Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Don Mattingly correct to want contract extension from Dodgers' ownership

The end of the season press conference doesn't usually provide so much drama and intrigue, but that's exactly what happened at Dodger Stadium on Monday. The main topic of conversation from the conference was Dodgers' manager (for now) Don Mattingly.

Side note: Check out that great photo in the link above. A picture really can say a thousand words.

Mattingly told reporters his option for 2014 vested when the team beat the Braves in the National League Division Series. However, he added this nugget.
"That doesn’t mean I’ll be back."
Well then. Mattingly went onto talk about the conditions under which he managed the 2013 season. If one reads between the lines, it's clear Mattingly doesn't want to be a lame duck manager -- and he has every right to feel that way.

Mattingly's contract situation was seemingly an issue ever since spring training. With new ownership coming in for its first full season, Mattingly could have easily been let go following the 2012 season. And he was almost let go in June, but the Dodgers went on their ridiculous streak to save his job (for now).

Mattingly is making this play because there are a number of managerial openings around baseball, including gigs in Detroit and Washington. Both need managers and are playoff-caliber teams. In fact, a report in May said the Nationals could be a logical landing spot if he were to be fired.

This could be a ploy to get the Dodgers to call his, for all intents and purposes, bluff. The ownership won't be afraid to let him go, but Mattingly had no other play here.

The fact is, he's going to have a job somewhere. I'm thinking he'll remain in Los Angeles, but the presser didn't exactly inspire full confidence in that.

If Mattingly doesn't return, let's just hope Dodger ownership wants to go in another direction -- a modern direction. That means no Dusty Baker or Tony LaRussa.

The best candidate for the job would be Tampa Bay Rays' manager Joe Maddon. Unfortunately, he's signed through 2015 at a modest $2 million per season. The Dodgers could work a deal with the Rays, but manager-for-player trades don't happen too often.

Another candidate would be Manny Acta, who is jobless at the moment. He's definitely a forward-thinking baseball mind, as evidence by this Q&A from FanGraphs in May 2012. He talks a lot about the offense, but this might be the best quote:
"'I’m not big on bunting guys from first to second. I don’t think it’s a secret, because the facts are out there. It’s been proven that a guy has a better chance of scoring from first with no outs than from second with one out. I have to have way too much of an advantage late in the game, bullpen-wise and great hitters lined up, to do that. At first and second with no outs, I usually only do it with the bottom of the order, or maybe the top guy in the order, depending on how he’s swinging the bat. It guarantees me a runner on third with less than two out and another runner in scoring position. But I probably won’t if we need multiple runs. If it’s the heart of my order, it won’t happen.'"
Man, it'd be refreshing to have a guy like that leading this team. At the same time, the players have to buy into the manager's philosophy.

It's no secret the Dodger players love playing for Mattingly. He's definitely a player's manager, and reports state in 2013, the clubhouse was as loose as it has been in many years. When I was in there for one game, it was definitely a fun environment in which all the guys seemed to get along. A lot of that can be attributed to winning, but some of the credit must go to Mattingly for that.

Mattingly was able to get the most out of Hanley Ramirez since his 2009 days in Florida, when he was one of baseball's best players. Now, he's without a doubt one of the league's best hitters.

The decision ultimately is Stan Kasten's. Ned Colletti hired Mattingly before the Guggeneim group, Kasten and Magic Johnson took over. It really isn't his decision. The ownership, despite extending him last year, could very well jettison him as well -- but it doesn't seem like Kasten wants to do that.

But Kasten and Co. did get rid of Trey Hillman on Tuesday. Hillman was the Dodgers' bench coach and was hired by Mattingly. What's more, Mattingly wasn't informed of the decision. With this news just breaking, the odds Mattingly returns just got significantly worse.

Mattingly isn't a bad guy by any means. He just wants to feel, well, wanted by the club. By the club not offering a contract extension following a 92-win season and coming up two wins short of reaching the World Series for the first time in 25 years, it isn't showing confidence in him. Mattingly rolled with the situation, and now he wants to be rewarded.

Yes, he still bunts far too often and sometimes his in-game management can be questioned, but he's still the best man for the job -- for now.

Photo credit: BryanKemp, Flickr

1 comment:

  1. Mattingley is not a great manager. He won due to the talent on the field and arguably managed the Dodgers out of a win in game 1 of the NLCS. He is a good clubhouse guy granted. However, this team is built to win the World Series and the Dodgers should reserve the right to move in a different direction if his in game management does not improve.