Since winning the 1988 World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers have reached the National League Championship Series in just three seasons. One of those years was 2013, when manager Don Mattingly led L.A. to its first postseason appearance since 2009.
If Mattingly's recent comments about his future with the team display anything, it's that his future isn't promising with the Dodgers.
Mattingly has been one of the most criticized men in Los Angeles, as fans and analysts key in on his managerial mishaps and often forget the good. For all of the winning that he did in 2013, the organization wasn't sold on his future, either.
My option vested once we beat Atlanta,” Mattingly said. “That doesn’t mean I’ll be back.
It’s been a frustrating, tough year honestly,” Mattingly said. “Because I think when you … come in basically as a lame duck and with the ($230-million) payroll and the guys that you have, it puts you in a tough spot in the clubhouse.
So we dealt with that all year long, and really what it does, it puts me in a spot where everything I do is questioned. Because I’m basically trying out, auditioning to say, `Can you manage a team or not manage?’ It’s a tough spot. To me it gets to that point where, three years in you either know or you don’t.
When you’re put in this position, the organization basically says, `We don’t know if you can manage or not,’ ” Mattingly said. That’s the position I’ve been in all year long. So that’s not a great position for me as a manager. That’s the way the organization wanted it last year. That’s fine. At this point it is, what it is.
It doesn't take much context to pick up on Mattingly's frustrations.
Despite leading the Dodgers to one of their best season of the past 25 years, Mattingly's contract hasn't been extended. There have been questionable moments during his tenure, specifically with his mishandling of the team's pitching staff, but the success is undeniable.
When a manager fails to win the World Series with a payroll above $200 million, however, there will be times of frustration.
Whether you're high on Mattingly, uncertain about his legitimacy or wanting him to go, there's no question that the Dodgers are putting him in an unfair predicament. Rather than giving him a definitive answer, L.A. is providing Mattingly the ultimate distraction by keeping his status up in the air.
Buster Olney of ESPN weighed in with some strong advice.
Don Mattingly is right for feeling unwanted. The Dodgers' leadership isn't sold on him, so if he has a chance to go elsewhere, he should.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 21, 2013
It's hard to disagree.
It'll be difficult for Mattingly to find a team with as much raw talent as the Dodgers, but that doesn't mean he's better off in L.A. As for those who will use the "He did nothing, it was all about the skill of the players" argument, answer a question first:
If it's all about having highly skilled players, why didn't a team like the Washington Nationals reach the postseason?
Mattingly has his flaws, but he's young in terms of time spent as the manager of a ballclub. Furthermore, the Dodgers underwent an injury-plagued season that saw some of their top stars miss extended periods of time.
Should the Los Angeles Dodgers extend Don Mattingly's contract?
Even still, L.A. went from 30-42 to 92-70. That 62-28 record during the final 90 games of the season wouldn't have happened if the Dodgers weren't motivated, and that is something you can thank the manager for.
This wasn't a shocking turn of events, but instead a continuation of the Dodgers' consistent success during the second half of the regular season. Surprisingly, they did all of this without Matt Kemp and a cast of other injured players.
With all of this being established, this isn't an attempt to take a stance on whether or not Mattingly should stay. Instead, this is about the Dodgers providing the man with an answer that can be summed up in a contract signaling yes or a firing meaning no: Is Mattingly the future at manager?
If L.A. is going to pull a Vinny Del Negro, Mattingly should know before he goes through another season of gut-wrenching uncertainty.
For those unfamiliar, Del Negro was the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers until 2013, when he was fired and replaced by Doc Rivers. In his final season with the team, Del Negro led L.A. to its first 50-plus win season in franchise history.
In the end, L.A. clearly didn't believe that Del Negro could take the team any further than it'd gone already. To be fair to Mattingly, the Dodgers should make a decision before this situation gets even more out of hand.
If it doesn't, Los Angeles will learn just how debilitating locker room tension can be—specifically when the manager is involved.