5 Reasons Why Los Angeles Dodgers Shouldn’t Have Extended Don Mattingly
5 Reasons Why Los Angeles Dodgers Shouldn't Have Extended Don Mattingly
The Los Angeles Dodgers are a team filled with high-priced talent, raised expectations and an ownership group committed to doing whatever it takes; however, they have the wrong man running the show in Don Mattingly.
The impact of a manager in MLB is a constant source of debate, but there clearly are negative and positive effects on a team depending on the skipper. Putting players in the best position to succeed, exhibiting poise and handling egos are essential parts of a professional manager’s duties.
Mattingly doesn’t fit the bill with this group of Dodgers. Winning the NL West and reaching the NLCS are accomplishments he can certainly be proud of. The reality is the Dodgers won in spite of Mattingly’s leadership as the stars’ talents trumped the negative contributions from "Donnie Baseball."
Let’s not forget how hot Mattingly’s seat was in May as Los Angeles limped out to an 18-26 mark, falling all the way to 11 games under .500 and 9.5 games back in the NL West as late as June 22. He didn’t change as a field general, but he was fortunate enough to get players back from injury and watch others step up their game, such as Yasiel Puig.
Mattingly struggles in a number of facets of managing, and it costs his team during the regular season and especially in the playoffs. It’s difficult to argue against a man whose team had 92 regular season victories and finished a pair of wins shy of the World Series, but the Dodgers were foolish to extended the wrong man for the job.
5. He's a Diva
Some might say being a diva in Hollywood makes perfect sense. A majority of individuals understand it’s a recipe for disaster as a manager. Mattingly’s comments about not managing if he was going to be a “lame-duck manager” was a huge red flag prior to the extension. He sent a message to his players that it’s all about himself first. Mattingly continuously seeks out attention on the field and in the media, which over time creates resentment and hostility from the real stars on the team.
Here’s Mattingly's quote for reference: “This has been a frustrating, tough year, honestly. You come in basically as a lame-duck manager, and with the payroll and guys you have, you make it tough in the clubhouse, put me in a spot where you’re basically trying out, auditioning. Can you manage or not manage? To me, we’re three years in. We’re at the point where you know or you don’t.”
4. Too Old School
Mattingly takes old school to another level as a manager. Whether it’s using the sacrifice bunt too often or calling out his players in the media, these tactics aren’t as effective as they were 30 years ago. Criticizing guys in the clubhouse, if warranted, can be a positive strategy. Questioning your players’ “toughness” and the general manager’s construction of the team are quick ways to lose your club and your job.
I’m not as morally opposed to bunting as some are, but it should only be used on occasion. With a bunch of well-paid athletes who have a proven ability to hit for power, there are very few times you should be giving away outs in a Los Angeles uniform.
3. Inability to Think Ahead
The spotlight shines brightest on managers in the postseason, making his short-sighted move in Game 1 of the NLCS all the more glaring. With the game tied in the eighth inning, Mattingly pinch ran for Adrian Gonzalez and the Dodgers failed to score. Anyone who follows baseball knew that would come back to bite him. Later in the game, the St. Louis Cardinals twice were able to comfortably walk Hanley Ramirez intentionally with a runner in scoring position because Gonzalez was out of the game and Michael Young was in his spot. The result was a pair of inning-ending double plays and a 3-2 loss to drop the series opener.
Unfortunately for Dodgers fans, this wasn’t an isolated case. Mattingly consistently plays for one at-bat, one out or one pitcher, leaving him shorthanded and burned in the end.
2. Frustration and Panic
These emotions play into Mattingly's inability to think ahead. It's all over his face and body language when things are getting uncomfortable. When the Dodgers were near collapse in May, Mattingly sounded exasperated as he talked about having his “hands tied” and how his players weren’t getting enough out of their ability. He was frustrated and it showed, both in his attitude and in his benching of Andre Ethier. The Dodgers continued to struggle through June in part because of Mattingly’s tense demeanor with the club. Once they were essentially written off, Mattingly and the rest of the team relaxed and the team took off.
The NLCS was no different as he was wound tighter than a ball of yarn. Players sense panic and start to feel the pressure of their manager’s nervousness. Of course, baseball demands a certain calm and ease to play well, which can be difficult when the leader is on edge. The panic also feeds into his propensity to make boneheaded moves like he did a few times in Game 1 of the NLCS.
1. Bullpen Mismanagement
Most people agree handling the bullpen is where managers have the greatest impact and truly earn their money. If that is the case, then consider this extension money down the drain. Mattingly has no feel or understanding of the pitching equation. Random decision-making at odd times, relying on gut feelings over common sense and a general sense of panic all conspire to sabotage the bullpen in Los Angeles.
Mattingly consistently sticks with underperforming veterans, like Brandon League, for far too long. The closer’s role eventually went to Kenley Jansen instead, a spot where he flourished. Mattingly was lucky the early-season woes that aided in their horrible start didn’t end up burying them. Still, he often burns the bullpen by using pitchers on one hitter and fails to recognize value in matchups. The idea of creating an advantage through matchups appears foreign to him, and he acts indecisively when he has the chance to assert himself. The bullpen is a constant struggle for Mattingly, and it may prove to be his fatal flaw.