Dodgers Are Making It Clear They No Longer Want Don Mattingly Around
If you haven't been paying attention, things got very awkward during the team's end-of-season press conference Monday when Mattingly took the microphone with general manager Ned Colletti sitting a few feet away and proceeded to question how much his employers believed in him, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
When you're put in this position, the organization basically says, `We don't know if you can manage or not.' 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.
Colletti, in almost cryptic fashion, just said that the situation "will be resolved very quickly." There was no elaboration to that statement or whether it meant the Dodgers were looking to make a change.
Things took another turn Tuesday, when Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Dodgers fired bench coach Trey Hillman.
Source: #Dodgers fire bench coach Trey Hillman.— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) October 22, 2013
Normally, the dismissal of a bench coach wouldn't be a big deal, but Molly Knight of ESPN Los Angeles noted on Twitter that Hillman and Mattingly had a relationship that went beyond the baseball field.
Trey Hillman and Don Mattingly are best friends. So.— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) October 22, 2013
It's possible that Hillman's dismissal at a time when Mattingly is fighting for a new contract is just a coincidence. Yet since we are talking about Hollywood, this is plot contrivance the likes of which a screenwriter wouldn't put in a movie script because it's almost too obvious where things are headed.
The one question I have been pondering since this whole situation started is, what has Mattingly really done that warrants a long-term commitment to the Dodgers?
One thing I always say about managers is that we—that is anyone outside the organization—cannot necessarily judge these things solely by what we see on the field. There is a human component to what a manager has to do behind the scenes that none of us are privy to. You have to handle 25 different personalities over the course of seven or, if you make the playoffs, eight months.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw had glowing things to say about Mattingly's ability to relate to players, according to a report from Tyler Kepner of the New York Times in May 2012.
He’s so positive. All he asks of us is just go out there and play the way we’re supposed to. Do things the right way on the field, and he’s happy with you. When it’s simple like that, it’s easy to play for, and it’s fun to play for.
It's entirely possible that Mattingly is the greatest manager at keeping personalities in check and making sure they stay focused on the task at hand.
If that's the case, then the Dodgers would be foolish to let him go without at least discussing a long-term extension.
However, taking the tangible aspect of a manager's job into account, which is everything on the field, Mattingly isn't very good. There are three examples right off the top of my head that I can think of to help illustrate the point—all of them in the National League Division Series against Atlanta.
The first came in Game 2 in the bottom of the seventh with runners on second and third and two outs, when Mattingly replaced Chris Withrow with Paco Rodriguez. On the surface it was a smart move, because Rodriguez was one of the Dodgers' best relievers in 2013.
What is more likely to happen?
However, after the Braves sent out right-handed Reed Johnson to pinch hit, Mattingly decided to have Rodriguez intentionally walk the bases loaded for Jason Heyward. Even with Rodriguez destroying left-handed hitters in 2013, to the tune of a .400 OPS against, Heyward is still one of Atlanta's best hitters.
Sure enough, Heyward hit a two-run single up the middle, and the Dodgers lost the game, 4-3, to even the series, 1-1.
The second instance of Mattingly's managerial failure came in Game 3 when he decided to use closer Kenley Jansen to get the final out in a 13-6 game. That's a waste of Jansen, who could have gotten hurt or struggled in the inning and been unavailable in a close game the next day if he had to throw a lot of pitches for one out in a seven-run game.
The final instance came in Game 4 with the Dodgers trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning. Juan Uribe stepped up to the plate with Yasiel Puig on second base and tried to sacrifice Puig to third base for the feared Skip Schumaker, who had a grand total of zero sacrifice flies in 2013, to drive in the run.
Uribe had three sacrifice bunts all season, not to mention the fact he also had 36 extra-base hits during the regular season. He fouled off the first two bunt attempts, forcing him to swing away with two strikes.
Sure enough, Uribe hit a two-run homer, and the Dodgers won the series. They won that game in spite of Mattingly, not because of him. That's poor managing on so many levels, not the least of which is he thought Skip Schumaker was more likely than Uribe to get a hit that would drive in a run.
It wouldn't surprise me in the least if the Dodgers looked at this postseason, saw the moves that Mattingly made and questioned whether he is the right man to get the most out of this roster.
If you want to talk about his record this year, go ahead. But let's not pretend that this was a little engine that could with Mattingly doing his best to get the most out of it. The roster is loaded with talent, even with Matt Kemp missing most of the year.
They have the best pitcher in baseball (Clayton Kershaw), another pitcher most analysts would put among the top 10 to 15 in the sport (Zack Greinke), a superstar shortstop who found his hitting groove after leaving the wasteland of Miami (Hanley Ramirez) and a freak athlete who will get better after a stellar rookie season (Puig).
Mattingly's body of work, speaking strictly from a tactical standpoint, doesn't warrant the Dodgers giving him a long-term extension. He signed a three-year contract that started in 2011 with a vesting option for 2014 that kicked in after the team won the NLDS against Atlanta.
If Mattingly doesn't like the contract, that's his fault—not the team's. If he wants more security, then do a better job on the field.
And if the Dodgers are viewing all these baffling decisions, thinking they might be better off going in a different direction, can you really say they are making a big mistake?
There is a reason the Dodgers aren't so quick to give in to Mattingly's desire for a new contract. They may not let him go right away, but it is obvious that they can see a future with a new manager.
If you want to talk baseball, feel free to hit me up on Twitter with questions or comments.
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