The Los Angeles Dodgers won 94 games in 2014, repeated as NL West division champions, then had their season come to a grinding halt against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Compounding matters for the Dodgers, the Wild-Card San Francisco Giants went on to win their third World Series in five years.
In response to falling short of their goal, despite carrying a payroll of over $200 million, the Dodgers added Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, and a slew of other executives to the front office, and remade the roster. While former general manager Ned Colletti was reassigned to an advisor role, manager Don Mattingly retained his position.
With Spring Training beginning in just under three weeks, ESPN’s Jim Bowden ranked the top-six managers who are on the hot seat, and has Mattingly listed at No. 4:
4. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers
Mattingly continues to develop into one of the game’s best managers, as his win total continues to climb, from 82 in 2011 to 94 last season. He succeeded with 21 overturned calls last year on challenges and did a phenomenal job handling a difficult overcrowded outfield situation. He also had to deal with some complicated diva type personalities and a bullpen that lacked depth; the latter was exposed by the in the team’s playoff to the Cardinals. Mattingly’s ability to handle players and give them confidence, even during their slumps, was excellent. The only reason he’s somewhat on the hot seat is because of the new regime of team president Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi. New regimes often want to hire their own managers.
Mattingly will have to adjust to more analytics and lineup suggestions than he’s used to, and how the trio communicate and work together could be the most important part of his future employment in LA. In addition, given the organization’s drastic changes to player personnel after a 94-win season, the new front office has significant pressure to go forward. If the organization goes backward, it could look to blame the manager. The Dodgers’ expectations are World Series or bust, and with that mindset, whoever sits in this seat will always be on the hot seat.
As Bowden notes, a new front office typically coincides with a new manager being hired, though Friedman has done nothing but voice his support for Mattingly since joining the Dodgers. When Joe Maddon suddenly became available, Friedman opted to stick with Mattingly rather than reuniting with the only manager he’s worked with to this point.
While Mattingly managed to survive the offseason, it’s safe to assume fate with the Dodgers beyond 2015 is largely tied to the team’s success this upcoming season. Another 90-plus win year coupled with a postseason run falling short of winning a World Series would likely spell the end of Mattingly’s tenure in Los Angeles.