Seeing Don Mattingly — and Joe Torre too, for that matter — in a Dodgers uniform is still rather jarring. I grew up watching and idolizing Mattingly in the Yankee pinstripes, and he just looks wrong in another uniform.
For now, though, all we can do is sit back and protest silently. When the Yankees opted for Joe Girardi over Don Mattingly in the fall of 2007, they picked their man and stuck with it. Mattingly went west with Joe Torre, and he continues to train for a managerial position. Which one, though, remains a mystery.
In a ridiculously platitude- and green tea-laden article about how relaxed and appreciated Torre is with the Dodgers, L.A. Times scribe Bill Shaikin tackles that very issue. Number 23’s return to the Bronx isn’t quite as far-fetched as it may seem. Shaikin writes:
Torre and the Dodgers have a mutual interest in grooming hitting coach Don Mattingly as his successor. Mattingly coached for Torre in New York, then followed him to L.A. “When it’s time for Joe not to manage the club, we would like his replacement to be on our staff,” General Manager Ned Colletti said.
If the Yankees do not return to the playoffs — after spending $423 million on Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett — we cannot imagine Manager Joe Girardi will be invited back. The Yankees selected Girardi over Mattingly as the replacement for Torre, and perhaps they’ll ask their beloved first baseman for a do-over.
Mattingly, who has no managerial experience, said Torre has promised him nothing. “I feel like he’s helping me prepare,” Mattingly said, “but I don’t know if that’s necessarily for here. I liked it in New York. I like it here. I like the game.”
Every the diplomat, Mattingly refused in that last quote to say where he would want to manage, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. There’s little doubt in my mind that if he had his druthers, Mattingly would be sitting on that bench in new Yankee Stadium right now trying to lead the Yanks to World Series Championship number 27.
Maybe he should have been hired after all last year as the symbolic choice to lead the Yankees into the new stadium, but the Yanks went a different path. Shaikin is right though in leaving that question of Mattingly’s future open-ended. Joe Girardi is under contract for this year and next. Missing October with this team could very well mean his job, and Mattingly would be a logical candidate.
So from 3000 miles away, I hope Joe Torre is doing a good job training Mattingly. As long as he leaves the bullpen management lessons up to someone else, one of baseball’s’ potential managers-in-waiting couldn’t have a better teacher.