ANAHEIM, CA — If anyone can can sympathize with the plight of Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly, it’s his counterpart from 35 miles down the freeway, Angels leader Mike Scioscia.
“Nobody ever said it was going to be easy managing in the big leagues, especially in Los Angeles,” said Scioscia, who’s been the target of media and fan criticism after missing the playoffs for the past three years and getting off to rought starts the last two. “I’m sure Don came into this knowing that he’d face much more criticism than he did as a player, and that he’d just have to go out there every day and do his job and have his team ready to play.”
Scioscia should know.
He’s been on both sides of the debate; toast of the town after the Halos’ improbable and unexpected World Series win in 2002 and villain because he hasn’t been able to get his club back to the Fall Classic since then.
Mattingly was one one of the most popular New York Yankees players in history, but after two seasons of few gains as the Dodgers manager, his critics are yelling for him to be replaced.
Great expectations and a $200-plus million payroll has cranked up the volume of the chatter to get rid of the third-year Dodgers manager. And the fact that he’s a lame-duck with no contract past this season hasn’t eased his situation at all.
Donnie Baseball has said many times, though, that he’s not upset by the situation.
“Sure, I’d love an extension,” he added, “but that’s not the way [management] wants to do it right now. So, that’s the reality of where we are right now. There’s nothing for me to do but go out there and try to get the best performance out of my players every game. The rest will take care of itself.”
By beating the hot Halos in the first two games of the Freeway Series — Scioscia’s team had won eight in a row — Mattingly quieted, if even briefly, his critics and gave himself some breathing room.
He also seems to be more outspoken about how some of his team might have bigger bank accounts than hearts; also shortcomings and the lack of effort put forth by some of his players.
He’s benched Andre Ethier and has pulled Matt Kemp from games — something Mattingly probably wouldn’t have done in previous seasons no matter how poorly his stars were playing. Those moves alone show he’s becoming much more comfortable in his position and using the authority that comes with the job.
“I just made moves that I thought were best for the team at the time,” Mattingly explained. “There really wasn’t anything more to it.”
The Dodgers left Anaheim Thursday with just a split after winning the first two games and he knows he’ll begin to feel the sizzle of that hot seat once again.