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Second-year manager Don Mattingly has done nothing short of a magnificent job throughout this short 2012 season. He has made every right move and pushed every right button thus far.
Any Mattingly-doubters simply need to look to last season to be refuted.
After a miserable start, the Dodgers won 44 of their final 71 games and were the hottest team in baseball at season's end. All of that was accomplished, mind you, in the middle of a very public divorce of the club's owners, and with all of the organization's money virtually frozen.
Yet, Donnie Baseball was able to keep the team focused on winning baseball games amidst public drama usually reserved for an afternoon soap.
For those of you who think he can't handle pressure, you must remember he played 13 seasons in New York, in perhaps the most disastrous era of the Yankee franchise, and he thrived. He's a lifetime .300 hitter and has more than 2,000 hits and nearly 1,100 RBI. A six-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove award winner and the 1985 AL MVP, Mattingly is often referred to as the best Yankee to have never played in a World Series.
The 51-year-old is known around the league as a player's coach, due to his great rapport with his team. This is perhaps the most underrated characteristic of a great manager. Rarely does a successful team exist if the players do not like playing for their skipper—just look at the early stages of the Bobby Valentine era in Boston.
Mattingly knows the importance of being well-liked, and, more importantly, respected by his players. His lack of criticism of his players is where that mutual respect stems from.
The fact that he was Joe Torre's hitting coach for seven seasons is nothing to dismiss. Torre is one of the best managers in MLB history and has apparently taught Mattingly a little something when it comes to demeanor.
The calm, cool disposition Mattingly holds in the dugout is eerily similar to that of Torre's. However, Mattingly is a bit more fiery than Torre—especially the version Dodger fans saw—when it comes to things like arguing calls. But that goes back to being a player's coach, as he is willing to stand up for his players when he believes they get the raw end of the deal.
If, and when, the Dodgers make the World Series in October, Mattingly will deserve a large portion of the credit.