Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Maybe Mattingly's Job Isn't in Jeopardy

Over the past couple of years I've really come appreciate Don Mattingly.  Sure, he's made the occasional managerial gaffe during a game, but what person hasn't?  Nobody is perfect out there, and as all Baseball fans know you're likely to face failure more often than not.  Still, I couldn't get that feeling out of my bones that this season was a huge test for Don Mattingly - not than every season hasn't been for him. 

The new ownership with Wall Street backing and a front office filled with the brainiest standouts in the league were finally settled in, and they would be expecting results.... and I'm not talkin' about just making the playoffs.  I figured that unless Don Mattingly took home a World Series championship this season his goose was cooked.

After all, we've seen unprecedented turnover in the minor league staffs the past several weeks, and logic suggest the same kind of movement should be expected with the big club.

Then, a couple of reports hit the wires today that has me making adjustments.  Maybe - just maybe - Don's job in the dugout is more secure than many fans are willing to accept.  Maybe, Don has already passed one of the more important test a manager in his position can have. 

To see what I mean check out a couple of key points recently made by Dodger GM Farhan Zaidi.  Per Ken Gurnick's interview at MLB.com
MLB.com: Have you been pleased with the work of manager Don Mattingly?
Zaidi: I think he's done a great job. We've had, again, one of the biggest themes we've had is roster turnover with the injuries and having a lot of young players with options and trying to make maximum use of the 25-man roster. That definitely puts added stress on a manager and staff, not just to deal with the logistics of those moves, but also to deal with managing personnel turnover. From an on-field standpoint, every time you move a player in or out, you have to sort of recalibrate yourself on how to use everybody. So, I think he's done a real nice job with that and mixed and matched in some platoon situations, tried to navigate through some of the issues we've had in our bullpen. There certainly have been challenges with our roster that he's had to navigate and I think he's done a nice job.
So, Don has ably worked within the front office's framework of juggling players in-and-out in order to maximize results, while also putting together lineups that take advantage of various platoon scenarios that are likely to provide better outcomes. 

Although it's fair to say that the front office probably had a lot of input in these decisions, it still took a manager with the respect and ear of the clubhouse to execute those moves. 

To emphasize this further, Zaidi spoke with the press this afternoon and said this (via Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider):
“I think the longer I’ve been in baseball, the more it’s tilted toward managing the clubhouse and the personalities and the egos,” Zaidi said. “I think from the outside, the average person watching the game just sees the Xs and Os, and whether you took a reliever out or left him in, but again, in my view, a lot of those are 52-48, 55-45 decisions. You get judged by the outcome rather than the process. But kind of being behind the scenes, (you realize) how important it is to manage personalities, get guys to buy into their roles, maintain the peace in the clubhouse.

“You know, it’s funny: The position is called ‘the manager,’ and in every other industry, being a manager means managing people. And in baseball, we think it’s just Xs and Os, but the reality is, this job is being a manager like it is being a manager of a business, except you also are making X and O moves out there in public. I think they’re both important, but I think from when I first got into baseball 10 years ago to now, I realize that managing down there in the clubhouse is more important than I realized.”
That's a very nuanced argument that clearly defines what kind of "results" really matter to him.  It's not necessarily the "Xs and Os," as he said.  Instead, it's all about his ability to manage a clubhouse as varied and as complex as the Dodgers.  On that point, Don Mattingly may have already passed muster.

I, for one, don't have a problem if this is the case.  Like I said above, I like Don Mattingly, and I can appreciate the way he's managed the Dodgers - considering the many complexities that no doubt exist.  Of course, a total meltdown in the playoffs might still cause decisions to be undone, so he's likely to still be under the microscope.

Photo above via @Dodgers on twitter.

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