Tag: Don Mattingly

Don Mattingly Is a Good Get, but He Alone Can’t Cure Marlins’ Volatility

When the Miami Marlins decided to go ahead with their hiring of Don Mattingly as their next manager, they gained instant credibility. Of course, that is a thing they badly needed.

But now it’s up to them to make sure their new skipper stays credible, and that will require an effort beyond just filing away his signed contract and hoping for the best.

One thing we know for sure is that this is no longer Dan Jennings’ problem. Mere hours after word came out on Thursday morning that Mattingly signed a four-year deal to manage the MarlinsMolly Knight of Vice Sports had it first—the other shoe dropped.

As reported by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Marlins gave Jennings the boot from their general manager position:

The Marlins did indeed make it official, with club president David Samson offering the following in a statement on Thursday evening (h/t the Sun Sentinel):

We want to thank Dan for his dedication and loyal service to the Marlins organization over the last 13 years. This is the continuation of the restructuring of our baseball operations department and we look forward to moving in a unified direction to reach our goal of becoming a championship-caliber ballclub that our fans richly deserve.

It’s admittedly unusual to see a team hire a manager and then fire its general manager, as typically the idea is to put a GM in place and then let him choose his own manager. But the Marlins clearly planned for this, as president of baseball operations Michael Hill is taking over a GM chair that Jennings was never actually destined to fill going forward.

As Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported, Jennings didn’t even take part in the interview process for Mattingly, who is coming to the Marlins from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In fact, he hadn’t had any dealings with anyone in the Marlins front office since the end of the regular season.

Knowing that, we can deduce that Mattingly knew what the deal was and accepted the job anyway. 

For the rest of us, though, the dismissal of Jennings is just the latest bit of shady business from baseball’s shadiest team.

It raises the question of why the Marlins waited to fire Jennings if he was a goner all along, and that’s a question with only one logical answer: Rather than risk any bad press that would come from Jennings’ firing, the Marlins wanted to secure some good press by hiring a name-brand manager first.

If there was a right way for the Marlins to get going on their offseason, clearly it was to do something about the volatility that’s been hanging over the franchise in recent years.

Here’s the thing about that volatility, though: It’s still there, and the only way the Marlins will get rid of it for good is if they turn Mattingly‘s hiring into more than just a PR move.

To be sure, there are tangible reasons why the Marlins and Mattingly make sense for each other.

The Marlins are getting an experienced manager who racked up a .551 winning percentage and three division titles in five years in Los Angeles. Mattingly, meanwhile, is presumably getting some good money out of his four-year deal, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s moving to a less stressful environment.

What’s not so tangible, however, is what else could have drawn Mattingly to the Marlins.

He’s not joining a particularly good team, after all. The Marlins haven’t made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2003, and their 71-91 record in 2015 made it six-straight losing seasons.

Though they boast a solid young core of players in Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto, there’s an awful lot of mediocrity elsewhere on the roster.

If the Marlins are going to make Mattingly‘s arrival worth it, they thus have quite a bit of work to do. To that end, how much they can do and how much they’re willing to do are good questions.

Trades for high-profile players may be out of the question, because once you get beneath the young talent the Marlins already have at the major league level, you get into a farm system that MLB.com claims contains only one top-100 prospect. There’s not much ammo for blockbuster deals.

So the Marlins may have to spend some money. That’s where you really hope Mattingly knows what he’s getting into, as the Marlins are the polar opposite of the organization he just left.

In the time the Marlins have been owned by Jeffrey Loria, SI.com’s Jay Jaffe summed it up well by writing that they “simply haven’t maintained any commitment to spending money.” The Marlins’ payroll has consistently been at the bottom of the league since Loria took over in 2002, and he hasn’t been above carrying out a few fire sales to make sure it stays that way.

The most notorious ones took place after the team won the World Series in 2003 and after the Marlins failed miserably with a $100 million payroll—the first and, to date, only nine-figure payroll in club history—in 2012.

The latter infamously involved shedding all three big-name free agents acquired the previous winter: Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle.

What’s more, the fire sale that went down after 2012 may not be done hurting the Marlins.

It badly damaged their credibility with fans at the time, no question about it. What’s even more relevant now, with the Marlins hopefully looking to build a strong roster for Mattingly, is that it hurt their credibility with free agents. That fire sale warned any and all big-timers to stay away from Miami, lest they very suddenly find out their new home doesn’t want them anymore.

If the Marlins plan to pursue any big-timers this winter, they better plan on having to break through some thick walls of skepticism. 

If there’s any reason for optimism, it’s the notion that Mattingly‘s mere presence will help the front office in its pursuit of free-agent talent. And if we also assume Loria is willing to play against type by dishing out some serious cash, maybe Mattingly will have a legit team on his hands after all.

But even then, he wouldn’t necessarily be out of the woods. Because if Loria is known for anything besides his cheapness, it’s his impatience and habit of sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

That Mattingly is Miami’s eighth manager since 2010 is testament enough to Loria’s impatience. As for his meddling, it was felt by former manager Mike Redmond on at least one occasion and, according to Nightengale, contributed to a falling-out between Loria and Jennings:

Mind you, it is true that Mattingly doesn’t have a reputation for being the game’s best tactical manager. But even he is certainly much more qualified to call the shots on the field than Loria is. Going forward, the one guy who will need to understand that is Loria himself.

Again, for now, the Marlins deserve credit for bringing aboard one of the more accomplished managers in the game. If nothing else, Mattingly gives the Marlins a much-needed shot of credibility.

What the Marlins can’t do, however, is stand idly by and hope that Mattingly proves to be a magician who turns them back into winners all on his own. For that to happen, Mattingly will need the Marlins to help by investing in the talent he needs and then staying out of his way.

Basically, he’ll need the Marlins to stop being the Marlins.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Don Mattingly to Marlins: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Don Mattingly wasted no time finding a new gig after his five-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers came to an end, reportedly agreeing to terms with the Miami Marlins on Thursday.  

According to Molly Knight of Vice Sports, the former New York Yankees first baseman inked a four-year deal with Miami, but financial terms have not yet been disclosed.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com later confirmed the hiring.

The Marlins are hopeful they have finally found the right man for the job as Mattingly will become their eighth manager since 2010, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

Following a second consecutive loss in the National League Division Series this season, Mattingly and the Dodgers mutually agreed to part ways. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the move came about through many conversations, per Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.

“As our end of season process began, we discussed the past year, our future goals, necessary changes, roster needs and other matters relating to next year’s campaign,” Friedman said. “As the dialogue progressed daily, it evolved to a point where we all agreed that it might be best for both sides to start fresh.”

Despite the untimely ending for Mattingly, he did say at his press conference after leaving the Dodgers that he “definitely” wanted to manage, per Shaikin.

Even though the Dodgers never made it to a World Series under Mattingly, his tenure was successful. His teams finished over .500 in all five seasons as manager, making the playoffs every year from 2013-15, and reaching the NLCS in 2013. 

The problem with managing the Dodgers is expectations will always be off the charts because they are spending nearly $100 million more than any other team in baseball. 

Per Hernandez, Mattingly did emphasize the decision to part ways with the Dodgers wasn’t expectation-driven:

While every manager wants to have goals, being able to get out of a spotlight as bright as Los Angeles’ does afford Mattingly the chance to get a fresh start and work with a roster that isn’t as riddled with expensive contracts for aging players in decline. 

The Marlins have no shortage of young talent with outfielder Giancarlo Stanton and starting pitcher Jose Fernandez leading the way, but Mattingly still has an uphill climb ahead of him as Miami finished 71-91 this season and hasn’t made the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2003.

Mattingly has a chance to reinvent himself with a new franchise. It’s rare that a manager coming off of a successful stint with a premier franchise becomes available, so the Marlins have every reason to be thrilled with the hiring as they look to return to contention in the NL.

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Don Mattingly, Dodgers Part Ways: Takeaways from Former Manager’s Presser

The five-year marriage between Don Mattingly and the Los Angeles Dodgers came to an end Thursday as the two sides announced they had mutually agreed to part ways, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.

It was a disappointing finish to Mattingly’s tenure as manager of the team. The Dodgers finished over .500 in each of his five seasons at the helm, making the postseason in each of the last three years, but their last two playoff appearances ended in the National League Division Series.

To put a final bow on this era of Dodgers baseball, Mattingly and members of the Los Angeles front office met with the media to discuss Thursday’s decision and what it means for both the former skipper and the franchise in the future.

Starting off, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman emphasized that the parting of ways was mutual, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:

Mattingly would expand on why he agreed to the decision, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times:

The use of the phrase “part ways” will always lead to skepticism, though it isn’t always wrong. Los Angeles hired Mattingly when Ned Colletti was the general manager. When Friedman came on board in October 2014, he brought in Farhan Zaidi as general manager and Josh Byrnes as senior vice president of baseball operations.

Every regime will have a different philosophy. Mattingly worked with this group for a year and had some success before the two sides went different ways. 

Per Shaikin, Mattingly did say that he felt wanted by the Dodgers and added that he “loved” the various analytics that were presented to him by the new-look front office before adding that this is best for both sides:

Per Plunkett, Mattingly offered high praise to the trio of Friedman, Zaidi and Byrnes and where the franchise is going:

Friedman did note, per Plunkett, that today’s decision “wasn’t tied to the outcome of the NLDS” against the New York Mets

Looking to the future, Mattingly and the Dodgers have a lot of big decisions to make. He doesn’t sound like someone who wants to be out of the dugout for long, per Shaikin:

The Dodgers will become the most attractive managerial opening in the offseason. No team can match their combination of financial resources, front-office credentials and willingness to adapt.

It also doesn’t hurt to have Clayton Kershaw leading the rotation, though Zack Greinke’s opt-out clause will create some panic behind the left-hander if the Dodgers can’t reach a deal with their right-handed ace.

Friedman said during the presser, per Plunkett, that the Dodgers “expect to have a new manager in place” before the winter meetings begin December 7. 

Also of note, from Plunkett, Zaidi anticipates that the Dodgers will “have a younger team going forward.” Age is key for this franchise, as it started 2015 with the eighth-oldest roster in baseball. A lot of the team’s older players—in this case, anyone over 30—are eating up a lot of money. 

Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, Andre Ethier and Brandon McCarthy combined to make roughly $94.7 million last season. Using FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, those six combined for a WAR of 8.3; Kershaw’s WAR in 2015 was 8.6. 

There were many problems for the Dodgers this season, beyond Mattingly’s tactics or understanding of the analytics at his disposal. 

Sometimes, being able to get a clean break can work out best for everyone. Mattingly will now have an opportunity to interview for other managerial openings if he wants. The Dodgers can conduct a thorough search to get the right manager for what the franchise needs moving forward.

Thursday’s press conference between the Dodgers and Mattingly gave them an opportunity to clear the air before taking the next steps in their baseball journeys. 


Contract info via Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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Don Mattingly Rumors: Latest Buzz, Speculation Surrounding Former Manager

Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly mutually parted ways with the team after it failed to reach the National League Championship Series in back-to-back seasons, per the Dodgers, but he may not be out of work for long. 

Continue for updates. 

Marlins Have ‘Serious Interest’ in Mattingly

Thursday, Oct. 22

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman broke the news on Miami’s interest in the former Los Angeles manager and added the Miami Marlins’ coaching search “appeared to be on semi-hold, waiting for this.”

The Marlins have been searching for a new full-time manager ever since they canned Mike Redmond in May, and the franchise has conducted several experienced candidates in recent weeks.

According to USA Today‘s Bob Nightengale, Phil Nevin and Larry Bowa have both had two interviews with the Marlins, but Mattingly has emerged as the “favorite” for the team’s vacancy.    

“I’m still very passionate about managing and hope to get the opportunity in the near future,” Mattingly said in a statement released by the Dodgers on Thursday (h/t the Sun Sentinel‘s Craig Davis). 

Miami has also reportedly talked to Manny Acta and Bo Porter about the opening, per Davis, but Mattingly appears to be in the driver’s seat for the gig. 

The Marlins are still in the midst of a rebuild, and a 71-91 season that was mired in turmoil didn’t enhance the franchise’s prospects. However, bringing a manager like Mattingly aboard could help. The former Dodgers skipper has a career winning percentage of .551, and he helped L.A. capture NL West titles in each of the past three seasons. 

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Don Mattingly’s Inevitable Exit Gives Him, Dodgers Chance for New Beginning

Sometimes it’s just best to move on.

Best for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Best for Don Mattingly, too.

It’s time for them to find a manager their front office of analytical all-stars can truly embrace. It’s time for him to find a team that truly appreciates what he can do.

Mattingly was sometimes criticized for his in-game strategy, but managers are mostly managers of people, and he has shown an ability to do that well.

It’s time to move on, which is exactly what the Dodgers and Mattingly did Thursday. He and the organization agreed to part ways, a mutual decision first reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and later confirmed by sources.

Mattingly isn’t a failed manager. Far from it. In five seasons with the Dodgers, he proved adept at the most important part of the job, dealing with often-difficult personalities. He also won more regular-season games than San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (446-428).

No, he didn’t win a championship (while Bochy won his second and third with the Giants). You can argue whether that was because of his mistakes or because of the ultimately flawed roster he was handed—I’m going with the flawed roster—but it’s absolutely true that he never won it all.

Maybe he will at the next stop, just as his mentor, Joe Torre, finally won big when he landed with the New York Yankees.

Mattingly will end up somewhere, possibly soon. According to sources, he’s interested in the Washington Nationals, but is more likely to end up with the Miami Marlins, who have been clear about their interest in him.

The Marlins and owner Jeffrey Loria are hardly a model of stability, but Loria badly wants Mattingly, and may even offer him some input in decision-making.

That’s as opposed to what happened this season with the Dodgers, where it wasn’t even clear how much input Mattingly had in his own lineup. When he answered every lineup question with some version of “We thought it gave us the best chance of winning,” there was always a suspicion that “we” didn’t always include the manager.

The Dodgers can say what they want about how much they loved Mattingly. He’s a nice guy. Most people who meet him come away loving him.

He’s a nice guy, but he was never their nice guy. Mattingly was hired by former general manager Ned Colletti, who always believed in him. Andrew Friedman and his numbers guys simply inherited him.

Truth be told, the parting of ways probably should have happened last winter, when Friedman could have pursued Joe Maddon, who worked so well with him with the Tampa Bay Rays. Instead, the Dodgers kept Mattingly, who was said to have had a close relationship with owner Mark Walter.

The decision to keep him didn’t stop the talk that Mattingly was a short-timer in L.A. In Southern California and elsewhere, the belief was Mattingly would be a goner unless the Dodgers advanced deep into the postseason, that maybe he needed a World Series appearance to save his job.

Instead, the Dodgers had another first-round exit, losing in five games to the New York Mets. And while there was talk Mattingly could still survive—ESPN.com‘s Ramona Shelburne said the Dodgers offered him some sort of extension, although Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times said on Twitter an extension was discussed in principle but never offered—eventually both sides agreed on a divorce.

The Dodgers will look for a new manager, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today floating Gabe Kapler as a strong candidate on Twitter. Kapler would be a nice fit, both because of his tight relationship with Friedman and his real interest in analytics.

Mattingly will look for a new job. Miami and Washington look like the best fits, but the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners are also still looking for a manager. The Marlins and Nationals would be more likely to let Mattingly be himself, as both could benefit from a manager who’s able to get more out of their talent.

Mattingly will leave behind a legacy as the first Dodgers manager ever to finish in first place in the NL West three straight years, but also as the seventh consecutive Dodgers manager to leave without ending a World Series drought that now stands at 27 years and counting.

The lack of October success was too much for many Dodgers fans to accept, and ultimately too much for Mattingly to overcome with an organization whose leadership had changed drastically since he was hired to take over for Torre after the 2010 season.

He had a nice run.

This is the right time for it to end.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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Don Mattingly, Dodgers Part Ways: Latest Details, Comments and Reaction

The Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly are parting ways after three straight trips to the playoffs but just a single postseason series victory.

The Dodgers confirmed the news in a team release on Thursday, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said:

As our end of season process began, we discussed the past year, our future goals, necessary changes, roster needs and other matters relating to next year’s campaign. As the dialogue progressed daily, it evolved to a point where we all agreed that it might be best for both sides to start fresh. We decided to think about it for a couple of days and when we spoke again, we felt comfortable that this was the direction to go. I have the utmost respect for Donnie and thoroughly enjoyed working with him this past season. I want to thank him for his hard work and collaboration, as well as his accomplishments, including three consecutive National League West titles. I wish him nothing but success in the future.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, who originally reported the news, also noted the Miami Marlins are interested in the six-time All-Star to potentially take over the same role.

Mattingly reportedly wants to continue managing, but he had lost long-term support in L.A. As a result, the sides have decided to go their separate ways, according to Heyman.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported the Dodgers had offered Mattingly a contract extension over the weekend, but the lingering uncertainty caused both parties to instead terminate the relationship.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported the Dodgers will pay Mattingly’s salary for the 2016 season.

Mattingly said in the release:

I’m honored and proud to have had the opportunity to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’ve enjoyed my experiences and relationships with the organization’s staff and players throughout my eight years in L.A. After meeting with Andrew, Farhan and Josh, we all felt that a fresh start would be good for both the organization and me. We talked about several scenarios, including my returning in 2016. However, I believe this is the right time and right move for both parties. I’m still very passionate about managing and hope to get the opportunity in the near future. In the meantime, I want to thank the Dodger organization, the city and our fans for the opportunity and wish the club well going forward.

Mattingly said the more he talked to the Dodgers, the more evident it became that this decision was the best for both parties, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Mattingly added he “definitely wants to manage,” according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times

The manager said he had no agreement with the team not to discuss what happened, but declined to do so, according to Shaikin

“Andrew, Farhan and Josh are great guys,” Mattingly said, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. “They’re going to do great things. I believe that the organization is in great hands.” 

As has been the case since the Dodgers’ new ownership group took over in 2012, drama has been following the team around. That’s expected to some extent with payroll over $270 million in 2015.

Mattingly has been on the hot seat for two years, dating back to 2013 when the club got off to a slow start.

Ownership showed faith in him after the Dodgers made the playoffs last year by giving him a three-year contract extension in January. At the time, then-general manager Ned Colletti praised the job Mattingly had done during his tenure, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:

I think he’s done a great job here. The last three years in the organization have been historic in a lot of different ways. We kept the baseball team steady and the credit goes to a lot of people, including the man who runs the dugout and the leader of the guys. This is well-deserved. He gets better and better.

Changes came to the Dodgers once again after they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2014 National League Division Series. Colletti remains with the organization but lost his duties as general manager because Andrew Friedman jumped from the Tampa Bay Rays to Los Angeles as the president of baseball operations.

Matt Snyder of CBS Sports wrote about a decision Mattingly made in this year’s NLDS Game 5 that may have sealed his fate:

He pinch hits for Joc Pederson with Chase Utley. …

Pederson’s second-half on-base percentage was still .317. He’d already drawn two walks in Game 5. Utley had a .291 OBP since joining the Dodgers. Pederson was more likely to get on base.

Plus, Utley only hit eight homers all year. Pederson has light-tower power and hit 26 homers, six coming in the second half. Pederson was more likely to homer, too.

Mattingly has always been a hot-button topic in Los Angeles. He’s not the most technically savvy manager, but CJ Nitkowski of Fox Sports 1 pointed out that it can’t be easy handling the roster he was handed:

Despite keeping the egos in check enough to make the postseason in 2013 and 2014, the only thing that matters with such a massive payroll is winning a World Series. The Dodgers lost in the division series each of the last two years, including this season to the New York Mets with Zack Greinke starting Game 5.

The Dodgers’ payroll will always be a focal point, but many high-salaried additions like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Andre Ethier and Alexander Guerrero were products of the Colletti era.

It’s also a big problem when Yasiel Puig misses most of the season due to injuries and Joc Pederson falls off a cliff in the second half (.617 OPS). Mattingly was always fighting an uphill battle with the lineup.

Friedman is going to build this team how he wants. Mattingly was hired by the old regime, leaving him in a precarious position. He handled the situation as well as possible, but eventually things changed.

He’s had enough success to warrant another job somewhere, with a 446-363 (.551) record. It will also be good for him to get away from the intense scrutiny that comes with having a lot of expensive and aging talent on the roster.

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MLB Playoffs: Managers Who Will Be Feeling Pressure in October

Having a great manager doesn’t guarantee postseason success.

Games are still won on the field, but managers are tasked with putting players in the best position to succeed.

Bruce Bochy didn’t have a ton of success before joining the San Francisco Giants in 2007. Before arriving in San Francisco, Bochy managed the San Diego Padres for 12 seasons. 

His regular-season record was below .500, and he couldn’t guide the Padres past the National League Division Series. In four postseason appearances, Bochy’s club was 8-16, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The Giants didn’t make the playoffs in the first three seasons under Bochy but qualified in 2010 and turned into a dynasty. The team won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Bochy’s decision to pull Tim Hudson in the fifth inning of Game 7 and bring in Madison Bumgarner is the perfect example of a manager pulling the right strings and putting his club in the best position to win a championship.

Here are five managers who will feel pressure to step up as a tactician and help guide his team to a World Series championship.

Begin Slideshow

Handicapping the Dodgers’ Hotly Contested Spring Training Position Battles

February is here, which means spring training is just around the corner for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the rest of Major League Baseball.

The Boys in Blue made waves this offseason with their flurry of moves at the winter meetings, trading away key players from last season’s team that took home the National League West division title.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s roster incarnation is superior, but most of the players on the 2015 Dodgers know their role heading into the new season. The starting rotation is set, along with the closer and infield.

Two positions that are still up for grabs, however, are catcher and center field.



There were definite concerns within the organization following the struggles of A.J. Ellis last season. The Dodgers’ incumbent backstop batted just .191 in 93 games as he battled through knee and ankle injuries.

But although his performance at the plate suffered, the new front office led by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi realized his value in other areas of the game—namely his relationship with the pitching staff.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do if he’s not back,” Clayton Kershaw told reporters following the Dodgers’ season-ending loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series last October, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “I think we’d be losing a lot if we let him go.”

It’s why the Dodgers ultimately decided to avoid arbitration with Ellis and brought him back on a one-year, $4.25 million deal, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

“That’s been a part of our process, understanding the dynamics and the relationships and it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.

The Dodgers still made sure to proceed with a Plan B just in case Ellis falters for a second straight year. Los Angeles acquired switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal from the San Diego Padres in the blockbuster deal that sent fan favorite and franchise cornerstone Matt Kemp out of town.

The former 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft will be tasked with living up to some lofty expectations in the eyes of most Dodgers fans simply because of who the team traded away in order to get him.

Grandal has batted just .224 since testing positive for testosterone in November 2012. His return to the field in 2013 was cut short by a season-ending knee injury, but he did hit 15 home runs while playing half of his games in spacious Petco Park last year.

What’s more, Grandal batted .328 in 19 games in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, according to J.P. Hoornstra of InsideSocal.com.

Grandal recently described his knee as being “110 percent” improved compared to a year ago, per Hoornstra.

“It’s the reason I went to the Dominican Republic to make sure I was right,” said Grandal. “I think I showed I was right and that’s why so many teams started calling in afterwards.”

Ellis will likely be Kerhaw’s personal catcher because of their close relationship on and off the field, while Grandal undoubtedly offers more pop in the lineup along with a fine .350 career on-base percentage and elite pitch-framing ability.

According to Hoornstra, manager Don Mattingly held a meeting with both of his catchers but has yet to determine an arrangement for their playing time in 2015.

“A.J. couldn’t put it any better: Whatever it takes to win,” said Grandal, per Hoornstra. “If that day A.J. is the man for the job behind the plate and we are going to get a win with A.J. behind the plate, that’s going to be him. At the end of the day, if we get a win, that’s a team win and we all get a ring.”

Look for Mattingly to form a platoon based on matchups when it comes to his catcher on any given night.


Center Field

The battle to become the starting center fielder for the Dodgers this season will come down to a seasoned veteran and a highly touted prospect.

It’s going to be to Andre Ethier vs. Joc Pederson.

Ethier was the odd man out last season, an unlucky victim of the team’s outfield logjam. The eight-year veteran was banished to the bench in favor of Carl Crawford, who solidified himself as the everyday left fielder. Yasiel Puig patrolled center and Kemp played right.

With Kemp now out of the picture, the Dodgers plan to move Puig back to his natural position in right field, where the team can utilize his strong throwing arm to its maximum potential. Crawford will be back in left field, which means center field is wide open, and Ethier expects to reclaim a starting role, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.

It was fun trying to win the way we did last year, but it didn’t prove any more successful than me playing every day or not playing every day. I’d rather play every day and help this team win — or whatever team it is — to the best of my ability. I feel I can, if given a role. As I stand here today, I’m preparing every day to be a starting outfielder for the Dodgers, until I’m told otherwise. I’m not changing my mind about that. It’s probably going to be a little less wanting to take the same role as I did last year.

The problem that Mattingly has with simply handing Ethier back his starting gig is multifaceted.

First of all, Ethier is coming off the worst season of his career, one that saw him bat .249 with just four home runs and 42 RBI in 341 at-bats.

“You put up the numbers, you play. It’s pretty simple,” Mattingly said, per Eric Stephen of True Blue LA. “You perform, you compete, and if you win the job, you’re playing.”

Ethier clearly didn’t put up numbers worthy of everyday playing time a season ago. The argument can be made that he never was able to establish a rhythm at the plate with such sporadic at-bats, but maybe he is simply beginning his inevitable decline as a serviceable major league player. Ethier will turn 33 in April.

It’s a legitimate concern for Mattingly and the Dodgers, who must also accommodate the rise of Pederson, their top outfield prospect.

Pederson slashed .303/.435/.582 with 135 hits and 78 RBI in 121 games at Triple-A before his September call-up last season. He became the Pacific Coast League’s first player since 1934 to hit at least 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com.

Mattingly considers Pederson the “best defensive center fielder” on the Dodgers, per Dilbeck, and the rookie will have an opportunity to earn an everyday job at the position during spring training.

Friedman and Zaidi agree with this plan.

“I think we’ll take some time in spring training and assess that, get a feel for him in camp and how he’s handling things,” Friedman told Dilbeck. “It’ll be a discussion we’ll have with the staff and I’m sure it will be an ongoing discussion between now through the last game in March.”

If Pederson holds his own during spring training, which will comprise of more than the 39 plate appearances he made with the big club last September, the Dodgers will likely begin the season with the 22-year-old as their starting center fielder.

Ethier will presumably be unhappy starting the season on the bench yet again, but it will be difficult for Los Angeles to trade him without eating a significant portion of the $56 million he is owed through 2018. Moreover, the team may view Ethier as an above-average insurance policy in case the injury-prone Crawford feels a twinge somewhere along the way.

“I think Joc should have the opportunity to compete for the position. I don’t think we should hand anything over,” Mattingly said, per Stephen. “It’s a spot where there will be competition.”


All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise linked/noted.

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Is Don Mattingly the Right Man to Lead Dodgers to Must-Have World Series Title?

Months after a season-ending press conference turned awkward for the Los Angeles Dodgers, manager Don Mattingly received what he wanted all along: a contract extension.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the Dodgers have reached an agreement with Mattingly to keep the former lame-duck manager in tow for the next three seasons. Now, after months of speculation about Mattingly‘s long-term viability in Los Angeles, the franchise has committed to him for the foreseeable future.

The deal, confirmed by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, replaces the existing one-year deal for 2014 with a contract that spans through 2016.

In order to reward their faith in him, the former on-field great must morph from a good leader to a very good tactician in the dugout in order to help the talented Dodgers reach their ceiling and win a championship over the next few years.

The Dodgers retained their guy, hoping he’s the right man to ascend to the throne of champion. After a long, storied career that left Mattingly on the outside of the championship chase in New York, his best chance at a ring comes now.

Heading into the 2014 season, “Donnie Baseball” will enter spring training with the best roster in the sport.

Yes, the Dodgers will arrive at spring training with more talent on their 40-man roster than the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, defending NL champion St. Louis Cardinals, maturing Washington Nationals and re-stocked Texas Rangers.

With NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw spearheading the rotation, and Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez poised to play full seasons, the Dodgers have MVP candidates littered throughout the roster. If former NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp can regain his health, the roster is loaded enough to expect 100-plus wins and a trip deep into October.

Last year, despite injuries to Zack Greinke, Ramirez and Kemp, along with Puig toiling in the minors until June, Mattingly led the Dodgers to a 92-win season. With that came an NL West crown and an NLDS victory over the Atlanta Braves. After beginning the season with a dismal record of 30-42, the Dodgers reeled off 62 wins over their last 90 games.

That run was a testament to Mattingly‘s resolve in the dugout. By keeping the roster together, even in the face of rumors of his impending firing, the young manager proved that he has what it takes to manage talented players in the face of adversity. The speculation about Mattingly‘s long-term status in Los Angeles had little to do with his ability to lead, motivate and calm the roster during difficult times. 

Instead, any debate around Mattingly‘s ability to win a World Series stems from strategy, specifically his in-game acumen. 

During the aforementioned press conference in which Mattingly asked for a contract extension, he alluded to the criticism of every move weighing on him, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times

“Really what it does, it puts me in a spot where everything that I do is questioned because I’m basically trying out or auditioning to say, ‘Can he manage or can he not manage?'” Mattingly said. “To me, it’s at that point where, three years in, you either know or you don’t.”

Three years into Mattingly‘s managerial tenure, here’s what we know: Through 485 games, he’s a winner. With a .536 winning percentage, the 52-year-old manager is off to a good start.

By handing their manager a three-year deal, the Dodgers are signalling that they acknowledge his good work. In the minds of the Los Angeles brass, Mattingly is the right man to lead the team to a World Series championship for the first time since the 1988 season. 

But now that he has the backing of the organization, the focus will squarely fall upon his performance. If Mattingly thinks the scrutiny around his decisions will end upon signing this deal, he’s very wrong. As Dodgers fans expect more winning, every move will be up for debate. Fortunately for him, the debate won’t immediately center around his job security with every puzzling move he makes in 2014.

And make no mistake, there will be puzzling moves. 

Last October, despite holding a 2-1 series advantage in the NLDS over the Atlanta Braves, Mattingly sent Kershaw to the mound in Game 4. Despite holding a lead, the Dodgers chose to ride their ace on three days rest. Conventional wisdom would have dictated to hold Kershaw back for a potential Game 5, putting him out there to rescue the series on full rest. Of course, Kershaw won the game and series, taking Mattingly off the hook if Game 5 became a reality.

Furthermore, as John Harper of the New York Daily News detailed, Mattingly decided to pinch-run for Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth inning of a tie game in the NLCS. When Dee Gordon, Gonzalez’s replacement, didn’t score in the inning, the game stay tied and cost Los Angeles two more turns at bat for one of their best run producers.

Those moves are just a few that illustrate Mattingly’s gambling style of managing.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. With a new contract emboldening him, expect more of the same moving forward.

The thinking here is that the Dodgers know exactly what they have in their dugout: an excellent leader, capable of winning with big talent and unafraid of taking risks in big moments.

Over the next few years, Mattingly will be expected to win a World Series, and despite all the puzzling moves, he’s a proven winner and has shown that he is deserving of the extension.

Agree? Disagree?

Comment, follow me on Twitter or “like” my Facebook page to talk all things baseball. 

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Don Mattingly’s Managing Must Get Better for Dodgers to Reach World Series

Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals is going into the vault as another chapter in the book of legendary things done in October by the great Carlos Beltran.

Game 1 of the NLCS saw Beltran do that thing he has a tendency to do in the postseason. The perennial playoff hero hit a two-run double in the third inning that knotted the score at 2-2, and it was his single down the right field line in the 13th inning that scored Daniel Descalso and allowed the Cardinals to walk off with a 3-2 victory.

But if you missed it, don’t make the mistake of thinking that Beltran won Game 1 single-handedly. He was lent a helping hand on Friday night/Saturday morning at Busch Stadium.

And of all places, it came from the opposing dugout.

We could call the book’s latest chapter “Another Carlos Beltran Game,” but we might as well call it “The Don Mattingly Game.” For while the Cardinals owe their win to their veteran outfielder, the Dodgers owe their loss to their manager. 

The third-year skipper made a series of mistakes throughout the proceedings that cost the Dodgers dearly in the end. And since the night’s performance was hardly a first for Mattingly, the writing is on the wall in big, bold letters: If the Dodgers are going to win the World Series, they need Don Mattingly to stop doing Don Mattingly things.

For them to be the best, he needs to get better.

OK, let’s get our bearings here. I used the ol‘ “if you missed it” line back there just as a convenient transition, but maybe you really did miss it and you have no idea what the heck is going on. Maybe you don’t know why Mattingly is lying under that bus over there.

Well, let’s see. I suppose the madness started in the eighth inning.

It was a 2-2 game when Dodgers first baseman and cleanup man Adrian Gonzalez came to the plate with nobody out in the top of the eighth. He drew a leadoff walk against Carlos Martinez, and that’s when Mattingly made his first puzzling move. Rather than let Gonzalez run for himself, Mattingly inserted Dee Gordon as a pinch-runner.

A bold move indeed. Gordon’s undeniably fast, but he’s not a great base stealer, with a modest career success rate of 70 percent. Plus, there was Yadier Molina, arguably the greatest defensive catcher in history, behind the plate. Even putting in Billy Hamilton to run would have been a risky call.

And if it didn’t pay off, the Dodgers would have lost their cleanup hitter for nothing.

Sure enough, Mattingly didn’t call for Gordon to take off. He stood glued to first base until Yasiel Puig grounded a ball to Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma, who easily erased Gordon at second base.

And that was it for him. Gordon was lifted from the game in favor of Michael Young, who was inserted in the cleanup spot and at first base. Mattingly had wasted his best speed weapon off the bench, and he ended up with a lesser fielder at first and a lesser hitter at cleanup as a result.

This naturally came back to bite the Dodgers. Twice.

The first time it bit the Dodgers was in the 10th inning. Mark Ellis hit a one-out triple that was followed by an intentional walk to Hanley Ramirez. Young then hit a fly ball to right field that Beltran caught and turned into an inning-ending double play with a strike to home that beat Ellis to the plate.

It’s hard to tell, even in the slow-motion replays, whether Molina actually tagged Ellis, but consider what that situation might have looked like if Mattingly hadn’t subbed Gordon for Gonzalez in the eighth. It would have been Gonzalez at the plate, and possibly Gordon at third base.

Gonzalez, a .293 hitter in the regular season, might have gotten a hit. Had he hit that same fly ball to Beltran instead, the speedy Gordon would have scored easily.

But wait, there’s more that went down in the 12th inning.

Batting against Lance Lynn, Carl Crawford led off the top of the inning with a single. Rather than let Ellis hit away, Mattingly called for him to sacrifice Crawford to second with a bunt.

The bunt was successful…and also not at the same time. What it did was open up first base for Ramirez, making it an easy call for the Cardinals to take his bat out of his hands with an intentional walk. That brought Young to the plate, and he grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Meanwhile, Mattingly was making a mistake in-between these mistakes by keeping Kenley Jansen confined to the bullpen, signalling that he was intent on only using him in a save situation.

This despite the fact Jansen held hitters to a lower OPS in non-save situations in 2013 than he did in save situations. And also despite the fact Jansen didn’t become the Dodgers “closer” until June.

What Mattingly was doing was prioritizing Jansen’s role over his actual pitching ability. As Matt Snyder of CBS Sports pointed out:

Jansen eventually made it into the game in the 13th inning, but not until after Chris Withrow had allowed a single to Descalso and a walk to Matt Carpenter to put the winning run in scoring position with maybe the greatest postseason hitter ever striding to the plate. 

Mattingly could have asked a much smaller favor of his best relief pitcher several innings earlier. He instead asked a huge favor, and Jansen couldn’t come through.

When it was all over, there was no quarter for Mattingly in the Twitterverse. Many took to trolling him, but it was Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated who said it best with this subtle barb:

This has to do with the aforementioned fact that Mattingly‘s night of mistakes wasn’t a first for him. Heck, it wasn’t even a first for him within the Dodgers’ last four games.

In the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, Mattingly chose to make a pitching change rather than have Withrow face Jose Constanza, he of the .575 OPS over the last two seasons. Once Reed Johnson pinch-hit for Constanza, Mattingly chose to walk him intentionally to bring Jason Heyward to the plate instead.

This would be the same Jason Heyward who had a .932 OPS after the break. The same Jason Heyward who, seeing as how he posted a higher OPS against lefties than against righties, was not going to be afraid of facing the lefty-throwing Paco Rodriguez.

And ultimately, this would be the same Jason Heyward who clubbed a two-run single that gave the Braves a 4-1 lead. Rather than give a lead to the Dodgers, all Ramirez’s two-run homer in the next frame could do was cut into the Braves’ lead.

The Heyward blunder was a gaffe that actually happened, and then there was the gaffe that could have happened in Game 4. 

The Dodgers entered the eighth inning trailing 3-2 and with a golden opportunity ahead of them with David Carpenter on the mound for the Braves instead of the usually invincible Craig Kimbrel (derp, because he’s a closer, derp). When Puig led off with a double, the Dodgers were in business.

And then Mattingly asked Juan Uribe to bunt. He was willing to trust a guy with only three sacrifices all season to not screw this one up. On top of that, he was willing to give the Braves a free out even though there was already a runner in scoring position, and a speedy one at that.

Fortunately, Uribe wasn’t able to get a bunt down. Instead, he hit a two-run homer that gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Via Amanda Rykoff, the irony of the moment was not lost on longtime Dodgers broadcaster/bard Vin Scully:

There’s an alternate universe out there in which Uribe’s bunt is successful. Within that same universe, maybe that free out bites the Dodgers, who fail to score and then go down against Kimbrel in the ninth. 

And in that scenario, of course, the Dodgers would have burned a start by Clayton Kershaw on short rest for a loss that sent the series back to Atlanta for Game 5. The questions, second-guesses and outrage would have come down on Mattingly like a ton of bricks.

You know, sort of like they are now. As well they should be.

There have been worse managers than Mattingly. Heck, there are worse managers than Mattingly. It’s easy enough to realize that once you remember that Bobby Valentine is still out there somewhere.

Exactly what sort of value Mattingly brings to the Dodgers, however, is unclear. 

It’s easy to credit Mattingly with keeping his house in order when it could easily have fallen apart when it was being written as early as May that his job was hanging by a thread.

The team started playing good baseball soon after, sure, but that good baseball just so happened to coincide with the arrival of Puig and Ramirez finally getting healthy. In early July, Zack Greinke turned on the jets. Then, Ricky Nolasco arrived and was terrific for a dozen starts.

If the question is how much of the Dodgers’ success this season is due to their talent and how much of it to Mattingly‘s leadership, you have to side with the former to a staggering degree. With that payroll and that roster, it’s not like the Dodgers overachieved under Mattingly.

The debate over Mattingly‘s actual value to the Dodgers could have been had before the postseason even began. But regardless of the exact number of skeptics he had out there, October was going to be Mattingly‘s chance to shut them up by managing the heck out of his ballclub. If ever there was a time for Mattingly to be confirmed as a “great manager with great talent” rather than as a “manager with great talent,” it’s going on right now.

And so far, he’s been a huge disappointment.

Mattingly could have cost the Dodgers in Game 4 of the NLDS. He did cost the Dodgers in Game 2 of that series. Likewise, he did cost the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS. That’s three games out of five that have Mattingly‘s fingerprints on them, and not in a good way.

Mattingly can’t keep this up. Not at this rate. Not against a Cardinals team that is miles more legit than the Braves ever were—Atlanta tied for last in strength of schedule this season. Not in a setting where one game carries the weight of dozens. 

It’s on Mattingly to do his utmost to make sure that weight doesn’t come crashing down. If he doesn’t, the Dodgers are invariably going to find themselves falling short of the World Series. 

And that’s when the Dodgers could well decide that new leadership is needed.


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