Don Mattingly an Uninspired Pick as Dodgers' New Manager
Feels like a plot spun by the Evil Coast.
Mattingly takes over the West Coast's glamorous baseball franchise despite never having managed at any level, despite the stagnation and regression of his young Dodgers hitters this year, and despite goofing the one game when he filled in for Torre.
What exactly had to happen for Donnie Baseball not to get the job?
The job was Mattingly's all along, presumably because he had Torre's blessing.
Bless him for giving it a try. The Dodgers are a mess. Their window to the World Series appears to be closing, their sad storyline being written by the bickering McKooks (the dodgy duo from the Evil Coast steered into club ownership by Bud Selig).
No dummy, Torre is moving on.
Maybe Mattingly becomes the next Walter Alston. He too is a steady Midwesterner, and the Hoosier's understated way rubs ballplayers the right way.
"He's great with the players," said Mark Sweeney, who got to know Mattingly both as a Dodgers player and as a front office aide to general manager Ned Colletti. "He's very positive. Has a good way to him. I like his positive energy."
Tim Wallach, though, would've been a more inspired choice to manage the Dodgers. West Coast Bias heard so many good things about Wallach this year, I thought he had a halo overhead.
"I liked seeing the way he managed a National League game," said well-traveled infielder Nick Green, who played for Wallach's Dodgers affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. "He's organized. I liked the way he managed a team. He lets you know what he expects."
Said former Dodgers manager Glenn Hoffman, who is a longtime friend of Wallach's: "Wally will be a great manager someday. Knows the game. He's a leader like Bruce Bochy is a leader. He could have coached at the big league level but wants to manage. He managed in Triple-A so he can manage in the big leagues. If he needs to be an enforcer, he can be one. He would do it privately. He would have the respect of the players."
Funny, Hoffman's quotes could've applied in 1999 to another former Dodger who aspired to become a major league manager and apprenticed with the same Los Angeles affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M. A fellow named Mike Scioscia.
Scioscia was passed over for the job, and the crosstown Angels made him their manager. You know the rest. The Angels would go on to win the 2002 World Series and become playoff regulars. The Dodgers would change manager after manager, never finding a franchise fixture such as Scioscia.
Is Wallach (pictured at right) as capable of a leader as Scioscia?
Probably not. Who else is?
But the Dodgers may want to find a way to keep Wallach around in case the Mattingly experiment blows up the lab.
It'll be interesting to see if another club comes after Wallach. Know this: If Kevin Towers becomes general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is likely, he will consider Wallach for the job. That doesn't mean Towers would hire Wallach. Kirk Gibson, the interim manager in Arizona, has impressed Diamondbacks officials.
But when Towers interviewed five would-be managers for the San Diego Padres in late 2006, he said Wallach was somebody to watch in years ahead. It was a fait accompli then that Bud Black would get the Padres' job. Although Black had never managed at any level, he has gone on to be successful, which may bode well for Mattingly.
Mattingly was Torre's bench coach with the Yankees in 2007, so he has some experience at running a game, and he'll manage soon in the Arizona Fall League before officially taking over the Dodgers next year. From 2004-06, he was New York's hitting coach. Dodgers hitters praised him in 2008 and 2009. Torre, a very good hitter in his day, said Mattingly taught him about hitting.
If it goes as well for Mattingly as it did for Torre, the Dodgers will have made the right choice. Torre's legacy with the Dodgers is best described by a batting line: He went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a strikeout.
After the Yankees nudged him into free agency, Torre landed on his feet in Los Angeles and directed the Dodgers to the National League Championship Series in 2008 and again in 2009. The Dodgers hadn't been to the NLCS since 1988. In each October, Torre's Dodgers were denied a World Series trip by the Philadelphia Phillies. Meatheads such as Hollywood's Rob Reiner blamed Torre's tactical moves in the 2008 NLCS for the team's ouster. But the Phillies simply were the better team each year.
Torre classed up Chavez Ravine, which the McKooks have classed down. He'll further class up baseball's Hall of Fame when he's inducted.
He leaves on a sour note, however, with these Dodgers the first of his last 15 teams to sit out the playoffs.
These Dodgers were less than precise, and often appeared distracted and tired. On the basepaths, the Dodgers were Torre's dummies, making the same mistakes in August and September that they made in May and June.
To his credit, Torre never blamed others. The losing, and perhaps the sloppiness, wore on him. A Dodger in the know told me in July that the manager, 70, was exhausted to the point of being "fried."
Torre's response: "Fried is not on my diet. You could say broiled. Or grilled." He added, "I get weary at times, yeah, but it's not that I get weary of baseball."
A hard day in Los Angeles, he added, was easier than an easy day in the Bronx Zoo. "Those last three years there were brutal -- it was everything other than managing the game," he said. "It's been fun here."
FanHouse TV's Steve Phillips breaks down the Joe Torre-Don Mattingly transition: