The fact that Los Angeles Dodgers fans are even saying that Manager Don Mattingly should be fired is crazy. Since being hired as manager in 2011, “Donnie Baseball” is 266-230 in three seasons with the Dodgers including an NLCS appearance this year and has brought a certain style of coaching that has proven to be successful. Mattingly has also made a lot of his mistakes in his three seasons but it’s the ways he has realized his mistakes and improved the team that really has me being a big supporter of him.
Mattingly was first hired as the hitting coach of the Dodgers in 2008 and then took over for Joe Torre as manager in 2011. In the first year and half of his tenure, the Dodgers were a mediocre team in the MLB as the former owner Frank McCourt was in court regarding his ownership with the team (I, along with millions of Dodger fans, don’t miss him at all). During July and August of 2012, the Dodgers acquired All-Star’s Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Carl Crawford under the new ownership group that included Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson. The Dodgers were in the NL West chase battling with the San Francisco Giants down the stretch but in the end came of short as Mattingly faced criticism for the team’s lack of performance. The Dodgers went out in the 2013 offseason and acquired Zack Greinke and signed Hyun-Jin-Ryu putting the pressure on the Mattingly to win the club’s first World Series since 1988 this year.
Entering the month of June, Mattingly was on the hot seat to say the least. The media was very critical of Mattingly as the Dodgers entered June in last place, 6.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and looked as if the Dodgers were going to be the biggest disappointment in baseball. The Dodgers were having major issues with the offense production, Mattingly still had faith in Brandon League as closer, and tons of injuries plagued the team. But everything changed on June 3rd, when the Dodgers called up outfielder Yasiel Puig as the young Cuban provided a spark the team definitely needed. One of the best things Mattingly did all season was handling Puig. Puig had a great impact on the ball club but also made a lot of mistakes and at times, his immaturity showed. But Mattingly wasn’t afraid to put Puig in his place as he benched him a couple of times and pulled him during a game against the Cubs for his lack of hustle. The Dodgers had an amazing second half of the season as they had a stretch in July-August where they went 42-8 in a 50 game stretch. The team clinched their first NL West title since 2009 on September 19th in Arizona and became the fourth team in MLB history to win their division after being in last place on July 1st.
What also makes Mattingly a good coach is that he played in the majors for 13 years and knows how the game works from both a coaches and a players’ perspective. Mattingly became more and more of a risk taker as the season progressed, especially in the playoffs. His moves in game two of the NLDS was questionable but he made up for it when he started Kershaw on three days rest for game four and displayed to Dodger fans that he wanted to win the series in Los Angeles. Mattingly showed poise in the playoffs and did very well for his first postseason as a manager.
The Dodgers have to decide in November whether to pick up the 2014 option on Mattingly’s contract but I expect them to sign him to a two or three year extension. The real pressure for Mattingly will be next year when they will be favorites to win the World Series.