As you may know, Don Mattingly is my favorite player of all time. When he and Joe Girardi were the two candidates competing to become Joe Torre‘s successor as the manager of the New York Yankees, I had hoped he wouldn’t get the job simply because there would come a time when some front-running, loud-mouthed Yankee fans would complain about the job he was doing if the team was losing. I wouldn’t be able to stomach that fact he would be booed in Yankee Stadium, something that never happened to him during his playing days.
Today, Donnie Baseball is the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that has undergone a ridiculous amount of change and emotion since he was named manager in 2011, finally succeeding Torre. Los Angeles was owned by Frank McCourt at the time, who was embroiled in a bitter divorce and later filed for bankruptcy. As you could imagine, this was not the best of circumstances for a guy in his first year of his first managerial gig. Somehow, Donnie was able to get LA to finish with a winning record of 82-79. The following season, the Dodgers started out red-hot and stayed in first place until June 27th, by which time the wheels had fallen off as the team suffered numerous injuries including one to Matt Kemp who was having an all-time Dodger season up to that point. Still, the team finished 86-76 and with new ownership in the form of Magic Johnson and a gut-busing payroll, 2013 was expected to be the year of Dodger Blue.
It did not start off that way. The team was beset by injuries early and honestly, looked totally lost. I saw them play the Arizona Diamondbacks in May and they looked like a Little League team, making silly errors and countless mental mistakes. They sank to last place, 10 1/2 games off the National League West lead. It appeared that Donnie was going to be fired by season’s end. However, the arrival of Yasiel Puig and the return of Hanley Ramirez gave the Dodgers a jolt. Led by Mattingly’s even-keeled nature the Dodgers roared back, powered by a 42-8 stretch vaulted the Dodgers to first place with a sizeable 10 game lead. Much of the credit has to be given to Mattingly, who while not fiery, will bench people if they do not play to his standards as Puig and Andre Either have found out. He also earned much praise from Kemp and Clayton Kershaw the team’s two biggest stars.
As much as I have a dislike for the Dodgers, I feel great for Don Mattingly. I am not sure I could root for him in the World Series but I would sure love to see him get there.
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I also cover the Arizona Diamondbacks at venomstrikes.com