10 Subtle Ways That Don Mattingly Has Improved the Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the bigs with a clip of 30-14.
Their success has relied heavily upon the bats of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and A.J. Ellis as well as the arms of Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano. The actions of one man, however, cannot be overlooked.
That man is Don Mattingly, the early front-runner for Manager of the Year.
Let's take a look at what Mattingly does to give the Dodgers their best shot of winning on a daily basis.
10. Decision Making
Whether it has been pinch hitting for Chad Billingsley with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, or holding Dee Gordon out of the lineup, Mattingly has made more right decisions than wrong so far this season.
Even more impressive than his decision making has been the way in which he doesn't waver after making the decision. If his decision goes awry he takes full responsibility, and when he is correct he doesn't boast, but rather goes about his business.
9. Having the Back of His Players
One of the biggest differences between Mattingly of last year and the Mattingly of this year is how quick he is to jump in and argue for his players.
I recall quite a few instances last year in which a Dodger would be arguing with an umpire and Mattingly would be sitting on his hands in the dugout.
Not this year. Mattingly is quick to run onto the field, and that goes a long way with the players.
8. Calm Demeanor
Don Mattingly, for the most part, is even headed. You don't see him getting too agitated or overly enthusiastic on the bench.
It's important for players to see their skipper remain calm and maintain control of the clubhouse. In two years I've yet to hear from a player that has anything but positive things to say about Mattingly.
We'll see if Mattingly can maintain his calm demeanor when they hit a rough patch during the season. If last year is any indication, he'll be just fine.
7. Balancing Toughness with Being a Players Coach
If you think about some of the most respected managers in Major League Baseball history, many of them were able to be what's considered a players coach, while maintaining their sternness at the same time.
Two managers that come to mind who fits this mold are former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda.
Mattingly displays many of those same characteristics, allowing his players to relax and stay serious at the same time.
6. Player Experience
It's not always the case with every manager, but player experience has been a tremendous asset in how Mattingly relates to his players.
Mattingly experienced the pressures of being part of a team that played in what many consider to be the most stressful media market.
Now if he could only use that first base experience to help James Loney hit more consistently.
5. Leading the Team Through Adversity
Mattingly led the Dodgers through one of the most tumultuous seasons in the franchise's history.
Through all the ownership issues and off-field distractions, he still saw his squad finish the 2011 season above .500 (82-79).
The Dodgers' manager has also had to deal with numerous injury problems that plagued the team last season.
So far this year he has had to maneuver around injuries to Matt Kemp and many other Dodger players.
As each game passes, the look of confidence becomes more prevalent on the face of Don Mattingly.
It seems like quite some time ago that Mattingly made the mistake of coming out to the pitchers mound, walking back towards the dugout, and then back to the pitchers mound. He then had to take out his pitcher since it counted as two trips to the mound.
Of course that was last year, and there were times when Mattingly fumbled his way through things. He has learned so much over the past year, however, and now looks like a manager who is confident in every decision he makes.
Sure the Braves no longer have Cox, the Yankees have been without Torre, La Russa has left St. Louis, and Scioscia is struggling so far in 2012. But each of those teams have the perception of stability at the manager position.
Mattingly is quickly becoming iconic with the Dodgers brand. If he can lead this team to a successful season and maintain the traits he has displayed in his young managerial career, he may soon be as synonymous to the Dodgers as those previously mentioned managers were to their teams.
2. One Year of Experience
One year of experience has made all the difference in the world for Mattingly. Before the start of last season Mattingly mentioned quite a few times about how his first season was going to be a "learn as you go" type of situation.
Mattingly used that first season to learn how to relate to his players and has made tremendous progress in how he goes about managing the game.
If Mattingly progressed this much after one season, the sky's the limit in how he might improve in his third season.
1. Fans Approve of Him
There is one thing most important to the manager of each baseball team, and none of them would admit to it.
The approval rating from the fans is the key to job security. How many instances can you think of in which the fans loved the manager of the team but he was still fired by the front office staff?
Mattingly has all the qualities of a successful manager. In addition to what he has going for him personally, he also has the outpouring support of the Dodger fans.
Granted, the fans were happy with Mattingly last year because the expectations were so low. The team didn't look very good on paper and the ownership was a disaster.
If you were to ask 10 Dodger fans today if they are happy with Don Mattingly, 10 would say yes (I actually conducted this very scientific poll earlier in the week).
The players like Mattingly, the fans love him, and the team is successful in large part to how he manages the team.
Joe Chacon is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report and a staff writer for Operation Sports. You can contact him on Twitter @JoeChacon.