September 19, 2014

Mattingly Takes Bold Strokes in his Dodgers Debut

What Don Mattingly lacks in experience, he makes up for in boldness.  And if his first few days at the helm at Spring Training is any indication, we’re in for an interesting next month.

First off, Mattingly named Clayton Kershaw his Opening Day starter on the first day of camp.  Last year, Joe Torre delayed making this decsision to the very end of camp before making the surprise move by giving the honor to Vicente Padilla.

For the record, I love this move.  It shows moxie and a desire by Mattingly to make this team his own.  It’s time for Kershaw to take the title of staff ace and run with it, and Mattingly showing immediate confidence in his young phenom is awesome to see.

Next, Mattingly named Matt Kemp his cleanup hitter for the majority of the upcoming season.  Woah.  I like the confidence Donny Baseball has in Kemp (and he needs all the confidence Dodger fans and coaches can muster in this critical rebound year), but Kemp strikes out. A LOT.  While others are also sure to be sceptical, we need to remember that there aren’t a whole lot of other options on the club.  If Kemp can curb the Ks, he could provide the insurance behind Andre Ethier to allow the club’s #3 hitter to really shine, much like he did when Manny Ramirez was hitting behind him.

What’s next?  Only time will tell, but Mattingly seems like a man who’s going to have his players walk the walk and put all that potential on the line (the first full workout for the team takes place on Tuesday).  Maybe Chris Gwynn starting in center field?  I wouldn’t put it past Mattingly if the kid gets off to a hot start this spring.  Whatever happens, it’s going to be interesting!

Photo Credit: © Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers 2011

Mattingly to Replace Torre in 2011

 

It’s official: Joe Torre is retiring at the end of the season and Don Mattingly will replace him in 2011.  I’ll be interested to hear more from Ned Colletti on the thought process that went on before the offer was made to “Donnie Baseball,” as clearly Tim Wallach was another strong internal candidate, who seemed to have his own PR campaign working for him with several glowing print articles, as well as strong online support (I, for one, was definitely on the Wallach bandwagon).  I also want to know if a minority candidate was interviewed (as required by Major League Baseball) and who that person was.  Was it a token interview?  Given the secretive nature of the process, it sure seems that way.

Say what you will about the selection, but both Mattingly and Wallach are largely unproven on the major league level, so I don’t think you can really fault Ned for the selection at this stage of the game (and here’s hoping Tim Wallach doesn’t go on to become the next Mike Sciosscia and earn a share of the title of “The One Who Got Away”). 

Here’s the official press release from the Dodgers.  Press conference at 5:00 p.m. at Dodger Stadium, so more news coming later today:

The Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that former American League MVP Don Mattingly has been named the Dodger manager for the 2011 season and that Joe Torre has stepped aside from the position. Mattingly becomes the ninth manager in Los Angeles Dodger history and 27th in franchise history while Torre is expected to take time to determine his plans for 2011.

“Over the past three years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Don closely and have gotten to know him both personally and professionally and I’m convinced that he’s the right person to lead the Dodgers,” said Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti. “His work ethic is unparalleled, his baseball knowledge is vast and his leadership skills have been established during more than three decades in professional baseball.

“Donnie has also learned alongside the best in the business. Joe Torre has been a great friend, a strong leader and an incredible presence for this organization and I cannot thank him enough for his service to the Dodgers. I respect his decision to step aside and I look forward to the day where I can watch him take his rightful place in Cooperstown among baseball’s legends.”

Mattingly is completing his seventh season as a Major League coach (2004-10) following seven seasons as a special instructor during Spring Training for the Yankees (1997-2003).  He is in his third season as the Dodgers’ hitting coach following one season as the bench coach under Torre in New York (2007) and three years as the Yankees’ hitting coach (2004-06).

“The opportunity to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers is truly an honor,” said Mattingly. “There are few organizations in the world with the history, tradition and track record of success as the Dodgers. I’m looking forward to continuing what I came here to accomplish with Joe and that’s to win a World Championship.”

Mattingly will manage in the Arizona Fall League at the completion of the regular season. He becomes the eighth current Major League manager to pilot a big league club without previous managerial experience, joining Torre, Dusty Baker, Joe Girardi, Ozzie Guillen, Cito Gaston, Bud Black and Kirk Gibson. Lou Piniella, who began the year as the Cubs’ manager, also managed in the Major Leagues without any minor league experience. Guillen won the World Series in his second year, Gaston in his third full season and Piniella and Girardi in their fourth seasons as a big league skipper. Bob Brenly won the World Series in his first year as a big league manager.

Mattingly spent 14 seasons as a first baseman for New York, where he compiled a .307 lifetime average with 222 home runs and 1,099 RBI while earning MVP honors in 1985, nine Rawlings Gold Glove Awards and six All-Star appearances.

He becomes just the ninth manager in Los Angeles Dodger history, following Hall of Famers Walter Alston (1954-76) and Tommy Lasorda (1977-96), Bill Russell (1996-98), Glenn Hoffman (1998), Davey Johnson (1999-2000), Jim Tracy (2001-05), Grady Little (2006-07) and Torre (2008-10).

Torre guided the Dodgers to consecutive National League Championship Series appearances and reached the postseason in a record-tying 14 consecutive seasons from 1996-2009. The certain future Hall of Famer has more postseason victories than any other manager in Major League history, ranks fifth on the all-time regular season wins list and has posted a three-year record with the Dodgers of 251-220 (.533) through last night’s game. He finished third in 2009 NL Manager of the Year voting.

“It has been an incredible honor to wear the Dodger uniform and I will always carry with me some very special memories from the past three seasons,” said Torre. “This was not a decision I took lightly but I believe it’s the right one for myself and my family and I’m truly thrilled that Donnie will be the one leading the Dodgers. It’s time that the Dodgers had a new voice and I have the utmost confidence in him. I know he’s ready for the challenge.”

We’ll do our best  to cover Mattingly’s time as manager of the Phoenix Desert Dogs during the upcoming Arizona Fall League via our Phoenix correspondent (Alex Volk).

Photo Credit: UPI Photo/Bill Greenblatt

Torre, Mattingly Share Thoughts on the Passing of George Steinbrenner

The death of George Steinbrenner (1930-2010) this morning at the age of 80 made me reflect on how great an owner he was for the New York Yankees.  Yes, he was controversal in more ways than one, but he delivered results, restored glory to the Yankee organization and changed the way baseball was run with the introduction of revenue sharing.

As the McCourt divorce continues to slowly (and excrutiatingly) plays out, I’m reminded of how great ownership can truly shape the direction of a franchise.

Following are quotes from those within the Dodgers organization that knew George Steinbrenner best (quotes courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers PR staff):

“George was a friend who I admired very much.  He was a giant in our game and he built an empire.  All he was was a winner.  He wanted to give the fans a winner, and that’s exactly what he did.” 

- Dodger Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda

“I will always remember George Steinbrenner as a passionate man, a tough boss, a true visionary, a great humanitarian and a dear friend.  I will be forever grateful that he trusted me with his Yankees for 12 years. My heart goes out to his entire family. He will be deeply missed in New York, Tampa and throughout the world of baseball. It’s only fitting that he went out as a world champ.”

– Dodger Manager Joe Torre

“I am deeply saddened to hear the news of George Steinbrenner’s passing.  His vision, passion and commitment to winning, recharged the New York Yankees and revolutionized the game.

I remember a man driven to succeed.   He was the owner, “The Boss” and number one fan of the Yankees.  Our relationship was built on mutual respect.  I will never forget and always be grateful for how he treated me and my family both during my playing days and after I retired.

I will miss him very much and extend my deepest condolences to his wife, Joan, and all the members of the Steinbrenner family.”           

– Dodger Hitting Coach Don Mattingly

“George Steinbrenner was the first owner to contact me to congratulate me when I purchased the Los Angeles Dodgers.  From that day forward we built a strong and meaningful friendship.  He was a larger than life owner who cared deeply about winning.  George helped shape the game of baseball during his incredible stewardship of the Yankees.  My deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Joan and his four children, Hal, Hank, Jennifer and Jessica and the entire Steinbrenner family.”

– Dodger Owner Frank McCourt

Rest in Peace, George Steinbrenner!

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

Enjoying the Hype of the Dodgers and the Yankees

I have to say, I’m pretty psyched for this weekend’s Dodgers-Yankees series at Dodger Stadium, and all the hype that goes along with it.  It’s only the second time the two clubs have faced each other in the regular season, and the Dodgers have won 10 of 14 games played at Chavez Ravine.  Overall, the Dodgers are 31-38 against New York.

And the big series couldn’t come at a better time.  After losing 11 of their last 13 games, the Dodgers’ bats came alive last night in a critical win.  Plus, the club could use a distraction, and this weekend will be all about Joe Torre - the perfect way to take some of the pressure off of the team’s players.  I’ve got to admit, there are some intriguing story lines with Joe Torre and Don Mattingly facing their old team, to say nothing of Manny Ramirez playing against one of his former rivals.

According to the Dodgers pre-game notes, Ramirez has the fourth best batting average against the Yankees in the regular season, going .321 with 55 home runs in 200 games.  Oddly, Garret Anderson has the fifth best average against the Yankees at .310.  Something tells me that the surging Manny has a MUCH better chance to come through in the clutch this weekend than GA does.  Prove me wrong GA, prove me wrong.

On the surface, the Yankee influence on the Dodger coaching staff reminds me a lot of Mike Scioscia and the Dodgers influence on the Angels coaching staff (the big difference being that Scioscia has delivered a championship and is in place for the next 10 years, while Torre could retire as soon as the end of this season).

One of my earliest Dodger moments was being 11 years old and listening to the Dodgers-Yankees play during the 1981 World Series while my mom drove us to soccer practice.  This is the baseball equivalent of the Lakers and the Celtics, and cold only be topped if the two clubs met in the World Series later this season.

And just to wrap up, following are a few interesting notes in how this series, and some of it’s sideshows, are being painted by the New York and national media:

The New York Post looks at Alex Rodriguez’s frosty take on Joe Torre, while Derek Jeter says “He has been like a father figure to me.”

The New York Daily Newsparticipates in Joe Torre’s pre-game media session yesterday, where the skipper shared his thoughts about the weekend series against his former team.

Lee Jenkins at SI.com looks at “Joe Torre vs. Joe Torre.”

Photo credit: Fantasysportsday.com