Lost amid the turnaround the Los Angeles Dodgers are currently in the midst of is Don Mattingly has yet to have the team option on his contract exercised for next season.
When asked, team president Stan Kasten and owner Mark Walter have made it clear a decision on Mattingly’s future wouldn’t come until after the season. Kasten and Walter were often receiving this question when the Dodgers were mired in last place and seemingly lifeless.
Understandably, at the time questions about Mattingly’s future were being posed, ownership wasn’t exactly enthralled with the prospect of extending a manager who was leading an injured, but still talented team, to a record well below .500.
Now, the Dodgers boast the best record in the National League West Division, are a viable World Series candidate, and Mattingly is being discussed as the potential award winner for National League Manager of the Year. Why hasn’t the team extended him?
Extending Mattingly would only mean one more season’s worth of guaranteed salary — which would appear to be a minuscule financial commitment from a group that purchased the Dodgers for $2 billion and claims to have the purchasing power to add two more player contracts in the neighborhood of $200 million, each.
Moreover, when the Dodgers were struggling, there weren’t reports of players being unhappy with their manager. It can be argued part of the team’s turnaround is attributed to the notion that their poor play could ultimately cost Mattingly his job.
Mattingly has had his fair share of miscalculations and his pension for double switches can be perplexing, but should he be let go, where would the Dodgers turn? There’s a lack of a clear-cut replacement. Managers who often unexpectedly become available are because of their poor results with their prior team(s).
Tony La Russa’s name has been thrown around Los Angeles as a potential replacement, though it is difficult to envision him taking on another manager’s role considering he retired on the heels of a World Series victory with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
While it remains plausible Mattingly could have his contractual uncertainty resolved prior to the season ending, it appears unlikely. Though if the Dodgers are to finish with the best record in the National League, which is well within reach, it may place additional pressure on ownership to address the status of his contract earlier than they hoped.
Mattingly doesn’t deserve the all of the credit for the Dodgers resurgence, nor did he deserve the entire blame when the team was underachieving.
Together, the players and manager have formed a bond and it would be disappointing to not allow them one more full season together, hopefully at full strength from start to finish.