A lot of you don’t like Don Mattingly, and for good reason. The bunting. The batting orders. The bunting. The love of certain veteran bench players. The hideous everything that was NLCS, Game 1, though again, the outcome of that series was far more about Hanley Ramirez & Michael Wacha & Clayton Kershaw than anything else. Oh, and the bunting.
Still, I can’t help but take his side after today’s bizarre display at the season-ending press conference, during which — with Ned Colletti sitting right next to him! — he made it extremely clear that even though his 2014 option had vested, he wasn’t certain he’d be back, saying in so many words that he had no intention of returning without an extension, that he didn’t want to be “a lame duck”.
There’s also this jaw-dropping quote, via Tony Jackson:
“This has been a frustrating, tough year, honestly. … You come in basically as a lame-duck manager, and with the payroll and guys you have, you make it tough in the clubhouse, put me in a spot where you’re basically trying out, auditioning. Can you manage or not manage? To me, we’re three years in. We’re at the point where you know or you don’t.”
And you know what? Good for him, seriously. Whether he’s a flawed manager or not is beside the point. He’s been the manager for three seasons now, and in the organization for six. Good and bad, it’s pretty clear what he is at this point. It’s not like there’s a lot of mystery remaining. If you want him to be your manager, fine: Extend him. If you want to move on, also fine: Fire him. But I don’t see the value here in letting him swing in the wind, especially when (publicly, anyway) he seemed to be a good sport about not letting his expiring contract become a distraction.
For his part, he can look at an oddly wide-open managerial landscape and think that he has options. Usually, teams that are looking for new skippers are coming off poor seasons or bad situations, like we’ve seen with the Cubs & Mariners. But with Jim Leyland‘s retirement this morning, there’s three teams — the Tigers, Reds, & Nationals — with just a ton of talent who need new leaders. We know that the Nationals wanted to interview him several years ago, and it’s not hard to see them wanting to do so again. He can shop himself as someone who survived the McCourt disaster and untold amounts of injuries to lead the 2013 Dodgers to a historic 42-8 run and an NLDS victory.
Colletti promised that the situation “would be resolved soon,” and it really has to be, before this gets ugly. For my part, as I’ve been consistent in saying, any judgement in letting him go depends heavily on who would replace him. Tim Wallach? Fine, whatever. Manny Acta? Unlikely, but yay! Dusty Baker? Oh, holy lord no, for that would indeed be the darkest timeline.
My guess is that Mattingly does indeed return, but his entire coaching staff doesn’t, as he wants it to. I don’t think Rick Honeycutt or Mark McGwire or Davey Lopes are going anywhere, and Wallach stays unless he gets a top job of his own, but Trey Hillman… well, don’t get too comfortable.