Remember when Don Mattingly was about to get fired as Dodgers manager last June?
Well, the former Yankees first baseman got rewarded in a big way after leading a second-half turnaround, as the Dodgers have reportedly offered Mattingly a contract extension that runs through the end of the 2016 season.
The Dodgers were 12 games under .500 on June 21. In the weeks and months that followed, the Dodgers barely lost, peaking at 28 games over .500 by Sept. 3. Los Angeles wound up beating the Braves in the NLDS (which activated a clause in Mattingly’s contract that brought him back for 2014) before falling to the Cardinals in the NLCS.
In three seasons as the Dodgers’ skipper, he’s 260-255, but has improved the team’s place in the standings each season. Los Angeles was third in the NL West in 2011, second in 2012 and won the division with the second-half surge in 2013. He finished second in the NL Manager of the Year voting behind Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle.
With a mix of up-and-coming players (Yasiel Puig) and established stars (Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp) Mattingly certainly has a good situation in front of him over the next few seasons.
He’s got a new contract, but he’s also got some new expectations. For Mattingly and the Dodgers, it’s World Series or bust.
Speaking of Mattingly, he’s one of many players listed on the Hall of Fame ballot for 2014. Those results will be announced at 2 p.m. on Wednesday.
It’s Mattingly’s 14th year on the ballot. He received 13.2 percent last year. With an influx of new talent this year, I wonder if Mattingly will get the necessary five percent this time around to remain on the ballot for a 15th and final time one year from now.
Let’s take a look back at Mattingly’s playing career.
On the Baseball-Reference ballot page, Mattingly’s career WAR (wins above replacement) was 42.2, which ranks 23rd on the list of eligible players. With voters being limited to selecting a maximum of 10 players each, that doesn’t leave much room for Mattingly on many ballots.
If you look at Mattingly’s WAR7 (the sum of the top seven WAR seasons in a player’s career), he ranks a bit better, placing 19th.
Mattingly played just 14 years in the big leagues, retiring after the 1995 season at age 34. Mattingly had back problems – and he claimed he wanted to spend time with his sons – which forced an early retirement.
If Mattingly had avoided a few trips to the DL during the late stages of his career and if he had held on for another four or five seasons, he might have made a push at 3,000 hits. He finished with 2,153 and a career .307 batting average. Mattingly was the 1985 AL MVP, played in six All-Star games and won nine Gold Gloves.
Mattingly had a career worthy of having his No. 23 retired by the Yankees, but he just didn’t have the longevity of most Hall of Fame candidates. He’s still young in the manager game (he’ll turn 53 in April), so perhaps Mattingly has a career not unlike Joe Torre’s, where he winds up in the Hall someday for a mix of his playing and managing success.
To get back to my earlier point, he’d get a head start on that by leading the Dodgers to a World Series title at some point over the next three seasons.