s the exact same manager he was before. He still makes infuriating bunting decisions, he would double switch Hanley Ramirez out of the game for Nick Punto just so he could double switch, and his bullpen management is questionable, to be kind. And yet, the clubhouse is under control, as it was in even the worst of the worst times, and I think that’s the primary job of the manager. So if he loses that aspect of the team, he loses my support, same as before.
Regardless of my feelings about Mattingly’s aptitude, I’m forever grateful to all involved that a move wasn’t made, if for no other reason than because the resulting consequences of said move would’ve made me cry myself to sleep nightly. While I haven’t become an active cheerleader of Mattingly’s — and still feel like punching a baby when he bunts with a RISP — I can now see that his continued existence in his role has saved me from having to parse through a million billion articles about the replacement manager’s ‘leadership’ and how he brought ‘grit’ to this group of spoiled millionaires.
Can’t put a win-loss record or price on that value.