It was Leo “The Lip” Durocher (below) who coined the phrase “nice guys finish last”. While it’s hard to imagine him as a role model for anyone in the game of baseball today, Don Mattingly (below) definitely fills the definition of a nice guy. And in a way, he has finished last as the Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whether he resigned or was forced out is really a moot point. What matters is that he might be one of those people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But in order to fully understand what happened in LA, we need to take a look back at his time with the New York Yankees. Don Mattingly was a workmanlike “carry your lunch pail” first baseman. He was quiet, often mysterious. He never (as they say) put himself out there. He was also a self made major league hitter who assembled numbers that arguably make him a outside candidate for the Hall of Fame. Much like Derek Jeter, he led by example and not with words.
Therefore, the question then becomes – was he ever truly managerial material? Fans and media in New York wanted desperately for him to take Joe Torre’s place at the end of “the run” by the Yankees. But the Yankees went in a different direction and hired Joe Girardi. Left unsaid were the reasons why Mattingly did not get the job. However, everyone knew the reasons why – the job was ill suited for his talents.
Add to that the dysfunctional ownership situation in LA during the beginning of his tenure there plus the influx of dysfunctional players to deal with (read Puig)……and then the final blow of the new owners choice to collect and fill their “book of stamps” resulting in a $300 million payroll……..and well……you get the picture.
There is (or should be) a place in baseball for someone like Don Mattingly. He would be welcomed back in New York by Brian Cashman in a heartbeat. Joe Girardi’s ego could accommodate him as a bench coach and he could also have an impact as a role model for younger players like Greg Bird and Didi Gregorious. In sum, Don Mattingly needs to come home…….