Don Mattingly. Donnie Baseball. The first Yankee favorite that I grew up with and one of the reasons to watch Yankees baseball in the 80's and early 90's. The main reason I was insanely pissed during the 1994 Strike. Guest star on one of the greatest episodes of The Simpsons. A player who's career ended before it's time due to his constant back problems. Former co-manager of the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Joe Torre. Now the current manager of the Dodgers. I could seriously spend this entire topic just praising what Mattingly meant to me or the Yankees in general, but I think that'll do. This thread has little to do with his Yankee career and more to do with his time managing the Dodgers.
Every now and then the thought of Mattingly replacing Girardi has come up. The thought of firing Girardi comes up quite often among "rational" fans. While I think there's nothing terribly wrong with Girardi as our manager, he will not last forever. These are the New York Yankees after all. A few missed playoffs or lack of World Series victories and they will look for a change. Don Mattingly taking over is probably the most tempting and delicious choice to Yankee fans everywhere, myself included. He's Donnie Baseball!
What do we really know about Mattingly's managerial career though? My job allows me to view every team in MLB and even I don't get to watch as many Dodgers games as I would like. I like watching Dodgers games. Donnie Baseball, Matt Kemp, and Vin Scully are the primary reasons for that. Since my "Tiiiiiiiiime for Dodgers Base. Ball." is very limited, I reached out to the manager of SB Nation's Dodgers blog, True Blue LA, Eric Stephen. He was nice enough to answer some questions I had about Mattingly as the Dodgers' manager.
#1. Since his time with the Dodgers, what do you think of Mattingly as a manager in terms of his overall attitude dealing with players and umpires?
Dealing with players is probably Mattingly's greatest strength. He is straightforward and always lets players know exactly where they stand at all times. He is a relatively low key guy who doesn't really yell and scream, which is why his five ejections this season is pretty funny. The players all get a kick out of angry Mattingly, especially when he's sticking up for them.
#2. Are their any similarities or differences between how Mattingly managers the Dodgers and how Joe Torre managed them?
Mattingly is definitely more hands-on in his approach than Torre was, but that may just be a function of age as Mattingly is 20 years younger than Torre when he managed the Dodgers. Mattingly will occasionally throw batting practice, will sometimes stand in against pitchers throwing bullpen sessions. Torre was more of a CEO type with his lieutenants more active.
#3. How does Mattingly manage the pitching staff? Does he follow pitch counts?
Mattingly is a hitter at heart, and as such leaves a lot of the pitching duties to pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who is in his seventh season in that role in Los Angeles. Mattingly will follow pitch counts to a point but usually is more concerned with pitches under stress. Mattingly will ride Clayton Kershaw
more than the rest of the staff, and understandably so as he is the ace. Kershaw has 11 of the 17 outings of 110 or more pitches this season by a Dodger. Big burly Aaron Harang
has four of the other six.
#4. Is Mattingly a fan of the lefty/righty match ups with both pitchers and hitters?
In some cases Mattingly is a little more stubborn on this. During spring training Mattingly said he knew the numbers showed that Andre Ethier
and James Loney
weren't good hitters against left-handed pitchers but that he believed with their swings they could hit lefties. Loney has been platooning with Juan Rivera at first base for some time, but Ethier continues to face them despite poor numbers (.234/.301/.348) for the fifth straight year.
With pitchers, that is a hard question to answer as the Dodgers have only had one left-handed reliever for most of the season. Scott Elbert
was the lone southpaw in the bullpen until trading for Randy Choate
on July 25, but Elbert went on the disabled list one day later, so there haven't been opportunities for Mattingly to go full LaRussa with his bullpen management.
#5. Would you prefer another MLB manager or are you happy, or at least content, with how he manages the team?
I do like how he manages the team. There have been times when I have been frustrated with tactical moves, like bunting too often this season or using Dioner Navarro
to pinch hit too often last season, but it's nearly impossible to find a manager that doesn't make questionable moves in some regard. I was skeptical that the Dodgers hired a manager with no managerial experience, but Mattingly himself said this year during spring training that he views the position as more of a leadership role than a technical one. After seeing how he interacts with players firsthand and how much they respect him, I am inclined to agree.
There you have it, Yankee fans. A brief look at what Mattingly might bring to the Yankees as their manager. He seems like your standard manager in some bunting regards. Otherwise I like what I'm hearing from Eric. That could just be my Donnie Baseball bias talking. Mattingly would probably get a lot more leeway from the fans due to him being Don Mattingly. I'm definitely willing to give it a try.
Would you prefer Mattingly to Girardi? Do try and put your Donnie Baseball bias on the back burner when answering this. Or not.