Oct 23, 2009, 4:09 PM EDT
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. That was in 1995, his final year of the bigs. Just a shell of his former self, he hit .288/.341/.413 with a mere 49 RBI in 128 games. He did end up turning in a big ALDS, going 10-for-24 with a homer and six RBI. However, the Yankees lost to the Mariners in a thrilling five-game series anyway. It was immediately after Mattingly retired that the Yankees went on their historic run.
Mattingly essentially took eight years off after his playing career, though he did serve as a spring training instructor with the Yankees. After the 2003 season, he took over as the Bombers’ hitting coach, serving in that role for three years. The Yankees then made him their bench coach, apparently with the idea of grooming him to replace Torre. However, after Torre was fired following the 2007 season, the Yankees picked Joe Girardi as their new manager.
Mattingly followed Torre to Los Angeles, but it was a bumpy ride at first. He was hired as the Dodgers’ hitting coach, but he abruptly stepped down in Jan. 2008, citing family issues, and took a lesser role. After six months, his family issues apparently cleared up, he made his interest known and took back to hitting coach job, replacing Mike Easler.
The family issues, though, have drawn more headlines than his on-field work of late. After Mattingly initially stepped down as hitting coach, his wife was arrested and charged with public intoxication and disorderly conduct for refusing to leave Don’s property. Mattingly later got a protective order. In July of this year, his son Taylor was arrested for allegedly shoving his mother and spitting in her face. He was charged with battery by bodily waste and criminal mischief.
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.
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