We wrote about Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts last week and his historical hiring with the Organization. We wrote more in depth about Roberts as a Managerial Candidate some time ago. We also discussed Don Mattingly in that article.

As you may know, Mattingly is now the Manager of the Miami Marlins. The timing is right to catch up on how “Donnie Baseball” is doing because the Dodgers and Marlins began a four game series Monday night in Los Angeles. Specifically, what we might expect for this series and the season for Dave Roberts and Don Mattingly when comparing their respective managerial styles?

As we discussed previously, there are three rules to finding a good manager:

Rule No. 1: You have to start somewhere;

Rule No. 2. People skills matter;

Rule No. 3. Everyone must be on the same page.

These rules also apply to managers once hired.

For example, when the Dodgers hired Dave Roberts they had “start somewhere.”  The Marlins did the same thing when they hired Don Mattingly for their team’s rebuilding process. It started with research, interviewing, and a leap of faith. Roberts won over the Dodgers Front Office. Mattingly was sought after by the Marlins Front Office. Roberts and Mattingly’s journey has now begun. What happens next depends on a few things.

The season is young, but the Dodgers seem to have grown up a lot and have really hit their stride. This highlights the point that people skills matter, which is rule no. 2. For example, Yasiel Puig has responded well under the leadership of Dave Roberts, who gave him a clean slate from the start. Kike Hernandez provides comical relief and gels with the team. Roberts provides a guiding hand, but he is no authoritarian.

Contributions on the field matter as well when it comes to success. The team’s stars have continued their contributions, while the rookies and newer contributors have stepped up in solid fashion. The Dodgers depth has come into play early on with the string of injuries. However, we knew this would happen because injuries are almost as likely as death and taxes. And as we wrote about previously, Kenta Maeda is a stud, and the Dodgers were right to sign him to a long-term incentive-laden deal.

The Dodgers want to be able to determine outcomes and the best way to do that is to know the game, the players, and your personnel. In this sense, everyone must be on the same page. We only have conjecture to speak of when we think about why the Dodgers and Mattingly decided to split ways, but we can be certain that his personality and managing style did not mold well with the vision of the Dodgers Organization and the Front Office. Dave Roberts did, however.

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The Front Office saw something in Roberts when they interviewed him for the job. He was strong-willed, but moldable, trainable, and agreeable. He offered an opportunity to provide leadership, but also the ability to learn and be molded because he had never managed before. Most companies will tell you that they like trainable and intelligent talent versus experienced and knowledgeable talent. The Dodgers acted no differently when they hired Roberts as their Manager. In Roberts, the Dodgers Front Office saw someone that they could get on the same page with to the lead the team and the Organization.

Since the Dodgers current Front Office resembles a mix of talent that looks something like a Wall Street hedge fund, Moneyball, and some old school baseball scouts and minds, we can imagine they collectively wanted a manager they could work with to change the culture, lineups, and outcomes. In the opinion of the Front Office and many disgruntled fans who questioned Mattingly’s decision-making and stoic-nature, he was not the right person to the lead the Dodgers.

At this point, and at the time of writing this article during game one of the series between the Dodgers and the Marlins, we can certain of a few more things:

  1. There will be an active learning curve for Roberts. Be patient, Roberts has succeeded his entire life under pressure, while few expected him to do so. Roberts is a fighter. He is the underdog. Having the underdog and fighter on your side is great for the organization. Fighting makes you hungry, viable, and constantly challenged to grow more. Just ask Rocky.
  1. Roberts has a lot more money and talent to work with when compared to Mattingly’s Marlins. The Dodgers also have a very large and passionate fan base, which leads to the next point.
  1. Expectations are much higher now for Roberts than that of Mattingly because the Dodgers are a team expected to make the playoffs, while the Marlins are in rebuilding mode hoping that their talent and off-season acquisitions eventually pay-off for them. Roberts also has the added pressure of bringing a World Series Championship back to Los Angeles for the first time in twenty-five plus years. The Marlins have won two Worlds Series since their expansion into the league in 1993 (1997, 2003).

We cannot predict the future. We can and should, however, hope for the best for Roberts, and Mattingly. The Dodgers have given Roberts the talent and stars to win now and in the future. Mattingly has a much taller task in Miami to win now. That being said, Mattingly’s personality may go over well in a more relaxed Miami environment with younger players and little to no veteran presence.

The Marlins are currently under the five hundred mark in the standings, while the Dodgers have a winning 12-7 record and are considered a top five team according the ESPN’s Power Rankings that came out Monday, April 25. Again, the season is young, so let us not count our chickens before they are hatched.

On the other hand, we must give credit where credit is due. Roberts has been a good captain thus far in dealing with injuries. The Dodgers are getting along, with at least some credit to Roberts leadership and ability to connect with the players.  This is possibly because Roberts playing days are much closer than that of Mattingly. Mattingly was also a star player, Roberts a role player who provided team leadership. More importantly, the Dodgers are having fun and winning.

It will be interesting to watch and listen to the continued rumors of talks between the Dodgers and the Marlins in trading the Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez to the Dodgers. During the previous talks, the Marlins asked for the Dodgers entire farm system and some 25-man roster players in exchange for Fernandez (okay, we exaggerated that last part a bit). However, we could not think of a worse trading partner than Mattingly’s Marlins because Mattingly knows the Dodgers farm system better than anyone outside the current Front Office. Mattingly knows which buttons to push and which players are valued above others. That is a dangerous adversary for your opponent to have.

There is, however, no need for selling the farm. The Dodgers have the luxury to wait for talent in the system and veterans on the roster to develop and come back from injury. Talented pitchers like Julio Urias, Zach Lee, and Jose De Leon, as well as the expected return of veteran pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson, provides comfort in the system and an Organization with high expectations.

As far as the current Dodgers vs. Marlins series at Dodger Stadium, you can bet Mattingly wants to win against his former club. In contrast, Roberts wants to win a series against a club that is playing under five hundred baseball. Come Thursday evening after the finale, we will know more.

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About The Author

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Jeremy M. Evans is the Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing sports and entertainment professionals in contract drafting, negotiations, licensing, and career growth. Evans is an Outreach Captain for the Sports Lawyers Association and is an award-winning attorney and community leader. He can be reached at [email protected] or via his website: www.CSLlegal.com.

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