If everything were backwards and the Discovery Channel did a special on baseball managers, I doubt the animals would find it very engaging. They perch themselves on the top step of their habitat, chew tobacco, sunflower seeds or Bazooka bubble gum and observe for upwards of three hours. Every once in a while, they descend the dugouts steps or stiffly stroll out toward the pitcher’s mound.
Every once in a while, though, they go absolutely berserk. They go honey-badger irate. And the humans wearing navy blue shirts and bulky protective padding bear the brunt of these outbursts. If it weren’t for crafty cameramen and their innovative filming techniques, we may have fallen asleep before this portion of the episode.
I played baseball for 15 years, and the only two things I’m absolutely certain a head coach does are arrive at practice hungover and bogart batting practice. This is what we know about baseball managers.
They move slow. They climb up and down steps. Some may actually necessitate the railing they lean on for nine innings a night. We’re not exactly sure how they affect outcomes of games. (Have I missed a sabermetrics statistic on this?) We just assume that the managers who win games are doing a good job, and the ones who win games with a group of players who shouldn't win games are extra good.
Such is Don Mattingly, MacGyvering his way to a .500-plus winning percentage with a roster full of players you'd think twice about trading a paper clip/rubber band package for.
Here are five reasons why he should continue leaning on the home dugout railing at Chavez Ravine.
Mattingly’s 2011 season was...a lesson in frustration. He withstood a cyclone of evil ownership and stupid personnel decisions and abysmal on-field performances. And he did it with dignity and class.
What better man to lead a team whose upcoming season may very well place a mirror in front of that tornado?
Say what you will about a manager’s effect on a team's performance, but the mutually exclusive facts are the mutually exclusive facts—he brought the best out of his two best players.
Whether this was an anomaly or not remains to be seen. We do know that prior to his first plate appearance in 2011, when Matt Kemp’s career was at a crossroads, Don Mattingly stood by him—a gesture that I’m sure went a long way for a player who spent the previous 10 months getting blistered by the media.
Then again, what else is a manager going to say?
A manager's dugout presence often correlates positively with his past prowess on the field.
I’m not saying that every great manager was a great player—just that it can’t hurt. If nothing else, he knows what it is to grind through a 162-game season.
The six-time All-Star, nine-time Gold Glover and 1985 MVP would be the second-best hitter in the Dodgers lineup. And that's if he suited up tomorrow.
While Joe Torre did all the heavy lifting, Mattingly helmed the big chair when we took out Jonathan Broxton.
Three years' worth of bullpen abuse from Torre (his special move in Mortal Kombat) and a season’s worth of Mattingly’s subtle, Professor X-inspired cerebral attacks and BOOM—Broxton’s a Royal.
If Mattingly had a Twitter account, he would’ve just tweeted:
A recent critique of my writing asserted that I have a “big-city bias.”
While I am still running analysis to determine the accuracy of said remark, for the time being, I am taking it as a compliment.
As much as I hate succumbing to what’s expected of me, I must once again bring up the big-city thing. Don spent his 14-year career playing in the Bronx. He thrived in a stadium where the lights shine brightest and the media yells loudest.
Unfortunately for Don, he’s going to have to overcome far worse annoyances to turn this franchise around.