Count Me In Mattingly’s Corner
It was almost unanimous around town when they named him the next Dodgers’ manager.
Everybody was against Don Mattingly. He is too inexperienced. He is too laid-back. He isn’t Tim Wallach. You name it, and they criticized him for it.
Well, never somebody to automatically fall in with the majority, count me as one who believes Mattingly is an excellent fit.
There are no stats to go by here. It is just a gut feeling, one shaped by remembering him as a player and observing him as a coach.
Donnie Baseball, they called him, and for good reason. He was what oldtimers call “a gamer.” A Darin Erstad type, only with more natural talent. He wasn’t just a good player with the Yankees. He was a dominant player, both offensively and defensively.
He was a six-time All-Star, winner of nine Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards, besides being the 1985 American League MVP. He hit 160 home runs and had 684 RBIs in a spectacular six-year run that was cut short by a series of serious back problems. It ended his career prematurely and probably cost him a bust in the Hall of Fame.
But you get the idea. The tradition-rich Yankees didn’t name him a captain for nothing. He was a leader by example. He was Derek Jeter with a bigger bat. The kind of player you’d point to when showing your son or daughter how the game should be played.
Some people will say all that doesn’t matter. Lots of all-time greats tried managing and failed, frustrated that others couldn’t play as well as they did.
Certainly, that could happen to Mattingly. But I don’t think it will. I think all those years sitting next to Joe Torre will help. I also think the toughness he demonstrated as a player will be something he can bring into his own clubhouse.
In a final 2010 meeting with the media on Monday, Mattingly talked about that. He spoke about the Dodgers need to be tougher, and if you watched the team at all this season, you know he is right.
This club has a talented core. Guys like Andre Either, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Matt Kemp have all-star ability. What they need is someone who can push them a bit more. Torre was like a father figure. What these guys require now is more of a big brother who isn’t afraid to kick them in the wallet when necessary.
They need someone who is a little younger. Someone who can relate to them more.
Mattingly fits that criteria. This is a guy who once collected 238 hits in a season. Someone who hit as many as 48 home runs and drove in 145 runs in a single year. He understands the game, and if he’s smart, he’ll have a savvy, experienced coach like Larry Bowa working right alongside of him in the dugout.
I know all the oldtime Dodgers fans want Tim Wallach, who has paid his dues running teams in the minors. He will be a good major league manager, too, some day. But he doesn’t know the personalities on the big club. He hasn’t been there, next to Torre, watching and discussing and taking it all in.
For this team, at this shaky point, with a future as unpredictable as its owners court case, something tells me the Dodgers have done the right thing this time.
Something tells me Don Mattingly will work out just fine.
— STEVE BISHEFF