Don Mattingly's got his hands full replacing Hall of Famer Joe Torre in Los Angeles
By Jon Paul Morosi FoxSports
Between a three-ring divorce trial and the gradual implosion of their season, the Dodgers have been a reliable source of fan bewilderment for weeks on end. On Friday, their ham-handedness reached a season high.
Joe Torre, bound for the Hall of Fame, couldn’t win with an undermanned roster in 2010.
How can Don Mattingly, with zero managerial experience, be asked to fare better next year?
But that's precisely what the team will ask him to do. Torre's through managing the Dodgers. The lineup card belongs to Mattingly.
Good luck, Donnie Baseball.
You’ll need it.
Mattingly was a brilliant Yankee, a dependable hitter who'd belong in Cooperstown if only his back had allowed him to play a few more years. He's been an eager student at the Bronx and Chavez Ravine campuses of the Torre Managerial School. He is, by many accounts, a fine batting instructor.
But he’s not ready for this.
When Mattingly was left in charge of the Dodgers this spring, the lineup batted out of order.
When he tried to negotiate the late innings in a regular-season game against the Giants, a confused mound visit forced Mattingly to remove Jonathan Broxton when he didn’t plan to.
Now he has the keys to Dodger Stadium.
Let’s hope he doesn’t lose them.
Managing the Dodgers is a dream job, but managing these Dodgers is a burden.
Frank McCourt lacks both liquidity and good judgment, but Torre insulated his players from the bumbling owner as well as any manager could. Can the inexperienced Mattingly do the same?
There's no guarantee the outcome of Frank v. Jamie will enable the Dodgers to spend like they should. And if this offseason is anything like the last one — when Jamey Carroll and Carlos Monasterios were the big upgrades — then Mattingly will be playing from behind before he puts on the uniform.
Plus, we're left to wonder what this means for the Dodgers’ most talented player: center fielder Matt Kemp.
This year, Mattingly was part of the coaching staff that couldn’t get through to Kemp. Without knowing every detail, both sides probably deserve some measure of blame.
Can Mattingly and Kemp have a fresh start? Or is this a signal that the Dodgers will trade Kemp for pitching this offseason?
Tim Wallach or Bobby Valentine probably would have had a better chance to get the most out of Kemp. Now we’ll never know.
In announcing the hiring, a Dodgers news release listed some of the men who took charge of big-league clubs without prior managerial experience.
Torre, Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi and Ozzie Guillen were among them.
The release didn’t include Torre’s record during his first full season with the New York Mets: 66-96.
To be fair, others were more successful in their debuts: Baker (103-59); Piniella (90-72); Guillen (83-79, followed by a World Series title in Year 2); Girardi (78-84, along with a National League Manager of the Year award).
Mattingly, a major-league coach the past seven years, may indeed be ready to manage in the big leagues, but I question whether he's the best fit for this team.
On Friday, one veteran baseball man described Mattingly as “astute,” “hard-working” and “a true professional.”
“Someone who, if given time and shown patience, has a chance to be a good major-league manager,” the person concluded.
And that's precisely my point.
Nothing about the Dodgers’ current predicament suggests that the moment is ripe for a first-time manager. Given the regressions by Kemp, Broxton and Russell Martin, this team needs a seasoned guru.
The Dodgers say Mattingly will work on his chops in the Arizona Fall League, and that’s good. But some of those games are witnessed by 100 people, many of them scouts, agents and girlfriends/family members of those on the field. It’s not exactly a high-intensity managerial proving ground.
It would be no surprise if this has a lot to do with money. Mattingly won’t cost as much as the inimitable Bobby V.
In a town obsessed with “names,” Mattingly is absolutely one. And come to think of it, there's one big way in which he has an easier task than Torre.