Monday started out to be a huge positive for a Los Angeles Dodgers team that had just been ousted in the NLCS in an abrupt manner. It was reported that Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero had signed with the Dodgers for four years, $28 million. That was the buzz headed into a scheduled press conference for general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly.
When Mattingly began to address his contract situation it became clear he was there to let his feelings on the matter out in an unexpected way. The media in the room asked about the reports that the team’s option on his contract for 2014 was exercised.
“My option vested once we beat Atlanta, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be back,” Mattingly said. He went on to say, “This has been a frustrating tough year, honestly. I think when you basically come in…with a club like this, you come in basically as a lame duck, with payroll and the guys that you have, it puts you in a tough spot in the clubhouse.”
“We dealt with that all year long, and it puts me in a spot where everything I do is questioned. I’m basically trying out or auditioning, to say can you manage or not. To me we’ve reached that point, three years in you either know or you don’t.”
The vesting part of the contract was news that hadn’t been previously reported. A vesting option is a big difference from the option being picked up by the club.
Understandably Mattingly doesn’t want to enter 2014 in the same situation as 2013 brought him. The way he laid it out left no doubt that either he wants a contract extension or he doesn’t want to return. All of his comments were made with Colletti sitting just a few feet away at the same podium.
It’s highly unusual for a manager to make such strong remarks with a key piece of the management within arm’s reach. Judging by Colletti’s response, Mattingly already has Colletti in his corner.
“I hired Donnie. I’ve been supportive of Donnie all the way through. I have a lot of respect for this guy. He kept it steady through a tough period of time. He kept our team together. I’ve been a supporter of his since the day he walked in as a hitting coach six years ago,” Colletti said.
When the media asked if the decision was above his head, Colletti dodged the question by saying, “We’re going to discuss everything internally before we discuss it externally.”
The whole press conference seemed odd due to the fact that other than talking about some odds and ends, there was really no reason to have it. If Colletti is backing Mattingly it would lead us to believe that team president Stan Kasten is not high on bringing Mattingly back on a multi-year deal.
Mattingly has certainly had to deal with a tremendous amount of pressure not only this year but especially last season when the ownership situation was in turmoil. There aren’t too many guys in the baseball world that would have handled the situation as well as Mattingly has.
Aside from wanting the contract extension there were several questions about who would remain on the coaching staff. There was really no room for speculation on who would remain if Mattingly doesn’t return.
“If it was up to me they’d be back, but it’s not up to me,” Mattingly said. “I’m happy with the guys in that room in there. You’ve got quality baseball people who are unselfish.”
“They are tireless workers, and are very persistent in what they do and in their beliefs. That room is full of character, of guys who aren’t going to quit when times start to go bad.”
After all was said and done, the words that stood out about the decision came from Colletti.
“This is going to be resolved very quickly.”