Did Dodgers Make the Right Decision Bringing Back Don Mattingly for 2014?

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2013

After finding himself on the verge of being fired in May, Don Mattingly was at the helm for the best turnaround in Los Angeles Dodgers history, and the team is now set to bring him back for 2014 as a result.

According to a report from Jon Heyman of CBSSports that was later confirmed in an MLB.com article by Ken Gurnick, the Dodgers will bring back the 52-year-old skipper for his fourth season as Dodgers manager.

His status for the 2014 season had been up in the air since the end of 2012, when the club denied his request to exercise his $1.4 million option for 2014, but the team's strong second-half run to the NLCS has apparently been enough for him to earn at least one more year.

The Dodgers stumbled out of the gate this season, and found themselves 9.5 games back and in last place in the NL West on June 22.

However, they went on an amazing 42-8 run over one 50-game stretch to climb back into the postseason picture, and eventually ran away with the NL West, finishing 11 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The biggest question is: How much of the team's turnaround can be attributed to Mattingly, and on the flip side of things, how much of its early struggles can be pinned on him?

After spending four seasons as a coach for the New York Yankees from 2004-07, Mattingly was passed over for the team's managerial job when Joe Torre left in 2008 in favor of Joe Girardi, and Mattingly opted to jump ship and follow Torre to Los Angeles as a result.

When Torre retired at the end of the 2010 season, Mattingly was promoted to manager, and in the first two seasons under his direction, the Dodgers were 82-79 and 86-76 while the organization went through a good deal of turmoil and turnover.

Since last July, the Dodgers have worked aggressively to bolster their roster with the National League's highest payroll, adding Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, among others.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers on deck on while taking on the Atlanta Braves during Game Three of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Vi
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

With so many new faces, the team was expected to take some time to gel as a whole, but considering the talent, anything short of contention this year would've been a disappointment. So when the team's early struggles weren't immediately rectified, the panic level in Los Angeles seemingly grew by the day and Mattingly found himself on the hot seat.

Then came the turnaround, and while Mattingly's ability to keep a level head through it all certainly kept things from spiraling, it's hard not to give a good deal of the credit to Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez.

Ramirez appeared in just four games prior to June 4 as he battled injuries, but gave the offense an immediate boost upon returning, as he put together an MVP-caliber campaign and the team went 55-31 with him in the lineup.

Meanwhile, Puig was called up on June 3 and went on to hit .436/.467/.713 in his first month, giving what was a stagnant offense a much-needed spark. While his performance on the field was great, his immaturity caused some problems, as his all-out style of play was not always to the team's benefit.

Mattingly is a player's manager, but he stepped up when Puig was not giving his all in August, benching the young star and helping send a clear message. That showed that while he may not bring the fiery attitude to the job that some guys do, he's capable of flexing his authority when needed.

His decision making has been called into question at times, including his recent decision to remove Clayton Kershaw from Game 2 of the NLCS after just six innings, when he had allowed just two hits and one unearned run. No manger is immune from criticism, though, and he's still in the early stages of what could well be a great managerial career.

His 2014 option is the final year of his contract, so there's not much risk in bringing Mattingly back for one more year given what the team was able to accomplish this season. But a slow start again next year will have him right back on the hot seat.