Friday, October 23, 2009
Mattingly's managerial credentials
Matthew Pouliot asks a fair question: Why exactly is Don Mattingly considered a top managerial candidate?
It's long been assumed that he'd get the Dodgers' job once Joe Torre retired, but Don Mattingly is in demand and apparently could jump ship now. He's a leading candidate to take over for Eric Wedge in Cleveland and Jim Riggleman in Washington.
I just want to know why.
Mattingly's reputation as a fine leader goes back to his playing days. There's no doubt his teammates had great respect for him, and there was never any reason to question his status as one of the game's gentleman.
Of course, that leadership never really translated on the field. Mattingly's Yankees teams made the playoffs once in 14 seasons.
There's not any evidence out there that Mattingly isn't the man every Yankee fan who grew up in the 80s admired. Still, it's hardly unfair to question his ability to manage a family. As for whether he can manage ballplayers, we simply have no idea, since Mattingly had no interest in working in the minors following his playing career. That remains the biggest strike against him. Mattingly has never had to handle a pitching staff, and he hasn't exactly had the best role model in that area in Torre. His track record as a hitting coach is largely positive, but it's quite possible that's the best role for him.
The crack about Mattingly's family is both cheap and irrelevant; lots of managers have had less-than-wonderful home lives. The more substantive point is that Mattingly has never managed a baseball team; the closest he's come is one season as Joe Torre's bench coach. The New York Yankees knew Mattingly better than anyone, and after his one season in that role, he was passed over in favor of Joe Girardi as Torre's replacement. Since then, he has served as Torre's (and the Dodgers') hitting coach.
Mattingly might be a great manager right now, if given the chance. But these stories -- big name with little or no managerial experience gets the big job -- rarely have happy endings, and often the sad ending comes quickly. If Mattingly really wants to manage, he should volunteer to return to the minor leagues and learn how to run a 25-man roster. But considering the pay cut he'd have to take, I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.