Don Mattingly becomes baseball’s smartest man in only six weeks

mattingly dugoutThe decision to not fire Don Mattingly is an interesting case study in decision-making, luck and timing.

Only a few months ago, Dodger manager Don Mattingly’s head was on the chopping block, or at least that’s what we were told.  By the beginning of June, the Dodgers and their $220 million payroll, the highest in Major League Baseball, were nine games under .500.  A playoff spot was an afterthought, never mind a World Series title.

Magic Johnson and the rest of the rich folks that own the Los Angeles Dodgers had an important decision to make: keep Mattingly or make a change.

We know how that turned out.  A 22-year old, Cuban-born phenomenon named Yasiel Puig strolled into town and injected some life into an organization that hadn’t seen any since a gimpy, elbow-pumping Kirk Gibson rounded the bases after hitting one of baseball’s unlikeliest home runs.

That was two decades ago.

The rest is recent history in the making.  The Dodgers are now 27 games over .500.  They won 42 games over a 50 game stretch, an incomparable run, and have become one of the most exciting teams in baseball.

But let’s stop time for a brief second.

Let’s say hypothetically that the Dodgers had fired Donnie Baseball when a) the Dodgers were on their downswing and b) right before they called up Puig.

Let’s say they hired some other schmo to take his job or promoted whoever happened to be their third base coach at the time.  Manager X would be getting all the credit for the winning streak.  He’d immediately be dubbed the game’s hottest new manager while Mattingly, the outcast, would have a tough time finding a job.  How could he not have won with all that talent, we would have asked, while his replacement reaped all the benefits?

Yasiel Puig, Don MattinglyWell, with a little luck, some timely pitching (2.07 team ERA in August) and one really big Cuban, Mattingly went from baseball dumbass to genius in only six weeks.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t learn anything new about the game that he didn’t already know from his fourteen years as a player and six years as a coach.  So was this just dumb luck?

Let’s look at another professional sports team that plays its games about ten minutes from Dodger Stadium.  Neither Mike Brown nor Mike D’Antoni could make diamonds out of last year’s Lakers coal.  Not nearly as forgiving as Dodgers’ ownership, the Buss family fired Brown five games into the season.  Phil Jackson was once rumored to replace him but D’Antoni got the gig instead, leaving the Zen Master’s coaching legacy intact.  Meanwhile, we routinely knock D’Antoni, and Brown for that matter, for failing to win the big one while not even Jackson would have made champions out of a Lakers team rife with age and dysfunction.  If you believe any differently, you’re just kidding yourself.

So how much credit should we give managers and coaches?  Ultimately, the buck stops with them but Mattingly has become a shoo-in for Manager of the Year when only a few months ago, he was polishing up his resume.

So was it just good timing that suddenly made Don Mattingly the best manager in baseball?  Does he go to sleep at night grateful for a guy whose name most Americans can’t even pronounce?

We could rummage through the history of countless, unwarranted fires and play what if.  One thing we’ve learned in the fickle world of college and professional sports is that it takes more than just talent to win championships.

History labels some men geniuses and others losers.   Nobody said that was fair but it comes with the multi-million dollar paycheck.  From the looks of things, Don Mattingly will be cashing those paychecks in Los Angeles a little while longer.

24 thoughts on “Don Mattingly becomes baseball’s smartest man in only six weeks

  1. Chris

    It wasn`t a matter of smarts on the part of Mattingly , it was the only opportunity he and his coaches had and that was to promote Yasiel Puig into the lineup . Simply check the player`s stats since his callup and what he has been able to achieve and by comparison to the rest of his teammates .

    So we already know who the worst team in the NFL will be this season ? I am not saying that the Jaguars are bad but that performance against the Chiefs was goddamn awful . Blaine Gabbert , an NFL quarterback . WTF !

    I know that Bucs are a young team but really , mentally they`re is a bunch of dumb @sses on the field of play for that organization ! Mentally unfit in terms of their decision making . Damn stupid to lose a game under those circumstances .

    tophatal ………

  2. I’m glad D. Baseball survived the tough stretch. He knows da game. Being without Kemp and Greinke sure didn’t help. Whoa…just realized I’m a closet Dodgers fan! 🙂

  3. Al…

    Not too many football fans expected much out of the Jags this season. And they STILL won’t sign Tim Tebow. We should be seeing some fans with bags over their heads in that stadium soon.

    Tough loss for the Bucs, man. I guess we can look at it two ways. They played well enough to win. They just didn’t.

  4. Chump,

    Judging a managers strength by the performance of his team is fraught with peril. DBB was an HoF player and he surely knew LOTS about baseball that may or may not have been exemplified by the performance of the early 2013 Dodgers. So we’re left to judge individual situations. When DBB sat Ethier for repeated lazy effortless AB’s he was doing what needed done, when he sat Puig for lazy fielding and discipline-less AB’s once again he was managing correctly. When he lost Kemp, who only injured himself by dogging it, people cried that DBB should have done something more before that happened. But what can a manager do when a very highly paid player dogs it? Bench him. Let the world howl. Maybe, just maybe Kemp will return with a vengeance… and not find any OF position left for his unmotivated arse.

    Retaining the focus of this thread the Lakers Front Office made their own worst error by hiring a coach who has only ever played a run and gun type of offense which the ancient Lakers hardly had the personnel to play. Error on the Front Office more than D’Antoni even if I do think that he’s marginally incompetent.

    Judging any pro coach or manager by the efforts of his overpaid players is like shooting a shotgun in the dark… sure you’ll hit something once in a while but not often enough to win it all. To do that you need guys like zen master Phil who ignored many little daily things but got inside of players heads to make them work harder together all by themselves. He managed the human more than the game.

    Why is everyone posting about losing football teams on this thread? Did I miss the ‘wander off topic’ font?

  5. It’s an open forum, Tree, and a lot of my readers obviously have short attention span. I send them medication on a monthly basis for their condition.

    Oh, and is the Zen Master available to coach my Florida Gators perchance?

    How about this?

    Let’s name the top ten coaches currently in any sport, college or pro.

    Saban? Meyer? Krzyzewski? Belichick? Who else ya’ puttin on there? And would you include Erik Spoelstra? Laugh at first but he’s the kind of let ’em play and reel ’em in when necessary kinda guy that you suggest.

  6. Chris

    The Jags are giving their fans every reason why they should tie a concrete block to their feet and simply jump head first into the St Johns` River . That team is extremely bad and head coach Gus Bradley is completely out of his depth .

    A stupidity penalty led to the Bucs` own undoing and that comes down Greg Schiano being overly aggressive when it is simply not necessary .

    Your thoughts on Jeff Driskell , being dog walker , pet groomer or even a male model , instead of a college quarterback ?

    The Dodgers with that type of payroll , that team should be the most dominant ball-club in all of baseball . They have over $ 250 million a year coming in via a television contract (Fox) , never mind the multi-billion assets of Guggenheim Partneer [ Guggenheim Baseball Properties] (Dodgers` parent company owners) .

    Dropped this MLB piece .

    It all now comes down to this ?

    tophatal ………

  7. Good points Chump… and in line with that I’d have to include Spoelstra as a subset or protege of Riley. And Riley would have to be included because of such success with multiple teams.

    I’d buy off on your first four though while Belicheat has results they are very tainted, Coach K defines the ethical opposite.

    Any list like this must include Phil Jackson even if he’s sitting in the unoffical GM seat with the Lakers.

    Would you include the winning Harbaugh brother?

    Doc Rivers? maybe… but I hate Boston
    Theo Epstein? maybe… but so young…
    Joe Torre now sucks up to the commish so we can exclude him.

    this is almost worthy of it’s own thread… or should I just stay tuned?

  8. Al…

    You can imagine my thoughts on Driskell. I won’t elaborate since this is a family site.

    Didn’t the Canes hold the Gators to under three yards rushing per carry?

    It’s easy the blame the Bucs loss entirely on David but there were a few other penalties and poor decisions that cost them that game.

    And I’m no Dodgers fan but it’s nice to see them doing well again. We’ll see how I feel about ’em if they rattle off a few World Series.

  9. Tree…

    Another name I forgot to mention, and shame on me for doing so, is Popovich. Of course it helps to have Tim Duncan on your squad but hey, it helps to have Michael Jordan too.

    Perhaps, as you mention, a post in the making.

  10. Chris.

    Patience, patience. This is why you follow the Notre Dame mantra…..never fire/release a coach during the season. I believe ‘Monotone’ Davies was an exception? I was one of the first to call for Donnie BB’s firing and also wanted convicted cheater Honeycutt gone too. Maybe now he should also get some love with the performances of his hurlers.

    Puig? The kid is a primo talent but must tone down his emotions. Same can be said for Louisville Heismann hopeful Bridgewater. This mindset has a way of getting ugly when fortunes change.

    TBay’s loss? Chintzy OOB hit on Geno. A no call wudda suffice. Smith made an NHL dive move to influence the call.

  11. Chris

    Tough loss for the Bucs , yes indeed . Was it as tough as seeing the Gators throw away that game to the Canes ?

    Convince me if you can succinctly , the reasons why the Rays will gain one of the two AL wildcard berths this postseason . I have been watching the team recently and they are doing their best to throw away a golden opportunity not to make the playoffs .

    I`d like to thank George Zimmerman for proving all along what a dumb ###% we knew him to be . Brandishing a gun and threatening his soon to be ex-wife
    Karma is indeed a bi#ch and it has a way of catching up with lying ba@@tards .

    <a href=http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/george-zimmerman-held-wife-gun George Zimmerman briefly held after threatening wife Shellie with gun

    Police called to investigate domestic dispute at house in Lake Mary, Florida – but Shellie Zimmerman opts not to press charges

    George Zimmerman was held in “investigative police custody” for a brief time on Monday after allegedly threatening his wife Shellie and her father with a gun at their Florida home.

    According to police in Lake Mary, Zimmerman, who was acquitted in July of murdering the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, was involved in a dispute during the afternoon at the house belonging to his in-laws.

    “We received a 911 call that there was a domestic issue happening at the residence,” said officer Zach Hudson, spokesman for the Lake Mary police department.

    “The caller was Shellie. She is claiming that, according to the 911 call, that Mr Zimmerman was threatening her and her father with a weapon. She said she was being threatened with the handgun and it was threatening behaviour. We got on scene and we are now conducting an investigation.”

    Police later released the 911 call made by Shellie Zimmerman, 26, who filed for divorce last week to end her six-year marriage to her 29-year-old husband, acquitted on 13 July of the second-degree murder of Martin, 17, in a confrontation at his Sanford housing estate.

    In the call, Shellie Zimmerman, who was convicted of perjury last month for lying about the couple’s finances at her husband’s bail hearing last year, said he was waving a gun at her and her father, David Dean, and also assaulted him.

    “He’s in his car and he continually has his hand on his gun, and he keeps saying ‘step closer’ and he’s just threatening all of us,” she said on the recording. “He punched my dad in the nose; my dad has a mark on the nose. I saw his glasses were on the floor.”

    ======================================
    Click on link to read in full .

    ========================================

    So Zimmerman , not content with turning Sanford into sphincter of Central Florida , he now sees it fit to further make an @ss of himself in Lake Mary .

    If only the jurors on the case weren`t such damn idiots to begin with . I guess if he`d shot her death he would have pled to the fact he wasn`t following her but was somehow of the opinion she was up to no good ?

    tophatal ………….

  12. I’m not a happy camper today Triple SC. I’ve been the first place team in our Fantasy Baseball league , called the Bat Cave, for 95% of the year. Then I go head to head with Yaz last week, which he beats me badly 🙁 and boots me out of 1st! Oh, I have to remember there’s no crying in baseball! LOL. All that to say…guess whose quote has been on my team page for about 2 months? You guessed it- Mattingly- with…”I like being close to the bats.”

    And I agree with Al on his opinion of the Jags, who wouldn’t? I was listening to the game on the radio during some Sunday travels and even Brian Sexton, voice of the Jags, was tearing their performance apart.

    Looks like my son and I are going to the Rays game vs Orioles Friday night 9/20! Woo hoo!

  13. Two things, Bets.

    Since you brought up Davies and the Notre Domers, how about the Tyrone Willingham dismissal? Unwarranted? I mean, you did replace him with Charlie Weis, no?

    And Mattingly struggles with toning down Puig’ intensity while understanding that’s what makes him great. I guess that’s a pretty good problem to have though, no?

    Tampa Bay lost? Um…. can we change the subject? Tough one considering they have New Orleans and New England coming up in back to back weeks.

  14. Twenty games to go in the season, Al, and the Rays have an ever-slender 1.5 game comfort zone in the wild card standings over teams like Cleveland, Baltimore, New York and Kansas City.

    If you ask me, I think they make it based on their starting pitching.

    Of course, I say that with my fingers crossed.

    Twenty games in twenty days. Stay tuned!

  15. Chris

    If the Rays do fail to make it to the postseason , you can imagine the rumblings in the off-season ? Loney and Price are only signed through to the end of this year and it is by no means a guarantee that they will return in 2014 .

    Obviously not a budding bro-mance between Girardi and Showalter based on last night`s brouhaha . Brokeback Mountain revisited ?

    So Oklahoma State’s program is tainted , and mns dirty ?

    Coaches suborned drug use , obtain hookers to perform oral sex on potential recruits , academic violations were also suborned and glossed over and players were being made as much $3,000 playing a game , with monetary rewards being even higher in some cases . All of this is detailed in an in-depth story by Sports Illustrated . OK State`s AD Mike Holder is now apologizing for those misdeeds and saying that whatever the outcome the school will abide by the findings or pending investigation by the NCAA .

    Oklahoma State ‘very concerned’ of SI allegations

    Oklahoma State athletic director Mike Holder and Cowboys football coach Mike Gundy addressed the media Monday regarding a looming Sports Illustrated report alleging improprieties in the OSU football program dating back to more than a decade, allegations that Holder said left him “very concerned”.

    PREVIOUSLY: SI investigation to allege Oklahoma State impropriety

    “As the athletic director at Oklahoma State and an alumnus of Oklahoma State University, I don’t want to believe that it’s true,” Holder said via the Tulsa World. “We take this personally. We’re all committed to playing by the rules and doing things the right way around here, and for people to say that’s not what’s happening is very disturbing.”

    Gundy, at his weekly Monday news conference, provided a statement on the allegations, saying that he and his staff are “focused on our team, doing the right things.”

    Although Gundy declined further comment, when asked whether he looked forward to sharing his side of the story, he said:

    “I’ll be real honest with you. I know the part that may have involved me. I’m not sure we know it all yet. But we’ve had tremendous support from administration, from the people behind the scenes who have looked at this and researched it. …I’m going to guess that once we get all the information and we see what’s out there, then our administration and the people inside will look at it and we’ll see where we made mistakes and we’ll try to make ourselves better and we’ll correct it and then we’ll move forward. And I would hope that there will be some of it that we look at and say I’m not sure one way or the other based on what’s out there.”

    According to several media outlets including The Oklahoman, the series of reports, expected to be published this week, includes the following allegations:

    Payments from coaches and boosters to players.
    A bonus program run by former assistant coach Joe DeForest, now at West Virginia, for Cowboys players that existed as recently as 2011. Coaches and boosters paying athletes, including violations ranging from paying for jobs not performed, overpaying for jobs and strictly paying players for performance.
    Academic corruption involving grade changes and players’ work being completed by others.
    Drug abuse among players and sexual relations with hostesses in the school’s Orange Pride program.

    On Saturday, the university said the majority of the alleged incidents occurred between 2001 and 2007. Oklahoma State said that once the stories are published, it will hire an independent investigator to examine the claims. The school said it also has alerted the NCAA.

    “Our goal is to separate fact from fiction and then we can start dealing with it,” said Holder, who has apologized in advance to every athletic director in the Big 12.

    =============================================
    Click on link to read in full.

    ============================================

    Great win for the Eagles last night .

    Remind me again why the Chargers play football at Qualcomm Stadium ? Up 28-7 in the early third quarter they end up losing 31-28 to the Texans .

    It all now comes down to this ?

    tophatal ……………..

  16. I don’t know what kind of rumblings there would be, Al. It’s not like they have the money to bring anybody in.

    The only thing they might do is fire their hitting coach but Maddon has that guy’s back.

    I hadn’t heard of the allegations about Gundy and his program. I can’t wait for his next press conference as we know how good he is at those when his temper escalates.

    Who would have thought Gene Simmons and Tim Tebow would be hanging out together. Sounds like a joke. So a saint and a rabbi-turned-rocker walk into a bar…

  17. Once Steve Garvey retired, I became a huge Mattingly fan…Still have tons of his cards in the attic…I was stoked when he came to LA…Thanks to Puig, he’s still here. Hopefully for a long time.

    The Hitman was a hell of a bat…Too bad his back forced early retirement. He just missed that championship run by the Yanks.

  18. Mike Gundy probably won`t say a thing directly , nor will his predecessor Les Miles . But you know there has to be something to it all , when Dez Bryant is denying it all categorically . Much as in the same way he denied punching and slapping his mother , then he underwent anger management therapy .

    Explain this to me if you can , well yourself and any of the other baseball purists out there . Baseball’s luxury tax scheme simply benefits no one . This season the only two teams that will be paying that asinine surcharge are the Dodgers and Yankees . New York will have to pay almost $30 million and by comparison the Dodgers only $9 million . However , look at the two payrolls and so-called disparity there . The Yankees will levied a sum three times as much as the Dodgers ?

    Bud Selig and the MLB hierarchy have no clue as it relates to finance or the economics of sports !

    tophatal ………………

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