20 Days of Thinking Blue: How safe is Donnie Baseball?

The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
Even with a brand new multi-year extension in his front pocket, how safe do we actually think Don Mattingly’s job is? If the team starts out in the basement of the NL West, will he be hearing calls for his head?
Certainly safer than it was four months ago, but ultimately, certainly not bullet proof.
In one of the strangest, most passive aggressive press conferences in recent memory, the usually restrained Mattingly openly bemoaned his lack of contract security… with General Manager Ned Colletti sitting right next to him. It was insanely uncomfortable, like a couple arguing at a dinner party you went to last week, or admitting you went to a dinner party last week. See it and squirm yourself:

Even after that notorious presser, there wasn’t a peep from the Dodgers for days. Donnie was to go into the 2014 season with just a one year guarantee, an allegedly difficult situation for any manager to be in.

However, eventually the team relented to Mattingly’s very legitimate complaints to settle the situation publicly. As a show of good faith (and to eliminate any potential in-season distractions) the Dodgers extended Donnie, seemingly giving him the leverage to operate without questions looming over him every day from March until October.

The problem is that this hasn’t settled everything. The Dodgers guaranteed years and money, but since when do either of those things matter to a team that seemingly has no financial barriers to doing what they feel makes their team better? Whatever makes the Dodgers in a more formidable match-up every day, however incremental the advantage, the front office and ownership realizes the cost of doing business.

This contract extension doesn’t make Donnie a better in-game tactician. It certainly doesn’t make him a better manager of his bullpen. There’s no extension on the planet that could help him solve that could be an extraordinarily uncomfortable outfield situation with four “starters” and three spots.

This contract extension doesn’t make Don Mattingly’s job safer because it doesn’t necessarily make him a better manager and help the team win games, which is all the Dodgers care about. All it did was calm the storm thundering around his office every day and hopefully, help coax him into being a better manager. If the team sets out on a 15-30 record or is seven games back with 45 games to play, I have no doubt the front office will consider dismissing him regardless of the money on his deal.


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