Mattingly on Yanks’ managerial position: “It was a blessing that I didn’t get that job”

Brett Gardner & Deep Counts
Rivera has blood clot in right calf
(Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After parting ways with Joe Torre following the 2007 season, the Yankees interviewed just three serious candidates for their managerial opening: Joe Girardi, Tony Pena, and Don Mattingly. Girardi obviously got the job and Pena stayed with the team as his bench coach, but Mattingly left the organization to join Torre with the Dodgers. When Torre announced his retirement from managing at the end of 2010, his job was given to Mattingly.

For years it had been assumed that Donnie Baseball would one day take over as the Yankees’ manager. He was the team’s hitting coach from 2003-2006 and the bench coach in 2007, which was presumed to be his apprenticeship under Torre before taking the reigns himself one day. Instead, Mattingly is out in Los Angeles and calling the shots for a first place team in his second year on the job. As part of an interview for Barfly on FOX, he spoke to Mark Kriegel about not getting the managerial job in New York five years ago…

“It was a blessing that I didn’t get that job,” said Mattingly. “I was going through a rough time … trying to manage for the first time in New York … would have been absolutely miserable.”

A few days before the Yankees officially cut ties with Torre, it was reported that Mattingly told Hal and Hank Steinbrenner — who has just assumed control of the team from their father — that he was uncomfortable replacing his mentor. A few weeks later there was an incident involving Mattingly and his wife, which may or may not be the “rough time” he mentioned to Kriegel. Don and his first wife Kim divorced shortly thereafter and he’s since remarried.

Managing in New York is different than managing anywhere else, and I’m not talking about the on-field stuff. You and I don’t know anything about the clubhouse issues that arise during the course of the season, but we do know that the media scrutiny is intense. Mattingly knows all about that from a player’s perspective but it’s different as a manager. Given where the team was after 2007, I don’t believe a rookie skipper — even someone with as much local star power and support as Mattingly — would have been the best thing for the club.

That said, I can absolutely Donnie back in pinstripes one day. In fact, the idea of Mattingly replacing Girardi was first mentioned here more than three years ago. Girardi does a fine job with the team but I don’t see him as a super-long-term manager like Torre. He’s in the second year of a three-year contract, just like Mattingly with the Dodgers. I think it goes without saying that fans will love the idea of having Donnie back in pinstripes and I like that he’s cutting his managerial teeth elsewhere, especially in a big market with a strong club that boasts superstars, young pitchers, overpaid/underperforming veterans, the whole nine. The situation wasn’t right for either side after 2007, but there may be a time that the Yankees and Mattingly reunite, perhaps even sooner than we may think.

Brett Gardner & Deep Counts
Rivera has blood clot in right calf
  • Dan

    Really the only job I could see Girardi leaving the Yankees for would be the Cubs job, and he has had the chance to leave for the Cubs and turned it down. Maybe that will change in a year or two, once Theo might be able to build up the team a little, but I have a hard time seeing Girardi walk away. Similarly with Mattingly having success in LA, I would think the first thing the new ownership will look to do will be to extend Mattingly.

    • RetroRob

      It’s a two-way partnership.

      The Yankees may opt to look elsewhere after 2013. Many things can change. For example, Cashman’s contract as GM ends after 2013, and while I expect him to remain with the team, I can certainly see him taking on a greater role within the organization, perhaps replacing Levine as president. A new GM, probably Eppler, may want to name his own man since Girardi was Cash’s guy. Mattingly certainly wouldn’t be a bad choice on a number of fronts.

      Yet is not after 2013, I do expect it will happen at some point if Mattingly plans to manage for the next twenty years.

  • Robert

    I live in L.A. and watch a lot of Dodger games. I hope Mattingly manages the Yankees. He learned how to handle his bullpen by sitting by Joe Torre (not a good thing) and worships the sacrifice bunt.

    • Don’ worry about it

      shampoo my crotch bob

  • Bernard

    Anyone else read Dave Cameron’s evisceration of bunting today? Mattingly took it on the chin here.

    Maybe I’m naive, but I’d like to imagine there’s a Joe Maddon-esque manager out there to replace Girardi some day. Radical suggestion: David Cone…

    • JobaWockeeZ

      David Cone would be the greatest candidate.

    • jjyank

      Cone would be pretty cool I think. He seems to enjoy being around the game post-retirement by being in the booth for YES, and I love hearing his opinion on pitching. He’s pretty sabermetrically inclined too, I would love to have a manager who sets his lineups by wOBA, bullpen management by FIP/xFIP, etc. Not that Girardi does a bad job, I like Girardi. But if the Yankees bring on a new manager someday, I think someone like Cone would be sweet.

    • The Guns of Navarone

      Yeah, I was going to post that link myself. I haven’t seen enough games to form an opinion on Mattingly and I won’t try and judge him on one (or two) decisions that he made in that game. But I really would like a “new school” manager in the future so to speak. Maddon is a bit too radical and would have fans calling for his head in no time. The Yankees don’t have the personnel to pull off the moves he likes to call.

      • RetroRob

        Maddon is over rated. That’s not to say he’s not a very good manager (he is) and I’ve always been a big fan, but there comes a point when the press clippings exceed the reality. Maddon is at that point.

        Joe Maddon is part of a system. He was selected by the Tampa Rays’ front office to help them implement their data-driven schemes on building teams, pitching staffs and defenses. Separate him from Andrew Friedman’s front-office team and what is he? Is he still a great manager, or is he simply right now the right man for the right team in the right market?

        His star will never burn more brightly than it does right now, so even if he is a good manager, as I believe he is, the next team that hires him will be wondering what happened to the magic.

    • Midland TX

      Ouch. Getting lumped in with Eric Wedge is pretty harsh. In Donnie’s defense, his formative years were spent alongside Torre. That will take years of unlearning.

  • Jake

    Agreed. Mattingly was my favorite player growing up, but he has yet to display much in the way of managerial acumen. Apparently he was shocked people were questioning his decision to bunt the other night.

    • Robert

      Right. He didn’t see why it was a problem that he bunted over runners from 1st and 2nd to 2nd and 3rd with Matt Kemp on deck.

      Kemp was then walked intentionally and the Giants brought in a LOOGY who got Ethier to ground into a double play.

      Super human Kemp with men on 1st and 2nd or Mere mortal Ethier with bases loaded against a LOOGY that he can’t hit?

      • Kosmo

        Still the Giants could have pitched around Kemp, unintentionally walking him and gone after Ethier with a loogy.
        It doesn´t sound like a misfire on his part.

        • LK

          Sure, but there’s also the chance that the hitter before Kemp doesn’t make an out, and then the bases are loaded.

          • Kosmo

            very true! do you know who the hitter was in front of Kemp ?

        • Kosmo

          plus Ethier is hitting LHP better than he is RHP .286 to .270 .

        • jjyank

          True, but having the walk unintentional still leaves the opportunity of the pitcher making a mistake or Kemp hitting something a little out of the zone. The bunt took the bat out of Kemp’s hand entirely. I’m sure you’re right in that they would pitch around him without the bunt, but I don’t think it’s a forgone conclusion that Kemp gets walked either way.

  • Bonnie Parker

    He’s worse than Joe. Joe does a good job keeping the players happy and rested. He does a good job with the pen. It is easy to manage a pen when you have 7-8-9 locked in so it’ll be interesting to see what Joe does now that Mo is out. If Joe wins another WS soon he’ll be here for a while unless he chooses to leave and he won’t.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      “He’s worse than Joe.”

      This comment would hold more weight if it didn’t come from someone who consistently makes outrageous statements here.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I’d love to hear that Clyde thought he was better than Joe.

    • Midland TX

      Seriously. It’s like there’s a colander under the toilet seat, and the choicest nuggets get posted here.

  • Peter North

    I can see Jorge managing the Yanks one day.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      I can’t.

      • GardnergoesYardner

        Agreed. He’s too fiery, and would probably be disliked by a lot of players.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        For some reason, I can’t either. If he begins a coaching career, perhaps I’ll begin to feel differently. But as of now, I don’t see him being a manager.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    Dodgers should make Flash Gordon their pitching coach. would be cool. but girardi is going to get a really long hook, especially with george being dead and all

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The manager before Torre got a rather long hook as well.

  • Raza

    I don’t want Mattingly and his bunt-happy offensive philosophy on the Yankees. The Dodgers have bunted 39 times so far this year which is 8 more than the Dusty Baker managed Reds. The Dodgers have 21 sac bunts on the year and 8 of them by non-pitchers. Yuck.

    • stephen goordman

      Aren’t the Dodgers in 1st place, tied with a couple of other teams for the best record in baseball? Chicks may love the long ball, but wining rights the ship.

      • JAG

        Isn’t the real question here “how many of those games were won because of the sac bunts rather than in spite of them”?

        Let’s not assume that the Dodgers are in first b/c they bunt a lot. Where’s the data?

  •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

    Nice article. Mike – I’ve heard you mention that you watch a lot of Dodger games. What’s your take on him as a manager? Who is his style similar too?

  • FIPster Doofus

    Fire Girardi, hire Whitey Ford, and make every home game a soft pretzel and 1997 Pontiac Astro Wagon giveaway.

    • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

      and have Mo brought in by a pintriped Datsun.

      • RetroRob

        Related, I remember when the Yankees awarded one of those pinstriped Datsun’s to a fan after the season was over. Maybe they did it several times. Don’t remember. As much as I was a Yankees fan, I just can’t imagine driving one of those around town. I saw one driving through Westchester years later, obviously by someone who won it or bought it. It was older, banged up, and didn’t look all that good.

        Best move would be to garage it, keep it in top condition, and then sell it today through an auction house. The car that bought Goose and Sparky in now up for bidding!

    • Clayton

      I sure could go for a Pretzel Wagon pretzel right about now.

  • Peter R

    No thanks. Everyone loves a home town hero but I don’t want Joe Torre 2.0 here. Same thing with Jeter. I feel like if they hire him they are stuck with him until he wants to leave…cant fire Donnie Baseball! They would get far to long a leash.

    I quite like Joe G. He seems to handle the players well, the media well, the other coaches well and esp. the bullpen well. He seems sharp and is a nice mix of “old school” baseball and common sense. What exactly is wrong with him? I would list him as an above average manager and that’s pretty good for him to do in NYC.

    That being said I would love a saber manager to come in. Let’s start up the David Cone for manager petition! Someone get on and make it happen.

    • jjyank

      I agree with all of those. I like Girardi, but Cone would be pretty cool down the line sometime.

      • Kosmo

        Cone will never manage the NY Yankees. No chance .zero.

        • jjyank

          Usually to say something has zero chance of happening, you would need some sort of evidence, no? You can’t predict baseball, Suzyn, how do you know who the Yankee manager will be in 5-10 years?

          • Kosmo

            not David Cone. He is not coaching now has never coached to my knowledge and until he publically states an interest in the game in that capacity then and only then will there be a sliver of a chance. Translating – zero.

            • jjyank

              You keep saying there is zero chance, and absolutes like that just don’t make sense. Sure, I doubt they’d do it without him having experience, but Cone isn’t old and is perfectly capable of climbing the pitching coach – bench coach – manager ladder. And that makes his chances….wait for it…more than zero.

              • Kosmo

                Cone has been out of baseball since 2001. 12 years have gone by and he´s never stated an interest in managing. In 10 years he´ll be 60. Suddenly he´s going to send out his resume after being out of the game for 17 to 20 years and be taken seriously ?
                plus he´s a multi-millionaire with WS rings do you really think he´s going to get a hard-on to manage.

                • jjyank

                  You never know. Stranger things have happened. All we’re saying here about Cone is that it’d be cool if he managed someday, being a savvy saber guy and a knowledgeable pitcher. I don’t really know why you had to jump in with the “zero chance” stuff.

                  • Kosmo

                    because your dreaming !

                    • jjyank

                      No, we’re discussing who would make a cool manager.

                      By the way, I never at any point said that I think it will or could happen. I said it would be cool. I only take issue with your comment because as a matter of principle I think speaking in absolutes is generally not wise.

                    • thenamestsam

                      If the chances are zero then of course you’ll gladly make a bet at the odds of 10 million to one, correct?

      • GardnergoesYardner

        Cone would be an effective coach, IMO, but I feel like he wouldn’t want the responsibilty of an entire team. I could totally see him as the KLong of pitching coaches though.

    • Peter R

      Ya I dont see it as very likely but a man can dream no?

    • stephen goordman

      He’s a robotic type of manager with no surprises, he has a book that he always goes by which is too predictable for other teams to plan against, and is too close to the players to be an effective boss when guys need a foot up their butts. Plus, the amount of injuries that the Yanks suffer both hitting and pitching every year makes me wonder about his coaching selections and their programs.

  • GardnergoesYardner

    I don’t know if Mattingly is the greatest fit for the team as currently constructed. However, if the Yankees get significantly younger in coming years (this being if Banny/Williams/Bichette/Campos all come and make strong impacts) then I think the time would be great for him. He could lead the Yankees into a new era. It would be easier for him than to try and answer the shitty questions posed by the media these days. At least he could pull the young inexperienced player card.

  • Rich in NJ

    It wasn’t a blessing for the Yankees, but he’ll probably get another shot.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Keep Girardi until he shows the inability to manage the players abilities and emotions, the media and the front office requests, dictates, etc. Its a tough job and manager usually knows when he has had enough. We will need a season manager to handle all the above in 2014 with a lower budget and the same high expectation to win.

    Mattingly on bunting is his call which he has no problem calling. Its his job and should be done his way.

  • mike_h

    No Posada will be the next manager after Girardi, the new ownership Dodgers will re-sign Mattingly. Don’t be surprised if Posada enters the Yankee coaching core soon

    • GardnergoesYardner

      Why Posada? Because he was a catcher. There are other good managers who aren’t catchers. Posada doesn’t have a manager’s personality, and he has done nothing to indicate that he has a desire to become one.

      I also wouldn’t bet on Magic and co. resigning Mattingly. They might want a former Dodger, or at least their own guy. Not saying he’s a lock to get fired, but he might not be in LA forever. Remember, the only reason he went their in the first place was to follow Torre.

    • Peter R

      Posada has a pretty hot head to be a manager. Gonna have to cool down and take the ego down a bit.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy but not sure he’s the right material despite what he thinks.

      Anyways I thought Jeter and Jorge were gonna pool their cash and become majority owners of a team…or so I heard they were planning somewhere.

  • LiterallyFigurative

    With this team, the only real managing decisions are when to take the starter out, which releiver to bring in and when to bunt Gardner over. Outside of that, what does Girardi (or any manager who replaces him)have to do in terms of in-game, on-field managing? The lineup more or less manages itself. Jeter bunts on his own, your 2-7 hitters are sluggers who don’t steal bases for the most part. All veteran, All-Star players.

    Now, managing egos and clubhouse stuff might be where Girardi excels, but so did Torre. Just about any candidate for that job would have to be good at handling the media.

    The 2009-12 Yankees are far easier to manage than the Yanks of the aughts. Better, deeper, more reliable bullpen, better more consistent position guys. This might change as younger players are added and begin to take over for the legends. But to me it would behoove the Yanks to continue to integrate young players into the fabric.

    • JAG

      Refraining from overmanaging is a skill, and one that Girardi has shown rather inconsistently, I think. He calls for sacrifice bunts in situations where they don’t make sense, which is really his biggest crime. Handling the bullpen well is a plus, and just letting his hitters do their thing is something he’s seemed to get better at.

      Not making a bad managerial decision can be as hard for these guys as actively making a good one. Just look at Wedge and Mattingly.

  • CJ

    Just for fun, (I’m a Girardi fan), things go terribly wrong and Girardi ends up in a D’Antoni situation this season. Who would you want for the job?
    Tony Pena
    Willie Randolph
    Lou Piniella
    Terry Francona
    Luis Sojo

    • GardnergoesYardner

      Pena, though Francona is an interesting option. Not sure if he would do it given his ties to Boston, but I have total respect for the guy (especially after The Collapse) and think he would be great for the team.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Honestly? I’d want Madden. Not John. The bus travel would be a problem.

      • Bo Knows

        Give me John and Joe Madden. Joe for the Genius and John for the funny redundant commentary

        “You see Jeter, this is baseball the point of baseball is to put the barrel of the bat on the baseball and hit into the places where no one is at.”

        -What I think John Madden would say as a baseball manager

    • LarryM.,Fl.

      Great question and greater answers, no real bad one there. Tony Pena and Willie deserve first tibs on the job. They were loyal bench coaches and know NY BS with media and front office but I like Francona. He treats players like adults its the players who act like kids.

      I could be happy with these three guys.

  • Chris

    That’s not Mattingly anyway, it is a sideburn-less fraud.

    • RetroRob

      …and the mustache. He needs to go the Tom Selleck, Sam Elliott approach and keep it. It’s part of his identity, and frankly he was one of the few baseball players who seemed to be able to grow one and make it work. No Derek Hollander peach fuzz. Mattingly came out of the womb with more of a ‘stache than that mustache fraud from Texas.

  • OMG! Bagels!

    Loved Donnie as a player (probably my favorite ever) but I think Girardi was and is the right person for the job. His mixing and matching pitchers comes under scrutiny a lot but I think his bullpen management is great compared to Torre.

    He also pays attention to every little thing during a game. His binder and cards and over-analysis might backfire now and again but he’s not sleeping in the dugout.

    I think that managing the Yankees after Torre was a job that few could fill and succeed with the players, front office, NY media and NYY fans. Girardi has done it pretty well.

    • GardnergoesYardner

      A rock’s bullpen management is greater than Joe Torre’s. Plus the rock isn’t sleeping in the dugout either and it never has “Binder” moves backfire on it. Thus the next manager of the Yankees should be a rock.

      The people have spoken.

      In all seriousness, I get your point. Girardi’s a total dork, but he’s our dork, and he works hard at what he does. That’s all you can ask for sometimes.

  • Jamey

    The problem I had then with hiring Don Mattingly was the inevitability that someday it would end with FIRING Don Mattingly. Former Yankees like Girardi are fine, they aren’t icons. I’d rather Donnie has his managing career elsewhere so feelings aren’t hurt someday when he’s able to come back for Old Timer’s Day.

    • OMG! Bagels!

      I always feel for Gator. I’m not sure what the Yankees issue is with him. I got that Dave Eiland was promoted because of the “Big Three” and his management of them in the minors but Gator said he’d be available to the Yanks in any capacity they wanted him and I think he could be an asset. The Yankees tend to be soft-hearted toward former Yankees–many time to their detriment–but I think that Gator could have been treated better.

      • Jamey

        Yeah, that was uncomfortable. I just hate the idea of what happened with Yogi happening again, yeah he came back & mended fences with The Steinbrenners eventually but even a couple of years without Yogi showing up at Yankee Stadium was an eternity.

  • Bo Knows

    Mattingly is a good manager, I just hope he knows how to manage a bullpen so no one is overworked(something Torre had/has no clue in being able to do)

  • Preston

    The best former player managerial candidate would be Moose.

  • P.Kelly

    If the only criticism you can lay on a manager is he puts on the bunt too much, I’d say you have a pretty good manager.