Don Mattingly gave quite the exit press conference yesterday, basically saying that he has a guaranteed contract for next year, but if he doesn’t get a multi-year deal, then he might not be back with the Dodgers.
“My option vested once we beat Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be back,” Mattingly told reporters on Monday, with general manager Ned Colletti sitting beside him.
That probably explains the reports that Mattingly would be back with the team, which begun to emerge after the NLDS, but it probably didn’t factor in that Mattingly could still be fired or that he could resign. The possibility that he would take either of those options seemed far-fetched at the time, but not so much after yesterday.
“When you’re put in this position, the organization basically says we don’t know if you can manage or not. That’s not a great position to be in as manager,” Mattingly said. “That’s the way it is, and that’s they way the organization wanted it last year, so at this point it is what it is.”
“This has been a frustrating tough year, honestly. I think when you come in with a club like this, basically as a lame duck, with payroll and the guys that you have, it puts you in a tough spot in the clubhouse. We dealt with that all year long, and it puts me in a spot where everything I do is questioned. I’m basically trying out or auditioning,” Mattingly said. “To me we’ve reached that point, three years in you either know or you don’t.”
Coletti said personnel meetings would happen this week, including Monday.
“I hired Donnie. I’ve been supportive of Donnie all the way through. I have a lot of respect for this guy. He kept it steady through a tough period of time. He kept our team together. I’ve been a supporter of his since the day he walked in as a hitting coach six years ago,” Colletti said. “We’re going to discuss everything internally before we discuss it externally.”
Colletti said of Mattingly’s managerial future, “This is going to be resolved very quickly.”
Many commented that it seemed odd Mattingly said all this with Ned Colletti sitting right there, but I don’t think that was a coincidence. I doubt Colletti is the one who refused to extend him, but rather it was Stan Kasten and Mark Walter who were skeptical due to the fact that they inherited Mattingly rather than hired him.
Basically, I saw this as a direct challenge to Kasten and Walter to sign him for multiple years, and with Colletti supporting Mattingly.
Let's be clear, it wasn't awkward for Colletti today when Mattingly opened up. He quickly jumped into say he's always believed in him
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) October 22, 2013
As far as Mattingly wanting to manage the Dodgers next year, he said he does want to and would like to keep the same staff, but there could be changes coming from up top.
Mattingly said he “loves” managing in Los Angeles.
“I like being here, but I don’t want to be anywhere I’m not wanted. In New York, at one point, there was talk of trading me. I felt I can play anywhere. I always have confidence in myself. If they don’t want you and don’t think you’re capable of doing the job, but I don’t know how everybody feels, if there are people that don’t feel the same way.”
There has been speculation that one possible outcome sought by ownership would be the addition of another former manager to the coaching staff — it already includes bench coach Trey Hillman and first-base coach Davey Lopes — to assist Mattingly in in-game decisions.
Mattingly said his entire staff would return “if it’s up to me,” and sounded like a manager who would be loyal to his coaches if ownership were to predicate his return on a staff shakeup of any kind.
“I’m happy with the guys in the room,” Mattingly said. “They are quality baseball people, unselfish people. They want the best for the organization and the best for the players. They are tireless workers. They didn’t give up when things looked bad. They stayed with the process and we got better, and that’s what I’m so happy about.”
Best case scenario would be to retain Mattingly for multiple years and get somebody who he will listen to for guidance on the in-game managing decisions, which is an area he consistently falls short in.
Mike Petriello and others have thrown around Manny Acta‘s name as a potential replacement (currently in the running for the Cubs job), but given the rumors of players having problems with Acta’s lack of passion and what not, I actually think he fits in perfectly with the in-game management role if Mattingly would listen.
As far as the suggestion of replacing Mattingly, which a lot of people seem to want, my only question would be: Alright, but who?
Dusty Baker and Mike Scioscia do basically everything worse decision-making wise than Mattingly does. Same with Ozzie Guillen and his small-ball quota, not to mention his personality.
Tim Wallach? Alright, maybe he deserves a shot, but why go with another first-year manager and go through this all over again? Trey Hillman? The guy that lost his players in Kansas City, who advised Mattingly on his game decisions as the bench coach, and whose success was in Japan where he won with pitching and small-ball? Pass.
Then there’s the big gun: Tony La Russa. On paper, La Russa is not a terrible option because of the respect he commands and due to all of his accomplishments. But there’s a lot of pushback against him from a lot of people, me included, because he’s sort of … annoying. And not in a fun way like Yasiel Puig or Hanley Ramirez might be annoying from time to time, but in a cringe-worthy way that makes you not want to like him. He has his personal baggage (DUI), he whines about stuff all the time, he loves small-ball and tinkering with everything, and his bullpen dance is maddening.
In general, pass.
That’s not to say others might not be able to get more out of this Dodger team, or that there isn’t a manager out there who could do better, but for fans calling for Mattingly’s head, what are the alternatives you’d like? I’m not being snarky, I genuinely don’t see a better realistic alternative. And for the Dodgers’ brass, if they are giving Mattingly the ax, then I hope Kasten and Walter are sure they have the right man picked out already. Otherwise it seems like they’ll be moving more backward than forward.