According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles, the manager and the Dodgers are discussing a multiyear extension:
No deal is imminent, but there is optimism on both sides that a new deal will be completed.
Dodgers president Stan Kasten previously had said Mattingly would return in 2014 for the final year of his contract, which vested when the team defeated the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series.
Mattingly had previously put pressure on the Dodgers' front office with this interview after the season:
While many people will credit Yasiel Puig or Hanley Ramirez with the Dodgers' turnaround this year, Mattingly deserves a lot of credit as well.
So why is the move long overdue? What makes it the right move for the Dodgers, and what do players and team brass have to say about him?
Why It's Long Overdue
When you look at the team Mattingly has, it has a lot more to do than just the talent of the players. The team payroll and injuries have also played a huge role in the Dodgers over the last few years.
Here's how the team payroll and record looked before Mattingly took over for Joe Torre, and since:
|Los Angeles Dodgers By the Numbers|
|Note: 2010 was the year before Mattingly took over.|
* Team payrolls courtesy of The Baseball Cube.
In each year, the Dodgers have shown improvement and continue to get better. Of course, you can credit it to the high payroll on the Dodgers, but that high payroll was struggling early in the 2013 season.
Right before many thought he would be fired, Mattingly sounded off about the makeup of the team. It was a team that looked more like a fantasy team than a real baseball team, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
There has to be a mixture of competitiveness. It's not, Let's put an All-Star team together and the All-Star team wins.
It's finding that balance of a team that has a little bit of grit and will fight you. And also having the talent to go with it.
All grit and no talent isn't going to make you successful. But all talent and no grit isn't going to get you there either.
But Mattingly didn't stop there. He went on to bench Andre Ethier, who signed a five-year, $85 million extension in 2012:
There's a touch difference between, 'I'm giving you best effort,' and being willing to fight you for that prize, to do whatever it takes to win. It's almost something inside you that says, 'You're not beating me today. You're not getting me out.'
There's another level you can't measure with sabermetrics. They may say, 'B.S.' to that, but there are certain things you can't measure.
And as they say, the rest is history. The Dodgers turned things around and made the playoffs, allowing Mattingly to keep his job.
What the Players, Executives Are Saying
In August, Kasten said he felt like Mattingly was going to be with the Dodgers for a long time, according to an interview on the Doug Gottlieb Show:
I think Don’s going to be here a long time. I’m a big fan of Don’s, and the reason I think he’s going to be here a long time is because I still think everything is going to fall into place. I think we put a good team together. Yeah, we’ve had some issues with guys underperforming and then a lot guys being injured – not just one guy at a time, but the carousel kept changing – so I think when we get through that, things are going to fall into place and they’ll be fine.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said in an interview with CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that he hoped Mattingly would be back:
"The way he navigated this season, he's definitely earned it. It isn't my call, but all I cay say is, I hope so. I've never been around a more consistent person in my life. He brings the same attitude every day. He's an eternal optimist.
Ellis said he'll never forget his spring speech and how it moved players. "When he stood up he said, 'I'll make you one promise. I'll never forget how hard this game is," Ellis recalled.
While most players haven't gone on the record with their opinions of Mattingly, the fact remains he has played the game before and he had a good career doing it.
Why He's the Right Man for the Job
Sometimes it takes a former player who has played in the bright lights with a lot of expectations to lead a group of highly paid players with high expectations.
Mattingly did that for 14 years and had a lot of success. When looking at the numbers, there are a lot of similarities between him and his players.
Let's compare his career numbers to that of some of the Dodgers' more established offensive stars:
|Comparing Don Mattingly as a Player to His Players|
*Note: (GG) Gold Gloves, (SS) Silver Sluggers, (AS) All-Star selections
When you look at the numbers, there are some significant differences (mainly Gold Gloves). But Mattingly's numbers are close to that of his players over the course of his career.
Mattingly has been there, and he knows how to deal with the pressure. He was one of the highest-paid players on his team for many years, according to a USA Today chart.
The pressure has always been there, and he has performed. As a manager, that pressure is no different in the bright lights, and he's succeeded.
People may question his decisions from time to time. But the bottom line is, it takes a special person to deal with a team with a high payroll. Mattingly is that person to deal with it.
The Dodgers need to finish the negotiations and ensure Mattingly is there for at least the next four or five years. He's earned it.