While the Dodgers have been locked in a heated battle with St. Louis for the pennant, it was quietly revealed that Don Mattingly will be returning as manager of the Dodgers for 2014. There was no formal press release or announcement, but Mark Walter said that Mattingly had “done a good job.” While Mattingly may not be receiving a lengthy contract extension, the Dodgers will likely pick up his $1.4 million option for 2014 which the Dodgers originally declined to do at the end of last season when Mattingly requested it.
Donnie Baseball was under intense scrutiny back in May when the Dodgers were mired in last place, and there were rumors that he was close to being fired. At that time I chose not to write about Mattingly’s state of affairs although I was certainly frustrated with the plethora of injuries plaguing the team and the overall malaise surrounding the Dodgers at the time. Admittedly Mattingly is not my favorite Dodger manager, but he is not my least favorite either. Of course there has been many instances where Mattingly’s failed game strategies have cost the team during the course of his three year stint as skipper, but today I’m going to look at some of the positives Donnie has brought to this 2013 team. Aside from his love of bunting, questionable bullpen management, constant and often times odd double switches, and his lack of a running game, there are contributions Don has made to this team which have counter balanced some of those shortcomings and helped turn around this team.
From last place to first, this Dodgers team won an amazing 42 of 50 games during one incredible
stretch of the season. The Dodgers have now reached Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, which is the furthest they have gone since the sacred year of 1988. Sure, the players got healthy and helped right the ship, but Mattingly also veered this team in the right direction a few times when it got off track. As much as I despise calling for a bunt when a player is already in scoring position, burning through the entire bullpen in one game, and putting out a different lineup each and every night, Mattingly has to have done something right. In fact, he may even win N.L. Manager of the Year.
5. Donnie stayed positive during the rough times
Boy did thinks look bleak back in April and May. Some managers may have even bowed after enduring such a horrendous start to a season like the Dodgers had in 2013. Donnie never wavered or gave up. He never lashed out at the players, media, or the fans. He almost always stayed positive, and he kept the clubhouse from being encompassed by doom and gloom. He often would reiterate that he was staying the course and focusing on the task at hand. I think that a lot of fans were clearly more outwardly aggravated than Donnie ever showed.
4. Donnie kept the drama behind closed doors
Mattingly could have easily talked to the media about the egos and the drama going on behind the scenes, but he has always kept these sorts of things in house. When Yasiel Puig was late to the ball park in Miami, Don Mattingly didn’t reveal to the media what was said behind closed doors during his one-on-one meeting with the young superstar. Often elusive during interviews, Donnie doesn’t like to divulge the inner workings of the clubhouse which I’m sure the players appreciate. This lets everyone focus on what goes on between the chalk lines and not what goes on at the club the night before.
3. Mattingly Has Worked Well With Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig’s antics have been handled very well by Don Mattingly this year. The rookie sensation has at times been out of control on the field and off the field, yet Donnie uses his father-like role with Puig to guide him through this his first full season in the Majors. It also seems as though Puig respects Mattingly for the most part. Of course the wild stallion still needs to learn when to throw to the cut-off man and when to be called off by his center fielder, but Mattingly I’m sure is working on Puig’s raw talents. Mattingly has done a great job along with hitting coach Mark McGwire in honing Puig’s skills at the plate as well. Puig walked 36 times during the regular season which was surprisingly more than I expected from the unbridled hitter.
2. Mattingly Contributes Hitting Expertise
Even though the Dodgers hired Big Mac as their hitting coach, Don Mattingly is an excellent hitting coach in his own right. There has been a multitude of times we have heard of Mattingly giving advice to the hitters over the course of the past three seasons. Even though Mattingly butted heads with Andre Ethier earlier this season, Ethier has taken Mattingly’s advice more than once during this season and prior seasons. Ethier found success after Mattingly told him to choke up on the bat while he was dealing with a stubborn blister last season. Mattingly was one of the best hitters of his generation, and he even wrote a book about hitting entitled Don Mattingly’s Hitting Is Simple: The ABC’s of Batting .300 authored along with Jim Rosenthal, Joe Torre, and with a foreword by Rod Carew. The point is that Mattingly is an excellent resource for the players when it comes to hitting, and bunting aside the Dodgers were third in the league in batting average (.264) this season just behind St. Louis.
1. Mattingly led the Dodgers to their first postseason appearance since 2009
In just his third year at the helm, Mattingly has led the Dodgers to their first postseason berth since 2009. Not only did the Dodgers decidedly win the National League West division, but they also defeated the Braves in the National League Division Series. The Dodgers are now entering Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, and it is the furthest they have reached during the annual quest for a championship since 1988. It’s been 25 years since we have seen such success from a Dodger team, and Don Mattingly deserves some praise for it. Whether the Dodgers win two more in St. Louis for the pennant or they go home defeated by the Red Birds, Mattingly should be proud of his accomplishment and Dodger fans should be proud as well.
Love him or hate him, Don Mattingly will be back in Blue in 2014.